The Little Mermaid was being performed live at the Hollywood Bowl, and Sara Bareilles was playing the role of Ariel. I love Sara Bareilles more than anything else, so naturally I bought a ticket. Darren Criss was playing Prince Eric. I want to have sex with Darren Criss, so naturally I bought a ticket for a seat up close. I bought the ticket for Friday, June 3rd at 8 pm. I requested off work for that day, and then set the date aside for several months. Finally, the day came, and I drove over to Staples to print out my ticket. I promptly folded the paper up, stuck it in my pocket, entered my car, and began to exit the parking lot.
There was a long line of cars waiting at a red light going North, but I was trying to make a left to go South out of the parking lot. Soon a gap in the cars opened up, and I saw my chance. The man in the car just before the gap waved me forward, so I inched out to make a left turn. And that’s when it hit me.
A woman was trying to enter the left hand turn lane, which started about 100 feet further down the lane. To do so, she entered the wrong lane of traffic and sped down the road to get to the left turn lane. She did not see me, and I did not see her. We did meet, however, as her car promptly smashed into mine, knocking out one of my headlights and my entire front bumper. My head hit the roof of my car, and I sat there in a daze.
“Dammit,” I thought, “This is probably my fault.” I tried to put my car in drive to get it out of the road, but the gears wouldn’t move. As I sat there, wondering if I should get out of the car when I was blocking two lanes of traffic, the woman in the other car threw open her car door, looked at me, and screamed, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!”
“Shit,” I thought, “I hadn’t even anticipated this.” I got out of the car, but before I could say anything, a man walked up.
“It’s okay man, it wasn’t your fault. I saw the whole thing, she was over the line,” he said.
“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” she screamed. “I WAS MAYBE AN INCH OVER THE LINE!”
An old woman ran up to her and shouted, “YOU DROVE RIGHT PAST ME AND YOU WERE IN THE WRONG LANE OF TRAFFIC. YOU’RE A TERRIBLE DRIVER AND IT’S YOUR FAULT!”
The two women began to argue. I stood there, stunned. Should I call the police? Do I move my car? What do I do? The man told me I should move my car, so we pushed it into the parking lot. The woman in the other car screamed, “I HIT MY HEAD. ON THE CEILING. IT HURTS.”
“Do you need an ambulance?” The man asked.
“NO I DON’T NEED AN AMBULANCE!” She screamed. She then proceeded to call her husband, crying hysterically. I dialed 911, and got a busy signal. Thank God I wasn’t being murdered. I called again, and someone answered. I told them what had happened, and they asked if we needed an ambulance. I said no. They transferred me to non-emergency services, which again gave me a busy signal. I hung up and dialed the non-emergency number. 5 times in a row I got the busy signal. I finally called 911 back and asked if they could send an officer. They told me if no one needed an ambulance and we didn’t hit a public fixture that we didn’t need an officer, and to call our insurance companies and exchange info.
I told the woman this, while the two witnesses gave me their information. The woman shot me death glances during this, still on the phone to her husband. I called my parents and asked them what to do. While I was on the phone to them, I heard the woman say, “He doesn’t love me anymore!” I had no idea who she was talking to, or why she chose this moment to have this conversation, but it was all very dramatic.
My parents gave me the info for my insurance, and I called to file a claim after exchanging info with the woman. The whole task was incredibly laborious, having to describe in detail what happened and spell everything over the phone. “N as in Nancy. E as in…” I wanted to say “Eloté bowl”, which was the new salad at Healthy Chipotle, but I realized he probably would not understand. He asked me questions about her car, and I tried to answer based on the pictures I had taken of her info. There was no way in hell I was gonna go ask her, dramatically sobbing on the curb. Finally I finished the claim and hung up. I called AAA to come tow my car and then waited. An older man showed up and hugged the woman who hit me. I hoped he wasn’t her husband, and that he wouldn’t beat me up. I kept to myself.
Finally the woman approached me. “Oh my God,” she said. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t even ask. Are YOU okay?”
“I’m fine,” I replied.
She went to call her insurance and I texted my boss, Katrina. She immediately offered to come pick me up and buy me ice cream. “Sure!” I said. It was nice to have someone take me away from this hostile woman. I overheard her say to her insurance, “But there were these two witnesses who immediately came up and blamed me! Like, how am I supposed to defend myself when they’re against me from the start?” I waited for the tow truck in uncomfortable silence, avoiding eye contact with the woman and her friend. Finally it came. The man offered to take my car to a AAA storage facility, and said maybe her insurance would pay for storage. I hoped so. As he drove off with my car, the woman came up to me.
“Oh my God,” she said again. “Do you need a ride? Can I call you a taxi?”
“I’m fine, my friend is picking me up,” I said.
“Do you need anything? A protein bar? A water? I have a tote bag in my car. I’m just trying to make up for lashing out at you. I don’t want to be a shitty human being,” she said.
“I’m fine, thank you. It’s okay, we’re both in shock, it’s fine!” I said. I was just afraid of interacting with her period.
“Do you understand what I’m saying though?” She continued. “I wasn’t over the line- I was just trying to turn left. It wasn’t my fault.”
“I think we should just let the insurance companies deal with it,” I said. Thankfully my friend arrived at that moment. We shook hands and I got in my friend’s car. We drove off, and I was never so relieved as I was in that moment.
My friend Katrina took me to Mashti Malone’s where we got ice cream cones and took post-car-crash pictures. It was only 7 pm, and I realized I could still make The Little Mermaid.
“Is that a good idea?” I said. “Should I still go?”
“Absolutely,” my friend said, and she drove me to the Hollywood Bowl. I walked in, found my seat, and just as I was sitting down, Darren Criss comes out onto the stage. I flipped my shit. The first time seeing my one true love. Everything had been worth it. He brought Alan Menkin out on the stage, who sang a medley of Disney songs that he had originally written. When the show started, you could feel the excitement in the air. The audience was full of adults who had grown up watching The Little Mermaid, some with their own children who were just as (or maybe not quite so much as) excited to see the movie.
They played the movie while a full orchestra played the music. Every time a song came on, an actor would come out and perform it. The minute I saw Sara Bareilles, I knew all was right in the world. Here I was, in Hollywood, watching my favorite artist singing along to a Disney movie I had watched over and over again as a kid. It was magic.
My friend Katrina ended up picking me up as well, and drove me back to my house. I collapsed into bed, and cried. It had been an incredibly emotional day.
The next morning I ubered to work, where everyone asked me what happened. I told the story of the accident many times, to many people, with hand motions, diagrams, and emphasis on the words “He doesn’t love me anymore”. Finally my insurance agent called.
“So, unfortunately, you didn’t have a legal right to make a left turn out of the parking lot, so even though she was driving on the wrong side of the road, you’re both in the wrong. So there’s a chance her insurance won’t pay for anything. Also, since you don’t have collision coverage, we’re not gonna pay for anything either, so any compensation you’ll get will come from them. I would suggest moving your car to a secure location, and waiting for her insurance to call you. But since it’s the weekend, they probably won’t call until Monday.”
Strange to say, a part of me knew this would happen. Even though I knew the accident wasn’t my fault, I knew that it would be way too good to be true for everything to work out. I was pretty sure that somehow I would end up fucked. And here it was. I called my parents and freaked out.
“What do I do? Where do I put my car? How will I pay for a new one? What will I say to her insurance company?” I didn’t want to deal with this. I wanted to crawl into bed and sleep forever. I wanted to let my parents handle this. I wanted to quit my job and move back to Virginia Beach and uber everywhere and never have to deal with insurance again.
My parents calmed me down, and told me we would figure this out. After I got off work, I ubered back to the scene of the crime to take detailed pictures of the road for when her insurance called me. That way I could clearly show what the lanes looked like and that I wasn’t at fault. After I finished that, I ubered home to change and go to the gym with my friend Katrina. She again offered to pick me up, and while I waited for her I looked up bikes on Craigslist. I found one for $70. I texted the guy, and he told me I could come over now to look at it.
When Katrina arrived, she offered to drive me to the guy’s place to get the bike. I stopped at Ralph’s to withdraw money, and also to buy gummi bears to eat in sadness. We drove to the guys house, and he brought the bike down. It was dusty, and the tires were kind of flat, but it worked. I gave him the money and put the bike in Katrina’s car. She drove us to the gym for our workout where a buff guy watched us condescendingly on the seated rowing machine and then corrected our form. I was feeling hypersensitive about it, although it was probably for the best since we were in fact doing the exercise wrong. After the gym Katrina drove me home and I thanked her for the ride.
The next day I got a ride to work with my coworker and at work I desperately messaged everyone I knew, looking for a place to store my car. I didn’t even know where my car was, since I didn’t ask the AAA guy which place he was taking it to. I called his number but only got the busy signal, so I sent a text asking about my car as a Hail Mary. Nobody had a place available for me to put my car, and it all became very overwhelming. I locked myself in the bathroom at work, sat down on the toilet, and cried. I had never cried at work before. I was feeling very dramatic. I felt like everyone was letting me down, and that nobody was helping me. I knew this wasn’t true though. My boss had given me three rides, bought me ice cream, and been nothing but loving and kind to me. My coworker drove me to and from work. My parents were telling me that they would help me no matter what happened. Still, I couldn’t help but feel negative. I wanted to isolate. I knew this was probably from the trauma of the accident.
But like for real though. I mean, how much fucking PTSD can one person endure? I had already been in an accident back in October (that was my fault), been robbed at gunpoint, and now this. Los Angeles did not seem to be very kind to me.
As I got back to work, I got a text from my roommate saying I could store my car in his spot for a week. I was so relieved. I still had a billion and one concerns, but at least things felt manageable. This was one less thing I had to worry about.
There’s a customer named Jake who comes into my café every day and always gets the same cup of tea. He’s my fitness guru, and is always giving me tips on protein (or as my boss calls it, brotein), lifting, diet, and exercise. I was relaying my car crash woes to him when he gave me some advice. He told me that I had a choice, that what made people like me different from other people was my ability to take the negativity in my life, accept it, and move on. That I could spend my time focusing on everything wrong or I could focus on the good. And that I was lucky to have an outlet, to be able to write about the experience and not keep it all inside, wearing it on me like a death shroud to show everyone around me what I had been through.
And he’s right. There is a lot of good in my life. For everything Los Angeles has put me through, it has given me so much more. A home. A place to be an adult, to grow. A place to be sober. To work, to write, to make incredible friends and mentors in the most unlikely of places. And it’s the same with this accident. I could focus on the bad, on not having a car, on insurance, on people not being there for me when I need help.
Or I could focus on my friends, who were there for me when I was in need. Who gave me rides, bought me ice cream, drove me to work, and offered to help in any way they could. Like it or not, situations like these always show me who my true friends are, and just how much I mean to them.
Jake told me how he spoke to Katrina about her coming to get me after my accident, and how impressed he was with her. Her response was, “but I love him.” It’s things like that that make me realize how blessed that I am. The love of my friends and family is what keeps me going through stuff like this. And while it’s easy to think I might be unlucky, or that life is never on my side, I know that this is just life on life’s terms. And if I can make it through this, I can make it through anything. Everything passes. Friends make it pass a little easier.