Thursday, August 12, 2010

People Will Surprise You

Once in a while we encounter people whose remarkable graciousness is a welcome and very pleasant surprise. These encounters are rare, but when they happen, they can restore your faith in the basic goodness of people and the society in which we live.

In December of 2009, I was in a car accident. Stated more accurately, I caused a car accident. It was a brilliantly sunny Saturday, and I was driving along a winding country road in Stonington, CT. Daydreaming, I allowed my attention to drift, looking away from the road as I enjoyed the winter scenery. Within seconds I had rear-ended a car that was stopped in the roadway. A car ahead was attempting a left-hand turn and was waiting for on-coming traffic to pass. The car I hit was stopped, waiting for the other car to complete the turn. I did not see the car I hit at all. I was traveling at full speed, approximately 35 miles per hour.

The car I hit was an Audi sedan occupied by a young man and his infant daughter. Thankfully, no one was injured. The front end of my Volvo wagon collapsed on impact and absorbed most of the force of the collision, and both the young man and I signed wavers and declined medical attention. I apologized profusely, and the young man was remarkably understanding. “Accidents happen,” he said. His most pressing concern was getting to Providence, where his wife was at the time, so that his daughter could be nursed. In the end, both cars were totaled. I had no further contact with young man, and I went on to buy a new Volvo wagon.

Eight months later, in August of 2010 my mother and I were at the Stonington Village Fair. Among other amusements, there were booths displaying the work of artists and crafts people. My mother was visiting with one of the artists and soon determined that she was the wife of the man whose car I struck back in December. The baby’s mother. My mother introduced me to the young woman, who was lovely. Remarkably, the woman was very friendly and seemed to harbor no ill will toward me at all. In fact, I learned that her husband—having researched me on the internet—had purchased a copy of my most recent book. In addition, she explained that, with a baby, they needed a larger car, and the accident gave them the incentive to decide what car to get. They chose a Subaru Forester. Again, I apologized to the woman profusely, and she said, “Not at all. Accidents happen.”

It is not often that you rear-end someone on the highway, totaling their car, and not only are they not mad but they buy a copy of your book and seem thankful to be forced to buy a new car. I will always feel regret and responsibility for this accident, but I am grateful to have met such wonderful people.

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