I Went Back

by Kathy on May 22, 2012 · 8 comments

in Abby, Anxiety, Coping, Decisions, Fear, Forgiveness, Friends, Gratitude, Life

This morning after I finished teaching my Yoga Sculpt class, I picked up Abby from the childcare room and headed to our car. I got her buckled in her car seat and found a toy for her to play with on the way home. Then I got into the driver’s seat, buckled my seat belt, put the car in reverse and began to back out of the angled parking place we were in. The next part is a little fuzzy in my memory, but I know Abby got upset trying to make the light on her toy go on and I turned to reach back to try to help her, meanwhile not taking my foot off of the gas pedal. That was when I felt a bump in the rear of our car. I quickly moved my foot to the break and looked back to see what had happened.

I had hit the driver’s side of a car that was parallel parked perpendicular to where we had been parked across the street.

I was in shock.

How did this happen?

Obviously I was trying to do too many things at once, while driving. I didn’t see/realize that there was a car parked directly behind me. I glanced at the car and saw a small area that seemed scratched. It was an older car and I didn’t know/couldn’t tell if I had caused the scratches. I looked around and didn’t see anyone. I didn’t have any idea at the time who the car might belong to. I contemplated getting out and trying to leave a note for the owner to contact me. But what if they took advantage of me and tried to say I caused more damage than I had, which I wasn’t even sure was the case? I thought about how things are tight right now with all the home improvements we have needed to do since moving in to our new house ten months ago. I remembered that we have a deductible on our insurance and that something like this would be enough to be painful to our pocket books, but not high enough to be covered.

Somehow I justified to myself that this wasn’t a big deal, that these things happen all the time and people don’t know where the scratches come from and accept it, especially on older cars (like this was).

Then I drove away.

I was not proud of myself and immediately felt sick to my stomach. I have always had a “conscience from hell” and consider myself very ethical when it comes to most situations in life.  As I approached a stop light and my mind reviewed the events of the day leading up to this point, suddenly I saw a flashback in my mind to when Abby and I arrived at the group fitness place where I teach this morning. The owners rent a social hall/gym/auditorium area in a local church. Abby and I were running it close because on our way out of the house the painters and carpenters working on finishing up our home improvement project had some last-minute questions that they needed answers to before we left.  As I got out of the car I noticed the church secretary, whom is very friendly and kind, parking and getting out of her car across the street. Then it dawned on me.

I had hit her car!


Now what?

I felt even worse. I was already thinking about going back to leave a note or something, but now I knew that I had to return to the scene, go inside the church and let her know what had happened. I was so worked up, partly because I hit a car, but more so because I was mad at myself for driving away.

I saw two of my friends and their children still hanging out and chatting on their way to their cars after class. I got their attention and told them what had happened. They were (as they always are) very cool about the whole thing. They assured me that they understood why I did what I did, praised me for coming back and said that I didn’t need to tell the secretary the part of the story when I drove away, only that I had hit her car in the first place. They watched Abby for me while I went inside to tell the secretary what had happened.

As I made my way inside the tears started flowing. I was worried how she would react and how much the damage might cost, during this time when Bob and I are trying to be frugal as we prepare to pay off the balance of the exterior work that has been done on our house over the past six weeks. The timing of all this just sucked. Not that there is ever a good or convenient time to hit someone else’s car.

I told the secretary what had happened and asked her to please come out and take a look. I told her that we had car insurance and I could give her the information. She was extremely kind and empathetic from the moment I entered her office. When we got outside and she saw the damage (which was minimal) she insisted that it is an old car and not to worry about it, that she wasn’t even sure if the scratches had already been there or not.

I felt bad that I was crying, as it may have influenced the secretary’s choice not to ask me to pay for anything. But I also really appreciated her attitude and compassion towards me. Before going back inside she thanked me for telling her what happened and praised me for being honest about it!

Oh the irony.

If she only knew the rest of story…

After the secretary/car owner left the scene I debriefed the experience a bit more with my friends who kept telling me that it was okay and we all do things like this. They both shared stories of times in their lives when they had done something similar and it made me feel so much better.

In the end my friends encouraged me not to focus on the first choice that I made after hitting the car to drive away, but rather to on the second choice that I made to come back, regardless of the reasons that contributed to me turning my car around and returning to the scene of the accident.

I really appreciate my friend’s support and perspective. I am grateful to know such wonderful women who are willing to help a friend work through something like this. If either of you are reading this, thank you so much!

I am still a bit shaken up by the whole thing a few hours since this all happened, but writing about it has helped me to process my experience. Thank you for reading and abiding with me.

Has something like this ever happened to you? How did you handle it? Have you ever second guessed a choice that you made and changed your mind/actions before it was too late? How did that make you feel?


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carolyn Savage May 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Aw…Kathy…Cut yourself a break. You did the right thing.

I watched a boy do this once. I was in a salon getting my hair done, facing the window. He was pulling into a spot, and nudged the car next to him. He got out, looked…looked again…and just stood there. The whole beauty salon was wondering what he was going to do. When he came into the salon and asked for a piece of paper to “write a note”, all the ladies cheered for him. He did the right thing…but it took him a while.

Anyways, those kinds of little incidents can shake you. Hugs…XOXO


2 Jjiraffe May 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I hit a car for the first time in my life last year: I rear-ended a really nice man about my dad’s age. He had his head out the window (it was really bright out, the sun was blinding that day which is why I couldn’t see him) and he cut his forehead when I rear-ended him. It was one of the worst moments of my life. I immediately called 911, got him out of his car and had him sit down. When the CHP came, I was sobbing. The CHP officer was so nice, reassuring me that this happened all the time.

I am one of those guilt-prone people too, and I felt absolutely AWFUL for about a month about it. I still cringe about it. What matters is what you do, in the end. I accepted all responsibility for the accident and made sure my insurance understood that. You went back and told the lady what happened.

I’m so sorry this happened. Sometimes it’s hardest for us to be at fault, but no one is perfect.
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3 Farah May 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Good for you! and yes. I, too, feel I have been placed at a higher moral standard than most and sometimes that gets to me. I enjoy reading your blog very much. Keep up hte great work


4 Katie May 22, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Kathy, I think pretty much EVERYBODY has a story similar to this. There is always the initial “flight or flight” mechanism that has us run for the hills at the chance to escape trouble. It is your body’s way of protecting yourself and is biological and, in my humble opinion, a basic instinct almost beyond your control. What you do NEXT is what indicates your true character. Once you were away from the “danger”, your adrenalin slowed and you were able to think more clearly. You were then able to do the right thing, which was to return and confess.

I agree with your friends. Focus on the outcome, rather than all of the steps along the way. You may not have made all of the right choices, but you did the right thing in the end.

And consider yourself cyber-hugged from me. You are a good person, Kathy, and even good people occasionally have a lapse in judgment. The amount of guilt that you clearly still feel indicates just how wonderful you are.


5 RoseAnn May 23, 2012 at 11:40 am

I also agree that most everyone has a story like this and I think the ulitmate response is dictated by both your general character and your life experience. Having laid awake going over and over a decision that felt wrong, I am now more willing to do the right (if not the harder) thing in the moment and spare myself that gnawing guilt.

I laughed at Carolyn’s comment because I have heard of instances (perhaps an urban legend?) where people return to their cars to find the following message: I’m sorry I hit your car but there are a lot of people around and they think I am leaving my contact or insurance information.

I also think the secretary’s response will stick with you. Most people are willing to cut someone slack, especially if they appear to be doing the right thing. Maybe next time it will be your opportunity to go easy on someone who has done you some wrong.


6 Lori Lavender Luz May 24, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I’m so sorry this happened to you! Both parts — the hitting and the regret about how you initially handled it.

Be gentle with yourself. You reacted out of fear, thought about it, then responded out of ethics. What’s more, you learned something from it, and so has everyone who has read this post.

Glad everyone’s OK.
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7 Justine May 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

This EXACT thing happened to me about a year ago. I had three kids in the back seat: my daughter (then about four months old), my son (four at the time), and his friend from up the block, whom I was caring for during the day. There was a squabble in the back seat (my son’s friend is pretty “active” to put it gently), and I lost my focus, backing up. Right into my neighbor’s son’s car.

My neighbor’s son’s car is a mess. WAS a mess. I had a feeling if I told him he’d fleece me for all of the damage. I had three kids in the car, two of whom were crying (for unrelated reasons). I left.

And then, about ten minutes later, I went back and left him a note. I felt awful about the whole thing. And he DID fleece me for damage that was already there. But I felt much better having done the right thing, even though initially I just wanted to escape. (And I’d just resigned from my job, for bad political reasons, and was worried about how we were going to pay bills in the first place … oh, yes, I know this too well!)

I’m with Lori: be gentle to yourself. Your moral compass pointed you the right way in the end.
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