I crashed my car!

Dear Readers, we have had a mild winter in upper Illinois.  In fact, this is the first time in recorded history that there was no snow in January and February.  March started out similarly, and then there was last Tuesday. It didn’t snow a lot on Tuesday, but enough to create icy and slippery roads.  

As some of you know, I get up very early, 3:50 AM to be exact.  Because of this, I have my morning schedule down to a science.  I stumble out of bed, clean up, throw on my gym clothes, eat a simple breakfast, drink a cup of coffee (a must!), pack my car, and head off to the gym.  Not too exciting, but exacting.

Last Tuesday started like any other workday. With my wake-up routine completed I headed out the door and into my Ford Flex.  I really love my Ford, it is roomy and very comfortable.  However, the anti-lock braking system does not seem to work very well on snow.  

I drove the 15 minutes to the gym and pulled into the parking area.  The gym that I belong to is located in an office building with an attached parking tower that is accessed via a down ramp.  I turned onto the ramp and started to brake.  Instead of slowing down the brakes locked and I started to slide forward.  Moving ever faster, I had one of those “movie moments” where time seemed to advance in slow motion.  I could feel my panic rising as I realized that I was going to crash my new car, and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it.  

Crash! Jolt!… Silence.  My car crashed into a high curb on the side of the ramp. The computerized panel on my dash flashed to inform me that one of my tires had deflated.  I was in a perfect spot to be hit by another car coming down the ramp, and so I decided to back up and drive the 50 feet or so into the parking garage.  I put my car in reverse, but nothing happened.  I checked the front-end of the Flex and saw that the left-front tire was perpendicular to the fender.  The force of the impact had severed the connection between the tire and the axil.  A sick feel welled up inside of me.  My panic feeling amplified.

Dear reader, as a doctor for over 30 years I have learned how to compartmentalize my feelings.  In a crisis, I can usually push them aside and attend to the business at hand.  For some reason, I was having trouble doing this on Tuesday morning.  Thoughts rushed through my head. Do I need to call the police?  Where is my insurance card? Will State Farm call a tow for me?  It is cold!  I am cold!  I have a full day of patients, will I have to cancel the day?  Where will I put those patients, I’m already booked out for weeks?  Will my staff be upset with me for causing them all sorts of inconvenience? On went my thoughts, as my heart rate ramped up. I started to force myself to pull myself together.  For many reasons I have trained myself to be self-sufficient. It has always been hard for me to ask for help.  Dear readers, I have earnestly been trying to change that behavior.  I have been actively erasing childhood tapes.

My friend Tom comes to the club at the same time that I do.  A quick text message to him, and a return phone call to me, and he was parked behind me.  A minute later and I was sitting in his car calling State Farm.  In many friendships one person is the leader, and the other is the follower.  This is not the case with Tom and me.  We are equally comfortable leading and following.  Our roles determined by need.  On Tuesday Tom jumped into the leadership role… “Don’t forget to ask for a tow.  Make sure you get the operator’s name. Don’t worry, it can be fixed.  It is only a box on wheels.”  And so on.  I know I could have done it on my own, but it felt comforting to know that I didn’t have to.

After I had made the proper arrangements Tom drove me back home, as I still had to shower and change for work.  At that point my wife Julie took over.  She was able to drive me back to the crash site so I could wait for the tow truck.  In her warm car I was able to call my office and alert them to the fact that I may have to cancel out my morning (which I dreaded).  At my office Lynn, our accounts person,  picked up the phone and reassured me that she would do whatever was needed.  “I’m glad that you are OK,” she said. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” Around that same time I got a call from my personal trainer.  He somehow heard about my incident.  “Are you safe?”  He texted.  

The tow truck arrived and the driver assured me that I would not have to go with him back to the dealership.  Julie checked her schedule and told me that she could drive me to work and pick me up at the end of the day.  The timing worked out so I didn’t have to cancel any patients, I arrived on time for my first patient, who ironically failed his appointment with me.

In my driveway sits a little Ford Focus, the rental paid for by my auto insurance.  Rosie, the Ford Flex, waits to be repaired. Life goes on.

I always try to learn from every life event.  This is what I learned from Tuesday:

  1. I have people in my life who genuinely care about me.  They will be there for me if I need them.
  2. It is OK for me to ask people to help me.
  3. Even though I can usually do things without help, it feels so much better to have help.  It is terrible to be alone during a crisis. A little bit of kindness and concern goes a long way in troubled times.
  4. I don’t need to turn an inconvenience into a personal disaster. With a little thought and a little time, most problems work themselves out.
  5. Material things can always be replaced.  Invest in people, not in “stuff.”

-Today my goal is to remember the above.

-Today my goal is to be grateful that this old and crusty introvert has some wonderful people in his life. We introverts don’t need a lot of people, but we do need people.