Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm and My Friends Were There

On my way to Skokie this evening, in the heart of rush hour, I was in a car accident on Interstate 94 and it appears I've totaled my car.

It doesn't really matter exactly what happened. Well, I suppose it does, but for this post, those details are meaningless.

What is important is that there were no injuries and the vast majority of the damage was to my car, with what appears to be only minor damage to the other two cars.

Unfortunately, I was on my way to the women's group I've been part of for the better part of a year. The group decided to disband and tonight was our last meeting. Of all the emotions I'm feeling right now, I feel the worst about not being able to attend the meeting, properly thank the women for all they've taught me, and put closure on something that's been a big part of my weekly schedule for months.

Each week I looked forward to seeing them and learning from their wisdom, strength, and courage. We cheered for each other in the good times and picked each other up when we stumbled. To say I could have used their support tonight is an understatement, but they would have been proud at how I radically accepted the situation without beating myself up and completely kept my cool until it was safe to feel my emotions.

The Illinois State Police arrived fairly quickly and couldn't have been nicer. Cops often get a bad rap, but the police officer I dealt with tonight was empathetic and did her job with grace. Because the damage to my car was so extensive, she told me to sit in her car, which felt better than sitting in mine or standing outside in the cold, although I could have. She assured me that in the whole scheme of things, this was no big deal. No one was injured, we all have really good insurance, and everyone involved was as pleasant as could be, given the situation. That was comforting. We even had a laugh, although I can't remember what we were laughing about now, except I know it wasn't about the accident.

A lovely woman from State Farm, my insurance company, filed my claim over the phone, set up a rental car I'll get in the morning, and arranged the tow with the towing company this evening. She was pretty nice too, although I'd suggest not telling someone who'd just been in a sizable accident to have a great weekend at the end of the call. I'm just saying.

The first thing that really struck me (no pun intended) as I sat in the back of the cop car was just how single and alone I am in this world. I have no significant other. Yes, I have an inner circle of friends I can count on for anything, but it's not the same. It was at that moment I softly cried. Fortunately, those tears only lasted a few minutes because my friend Christopher said he'd come get me, even though he'd had a rough day and just wanted to go straight home from work and go to bed. It's amazing how the feeling of gratitude makes tears disappear.

Once the police officer left and my car was towed, I was left standing in the middle of a strip mall parking lot with a shopping cart of stuff I retrieved from my car waiting for Chris. A feeling of total overwhelm set in when I realized I'm unemployed, spent $500 three days ago on new tires, just committed to $500 per month for COBRA, now have a sizable car insurance deductible, and probably the stress of figuring out where I'm getting money for a new car to handle.

The tears returned with a vengeance and I was suddenly crying hysterically in the middle of the parking lot. I stood there for about 15 minutes sobbing as person after person walked by, looked at me, and kept going without saying a word. My faith in humanity was waning until just by chance, my friend Jen walked up. Neither one of us lives near where we bumped into each other, but it sure was nice to have a friend show up in a moment of need. She generously kept me company until Christopher arrived a few minutes later. My tears stopped as we laughed about what a coincidence it was that we both happened to be at this random strip mall just then.

In the end, I realized that I'm not nearly as alone in this world as I thought and that for all the stuff that's happened since January 1st, I have a lot for which I'm grateful and that's what I'm going to focus on moving forward. As I was just reminded by my friend Alan, to paraphrase Clarence in It's A Wonderful Life, "no man is poor who has friends." I also have a pan of brownies I made this afternoon that may or may not become my dinner tonight. Don't judge me.

Oh, and I had four new experiences today: car accident that probably totaled my car, sat in the back of a cop car, heard myself talked about on WBBM Newsradio 780 when they talked about my accident blocking traffic, and cried hysterically in public while being ignored by passersby. I think they push me over the 150 new experiences mark.

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    Jessica Gardner

    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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