I just received an e-mail with the following subject line, “Now panic and freak out…” Some sort of advertisement about low prices – but who wants to waste that kind of energy on a sale?
I have been blessed with a rare skill that no one else in my family possesses, and it has saved me a lot of heartache and headache. It has gotten me through tough times and helped me fix the annoyances of my less-than-everyday life without going completely bonkers. My rare skill?
I do not panic.
Sure, I have my bright shining moments of weakness when I feel that God has His finger on the ‘smite’ button and is gunning for me, specifically. Yes, I do my fair share of whining. I generally get over it pretty quick, though. I actually have a great life, all things considered. Why waste time in panicking and freaking out over anything? Nothing gets done that way, except heart attacks and the occasional stroke.
Here is a recent example: Normally, I am a very diligent driver and I am not afraid of taking on any weather condition (it’s only the other drivers that make me nervous). I volunteered to drive my mate, Jim to work because his car was not equipped for the ice and snow we faced that day. We made it just fine, even as the snow wafted down like feathers all around us and other drivers freaked out and panicked. As I drove home, my front differential went out. Since the roads were relatively clear, it didn’t really make a difference in drivability. But, what it did mean is that, unbeknownsed to me, I was no longer in 4-wheel drive. Being in rear-wheel drive (useless on ice), as soon as my front tires hit an icy bridge, I was tossed into a wide spin and slammed into the side of the bridge.
My thoughts while all this was happening? “Oh boy, here we go…”
I did not panic. I did not freak out.
I was more upset about the fact that the airbags went off. I wasn’t going much more than 10 mph. I didn’t feel I hit hard enough for those babies to pop. Did you know they’re filled with gun powder? They’re also really, really expensive to replace. Plus, I spilled my coffee. Phooey.
The EMT drivers that saw the entire episode said I did everything right. The bridge should have been closed down, they said, it was too dangerous to drive on and the city should have known better. They had me sit in the back of their ambulance while I made the necessary phone calls. As we sat there, one of the drivers started yelling, “Oh, #@%! – here comes another one! Move! Move! Move!” I looked out the open ambulance door in time to see a half-ton pickup sliding sideways straight for me. “He’s going to hit,” yelled the driver.
OK, I freaked out just a little. Not enough to jump off the bridge, though, which would have been my only escape route.
Luckily, the truck spun just a bit more to the side and barely missed us. It then had the good grace to slide backwards down the hill so we could all see the apologetic, if not panic-stricken face of the driver as he passed our vantage.
Two more cars slid towards us before the drivers decided to move the ambulance off of the bridge. By then, a police officer had arrived and assessed the situation. I didn’t do enough damage to the bridge to bother with the report, he told me. Other than the airbags, the car wasn’t that bad off, either. He even drove it off of the bridge and onto the shoulder for me.
Back outside, the nice officer handed me a piece of my bumper and told me that, from the looks of it, I had not done anything wrong driving-wise. It was only 9:30 am and he had already pulled five other wrecks off of the bridge. I obviously had not panicked, he said, or it would have been much, much worse. As I looked over the railing and down at the swirling waters of the Green River, I realized just how lucky I had been.
Sure, I hurt, sure my car was messed up, but I was alive, not bleeding, and able to drive the rest of the way home. It was after I got home that the craziness started.
My insurance told me that, since the airbags went off, they would total out the car. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t that much damage to the car itself – airbags are more expensive than the car itself. Yikes. Still, the payoff amount should be enough to settle with the finance company and give me a couple grand to buy another car. Inconvenient, but I could deal with that, I suppose. So much for owning a car that was built in this millennium.
Even though I had been diligently paying down my loan and owed less than $3K, my finance company told me that they would no longer honor the settlement agreement we had made while I was going through divorce & bankruptcy (in a wheelchair, no less) – and that they would take every last dime from the insurance AND chase after me for the difference. Double Yikes. To add insult to injury, the new account manager was such an unmitigated jerk about it that he left me in tears. Really. This guy even yelled something to the effect of, “The agreement was between you and us, not between us and the insurance company. Do you honestly feel that just because you were in an accident we shouldn’t seek maximum payment?” Yes, he actually yelled. Creep.
This meant that I would have no car and still owe money on the car I didn’t have. I had no means to get another car. Obviously, I couldn’t get financing.
This was all during the time that I was taking care of my mother through her brain cancer. As I called around to make arrangements to get my mother to treatment and cancel my appointments and such, I felt like I was back on that bridge with the truck careening towards me. It looked like I had no options.
But, being a non-panic-er, I could not accept that. I whined a little, of course, and then I got back on the phone. I very calmly and coolly asked for someone in charge. Got me a supervisor at the finance company. Told her how much I appreciated them working with me when I was going through all that hell a few years ago. Then I told her how this jerkazoid treated me. I gently asked why they wouldn’t honor the settlement agreement when I hadn’t missed a payment in two years. Told her how it left me without a vehicle and unable to care for my mom.
The very nice lady apologized. She said Jerk Man was misinformed, and that they would, in fact, honor the agreement. Yay!
If I had remained in panic mode and not acted, I would still be stuck staring down the headlights of an out-of-control situation. While Jim attributes the outcome to my mad ‘boo-boo’ face skills, I am thankful that, even in the midst of a very scary situation, I did not give up and I looked for options that did not involve jumping off of bridges.
But, the story does not end there.
The good news must have been too much for Jim’s car. The next day, it petered out – leaving us with NO car in the family in a place that… well, let’s just say that what it doesn’t have in public transportation, it makes up for in RAIN.
So, we were the walking wet, at least until we could find a decent vehicle for my paltry sum. Still, it could always be worse.
Best part of the story? Not a single flat tire!