The summer when I was 22 years old, I was starting to panic. I had finished school about a year and a half prior, deciding that graduating from community college would be the last feather in my education cap (school is expensive). After a failed gig as an insurance agent, the best I could do for employment was getting hired part-time by the same clothing chain that I worked for while in high school. So despite my best efforts, I was basically 16 years old again and wondering if I was going to live with my dad forever, though probably not wondering as much as he was.
I applied for countless jobs, but I was stuck in that area of needing to start somewhere to gain some experience but nobody hiring me because of my lack of experience. I had a few interviews, but nothing ever worked out. The most hopeful interview I had was at a small office where the boss asked me how old I was and then had me meet his dog, since taking care of his dog would be one of my job duties. Things were seeming so hopeless that I was actually sad to not score the job.
In August, my luck had changed, and I was hired as a receptionist, where I was promised 19 hours a week with an hourly pay rate of $6.50. The hours would allow me to keep my clothing store job too, so I could potentially be working full-time some weeks. This was the closest I'd arrived to feeling like an actual adult, and I wanted to celebrate before I started to become an official working girl.
I decided I wanted to drive up to Sault Ste. Marie for the day, which is my favorite city. I often say that if I was offered an all-expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world, I'd pick the Soo. I don't know if that makes me sound quaint and charming or simple and sheltered. Either way, I stand by it.
Since my mode of transportation was the same old car I had in high school (Gretta the Beretta), my dad offered to let me take his car up to the Soo. So on my last Saturday of freedom, I grabbed a U2 CD and hit the road for what started as an uneventful drive. A few hours down the road, and I'd made it to the Mackinac Bridge, which meant I was less than an hour from the Soo. The Mackinac Bridge is in general one of my favorite spots, and I'm always so thrilled to drive over it. I cruised on, feeling even more excited. My beloved bridge! Closer to the Soo! LIFE IS GOOD!
I am often asked why the following event happened.
I don't know.
What I do know is that I was in the outside lane of the bridge, and I saw it was closing for construction, so I got over into the inside lane. The cars in the inside lane were stopped. I was looking right at them. Why didn't I realize nobody was moving? By the time I had realized that fact, I'd smashed my dad's car into the back of a Corvette.
I immediately started crying, which is my go-to reaction in life. I couldn't see anything in front of me because my hood was up over my windshield. The driver of the Corvette approached my open window. He was an elderly man, and he looked understandably irate. As I frantically apologized, the look on his face changed from anger to pity, an effect I tend to have on people. After confirming that he and his wife were okay, I made a ridiculous phone call to my dad:
"Dad, it's me. I crashed your car on the Mackinac Bridge. It's bad, it's really bad. Well, the police are here, gotta go, bye."
I apologize to my dad for all the gray hairs I gave him that day.
With the outside northbound lane closed for construction and my crash scene blocking the other northbound lane, traffic was a nightmare. I'm sure that dozens of drivers were cursing "that stupid girl in the white car," which is probably a lot nicer of a name than what they were actually calling me.
I finally finished crossing the Mackinac Bridge, but it was in an ambulance. Aside from a sore ankle that would cause me to use crutches for a little while, I was okay. The nurses at the hospital were really nice. I was taken to a hospital room to relax, and a nurse turned on the TV. The channel was MTV, and a marathon of The Andy Dick Show was on. I was too depressed to change the channel. If you've ever seen that show, you'll understand just how depressed I was.
One of the nurses called my dad to see if he could come get me. Otherwise, they were going to look into bus schedules to get me home. Dad agreed to drive Gretta the Beretta up to get me. Though I was happy I wouldn't have to find a bus to get me home, I was pretty anxious about facing my dad after what I had done to his car. After watching way too much Andy Dick, I looked over in the doorway of my hospital room and finally saw my dad. The first thing he said to me?
"You will do anything to avoid paying that bridge toll."
I get my humor from him.
My dad didn't give me a hard time, which was great, since I'd already done that to myself. I knew I was an idiot, I knew I'd messed up. There was nothing else to be said. We left the hospital and stopped by the car to grab some of my things before we went home. One item we grabbed was the U2 CD I had brought for the trip. The album was Zooropa, and although I doubt people believe me when I say this, "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car" was playing when I crashed. For the record, the song title was not accurate. It was more like, "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car (And Then You Can Pay Him Back In Monthly Installments)."
We got back in Gretta the Beretta and began the drive home. I was tired and didn't have much to say. Dad made some conversation with me though.
Dad: "So did you actually get to walk around on the bridge??"
Me: "No, I told the paramedics that my neck hurt, so they removed me on a board to keep me still."
Dad: "You don't even know how to crash a car right."
We're going on 13 years since that accident happened, and I still get made fun of about it. So you're welcome, everyone. That was my eternal gift for you all.
The Corvette guy would have rather just gotten a card.