An Ode to MINI Cooper

An Ode to MINI Cooper

Dear MINI,

I apologize in advance for my verbosity and the lengthiness of this letter, but I think it’s true that when one is passionate about something, one can go on forever about that something. And this something is really something. Or something.

I grew up a huge fan of The Beatles and also VW Beetles. But then a teenier and unbearably cuter car rolled into view: The MINI Cooper. I was instantly enamored. My seventh grade boyfriend even got me a mini yellow MINI model for my church confirmation. I still have it yet today.

When I turned sixteen, my lovely Grammy gave me her ’96 Chrysler Concorde. It was a fair bit longer than a yacht. My parents used that as part of a trade-in for my younger brother’s first vehicle (still not over it), so I was left carless. As much as I begged and pleaded with my aunt, the designated coinpurse, I was not allowed to get my coveted MINI Cooper as they were “small and unsafe.”

‘Sputtering’ doesn’t begin to cover my reaction to those words. 

I ended up with a Dodge Caliber, which was… not a MINI. But I got a job at a car dealership in town and always kept an eye on the inventory.

One day, a co-worker told me that someone had just traded in a MINI Cooper hardtop to another location. I hadn’t even seen it, but I had it sent up. I’m pretty sure that was that salesman’s easiest, quickest sale to date.

I loved that MINI. It was black and had broad, red stripes up the bonnet, across the roof, and down the boot. I found blue ones online and had the red ones replaced. I bought ridiculously huge fog lamps for the grille and had a push-pull, choke-like knob installed to turn those on and off. I bought an S chrome gas cap to replace the non-S gastank door. It was a beauty, and, oh, it was so mine.

Then, as it happens, I got into (read: obsessed) the BBC show Sherlock. Shortly thereafter, and I don’t even know how I found this (read: I was probably google-searching any and all things Sherlock Holmes), I saw that MINI had a Baker Street Edition. 

Wat?(son)

I had to have it. 

I went straight to the local dealer, MINI of Omaha, met with the most perfect saleswoman and kindred spirit, Kim, and I probably had the Baker Street Edition ordered that same day.

Saying goodbye to my first MINI was tough. I got emotional right there in the parking lot. I knew it would be going to a good home and an excellent driver who would have even more fun with it than I did. I’ve yet to see it around town, but I’m still hoping to someday.

The Baker Street, though, woof. What a beauty. The Rooftop Grey paint, the dapper-cut bonnet stripes, the door sills, the door scuttles, the dash panel, the floor mats, the seat fabric and stitching, oh, God, I’m drooling just thinking about it. Utterly gorgeous. And don’t even get me started on the delivery process, oh, too late:

When one orders a MINI directly from Oxford, one gets to track their baby, and that’s not even my word, online. Like a package. Like a delightful bundle of joy. There is no stone left unturned by MINI. They literally think of everything and everything is bespoke and simply perfection. But yes, you get to watch your baby being ‘born’ and when it’s having its last check-up and when it’s making its way across the pond and when it reaches dry land.. It’s just a wonder to behold. 

Now I’m getting emotional again.

Anyway, that MINI was my pride and joy and I planned on having it until it couldn’t tick over any more miles.

That is, until, that feat was made impossible. 

One night in February of this year, I was driving to see my dad. His driveway leads out onto a busy street, so it’s sometimes nerve-wracking to park in it. This night, as with every night, I signaled my turn from at least two blocks away. As I was slowing and turning into his driveway, I looked up in my rear view mirror and saw headlights coming quickly right for me. I thought, “they’ll see me, they’ll see me, oh my God, they aren’t going to stop!” and I went to press the accelerator. The last thought I had as I stepped on the gas pedal was, “this’ll be a narrow miss.” 

It wasn’t.

If you’ve never been in a car accident, you won’t know what I’m talking about; and if you’ve seen one on TV or in a film, you still won’t know what I’m talking about; but there is a noise unlike any other. Louder than I can explain. I can still hear it if I think about it. 

A suburban rear-ended me going about 45mph which swiftly sent me skidding in the snow and T-boning into a utility pole in my dad’s yard. 

In my daze, I tried to open my door and it wouldn’t open. I then panicked a bit and shoved into it a few times. All of a sudden, it was like someone had reached in and lifted me over my gearshift, across the passenger seat, and out the door. To this day, I don’t remember how I got out so easily that way. 

I walked around to the driver’s side of my MINI and my heart absolutely broke. I couldn’t even feel any pain other than that, between the adrenaline, the shock, and the anger. When the driver of the suburban got out, a teenage girl, I yelled at her. “I am so fucking pissed off at you!” 

My MINI, my baby, which I was supposed to have forever, was gone. But I was alive. And I was alive because of my MINI. The curtain airbags kept my head from crashing right into the window, the seatbelt kept me from going anywhere. I was able to walk away. I sustained a bruised and very sore right side, a stiff neck, and anxiety. The MINI sustained quite a bit more.

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You can see how deeply the pole lodged. It still hurts to look at these.

It took a long time to get over, and I’m not particularly over it. It was a loss. It was also a loss of some of my confidence in driving. I’ve always loved driving. I go for drives to calm down or just for fun. After this accident, any time I would pull up to a stoplight or stopsign or anywhere someone would have to stop behind me, my eyes would be glued to my rear view mirror, pleading with everything I had that the person would see me and stop. Even in broad daylight. There were a few times I actually began to take evasive action and pull to the side because I thought, for sure, this person isn’t going to stop. 

Now, with insurance and the rental car and having a job, I knew I couldn’t wait the month or so to replace my baby with another Baker Street, so I had to go for something else. Which was also very difficult. Part of me wanted desperately to just have it back. Go back to the way things were. Start fresh. But then part of me knew it wouldn’t be the same, even if it was physically the same down to the last V on the dash.

I’d only had her for a year. And in that year, she was kept in a garage for three months while I was living in London. I hated that I’d missed out on those three months of driving her. She was truly my dream car.

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When the Clubman came out years ago, I’d always loved the idea of the barn doors. They were adorable and fun, not to mention totally handy and perfect for when you’ve got your shopping and can’t manage a hatch. 

The Clubman came to mind when I had to look for a new car. And because I couldn’t possibly drive anything else, obviously, I was back at MINI of Omaha.

I also thought, sort of as an homage, I’d get it in British Racing Green. I’d actually painted my nails that color as I was in mourning. I warned you: passionate.

MINI of Omaha found me a 2014 British Racing Green Clubman, manual (because how could I do anything else), brand new, with leatherette heated seats, a panoramic moon roof; pretty much everything I wanted besides the black wheels and bonnet stripes. Which was fine, I could take care of those things later.

They got it in for me and it was beautiful. It was hard after the Baker Street, but I grew to love my new MINI, of course. Especially when I went in to order bonnet stripes and I noticed that I could get Baker Street Edition bonnet stripes… Ohhhh, boy. I couldn’t contain my excitement at the parts counter. And when they were installed? Wow. It was perfect. The perfect combination. 

I had a Black Jack rear view mirror cover and a Black Jack grille badge to match. I also installed another grille badge that had a quote from Sir Alec himself, “I don’t want bloody women driving my cars.” It was all coming together to be my little British Chappy.

Then this past Saturday, 30th of August, just hours after my mom’s wedding, I was driving to dad’s – this may sound familiar – and as I neared his driveway, I noticed that his friend had parked a bit crooked and if I parked behind him, I’d have to let him out eventually. For the sake of ease and laziness, I decided parking on the side street would be best. 

There was not another side street to the west until further south, so I moved over to get into the center turning lane to take a turn eastward. As I was slowing, downshifting, and moving into the center turn lane, no sooner had I done so that I heard loud, drawn-out screeching of tires. I couldn’t see anything, so I had no idea what was coming until it hit me head-on.

The impact was hard and loud, but luckily I had no time to react, otherwise I would have tensed up. When I came to a stop, I was facing the opposite direction on the opposite side of the street. My horn was blaring, the airbag had gone off and the windshield had shattered. I had glass and airbag residue in my mouth. I tried to open my driver’s door and it wouldn’t open. In my panic, I rolled down the window and was prepared to climb out. Thankfully, I didn’t even attempt it, and I crawled across the gearshift and passenger seat to get out that way. Even in my state, thinking, “this is harder than last time.”

I walked around the back of the car because the horn was just so loud. I couldn’t even look back at it. My left hand was bleeding and I could hardly walk, but I almost started to walk the couple houses to my dad’s before I thought better of it. Luckily, there were, what seemed like, about six witnesses who took care of calling the police and getting the driver’s license plate number and letting me phone my dad. I remember asking, “do you hear the horn? I was in an accident.” He half-shouted, what?! and I was so upset and furious that I wasn’t thinking clearly. I shouted back, “CAN’T YOU HEAR THE HORN? Just come down the street toward the horn!”

For the sake of things to come, I won’t go any further with the details, but I will repeat what the responding officer told me: When the tow truck came to pick up my car as I was taken to the hospital, the tow truck driver thought he was picking up a fatality. That told me exactly how bad it looked.

I mean, I knew it was bad. It was a head-on collision with a drunk driver. I couldn’t put weight on my right foot, I had a laceration requiring stitches on my left middle finger and couldn’t use my left arm – it took the airbag in less than a stride and my chest took the rest of it – I had cuts and glass all over me. Amazingly, the x-rays were negative for breaks in my foot, hand, and chest; I had no breaks anywhere else. I am, however, mottled with bruises and contusions, and in pain just about everywhere. 

But I’m alive.

I didn’t actually see photos of my car until the next day. Then not in person until I had to go to the impound lot to get my personal items.

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My British Chap saved my life. MINI saved my life again.

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So, in ready conclusion, it is with my whole heart that I say: Thank you, MINI. I would not be here today if it weren’t for your brilliant engineering and attention to safety. There was a reason I was inexorably drawn to your little cars, what, with their bulldog stance and protective snarl. You better believe that as soon as I can physically and psychologically get behind the wheel again, I will be back, yet again, at MINI of Omaha. How could I possibly drive anything else.

Sincerely and loyally yours,

Christina Friis, MINI Owner.

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It’s Been A Funny Sort of Day

The day started off well enough. Woke up, had some breakfast, decided to get a facial and luckily, got an appointment within the hour. The facial was amazing, totally relaxing. Then I got home and just couldn’t get comfortable. Come to think about it, I couldn’t get comfortable in bed the night before. Just a sense of uncomfortability. Yep. Just made that one up.

Not wanting my evening to continue that way, I thought I’d invite dad over to watch The Fifth Estate – he needed a dose of Cumberbatch. He gave me some flack about always having to come out to my place and why don’t I come over there so he can fix me some smoked bbq ribs. Fine, whatever. 

I finished watching Dallas Buyer’s Club and got ready to go. Didn’t do my hair or makeup ’cause I didn’t care. For some reason, I just really didn’t want to go.

On the drive there – which is a straight shot east down Dodge and then a straight shot south on 120th – I had a stomach ache and just an all over unsettling feeling. Crossing Center Street, just a few blocks from dad’s house, I noticed a black car weaving in and out of traffic ahead of me and thought, that asshole’s going to hit someone. 

Dad’s driveway leads to 120th, just past a side street, so it’s always a bit of ‘I hope the person behind me sees that I’m turning but just in case I’ll do it as quickly as I can.’ 

I always check my rear view mirror as soon as I put my right blinker on – checking to see if there’s someone behind me and hoping they’ll just merge into the left lane to avoid slowing down (because it’s super annoying when someone turning holds up traffic). Then right before I turn into the driveway, I check my mirror again – checking to see if the person behind me is slowing down.

This time I noticed the person behind me was not slowing down. At the last second, I might have shouted ‘fuck’ and tried to again press on the accelerator so I could more quickly get into dad’s driveway. I thought, shit, with the snow, I’m definitely going to slide well into dad’s yard. 

Instead, I felt and heard a bam! behind me and then heard and felt another bam! on my left side. It’s not a biff and it’s not a crack, it’s just the loudest sound I’ve ever heard. I smelled the gunpowder from the side airbags deploying and I fumbled with my seatbelt release. Then I tried to open my door and couldn’t. I checked to see if it was unlocked, it was, and I tried again. It wouldn’t budge. I had a two-second panic and then somehow managed to grab my phone and get across the shifter and passenger seat and out the passenger side. I don’t really remember having any issue doing those things, so I can only imagine that I disapparated out of my car and on to the pavement.

I stood up slowly, making sure I was in tact. I looked up to see the white Ford Explorer/Expedition, one of the two, parked ten or so yards from where I was. The driver wasn’t out of the vehicle yet and I started over there. Then I thought, no, of course the driver is okay – they have a fucking SUV and they just slammed a MINI Cooper into a goddamn pole. I shakily opened up my iPhone camera and took pictures of the damage. Finally, the girl got out of the SUV and I turned to say, ‘I am so fucking pissed off at you right now.’ My car was destroyed. My darling MINI. Never mind the bodily harm I sustained.

She was very young and apologetic. I dialed 911 and my MINI, bless its heart, tried to put the call through its speakers via Bluetooth. Took me a few tries to change the audio source before the dispatcher picked up. I described the scene, asked the girl if she was hurt, she said no, thankfully, so we didn’t need medical. 

Oh, my car. The pole hit parallel, and flush, to the edge of my driver’s door. If I would have hit a few inches into the door, I am sure that my window would have shattered and I could have hit my head on the pole and my arm would have been crushed. The back window and windshield did shatter. I noticed later that there were large chunks of glass in my driver’s side floorboards. None in my hair or coat, amazingly. The – well, here are the initial photos, anyway: Image

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After taking the photos, I grabbed my brand new purse and noticed what was left of my Starbucks had gotten all over it. Now that I had something else to focus my anger on, I went inside dad’s house while he tried to convince the girl to come in (it was cold as fuck). I put my purse down on dad’s couch and ripped off my Gryffindor scarf to try to clean it off. Being leather/vinyl, and me being over-determined, it cleaned very easily. 

She finally came inside and I remember hearing her say, “no, she’s an adult” – referring to me. I think anyone who knows me would not refer to me as an adult. I don’t even refer to myself as an adult. I still see the same 18 year old when I look in the mirror. Never mind that being seven years ago. Ahem. Thinking that was silly, I heard dad then tell her to take a breath and calm down. This is also when I learned her name. Apparently, during my purse focus, my dad, bless him, had been a human being and asked her name. I looked up and found a trembling kid standing in the doorway. I went up to her and gave her a hug.

The cop showed up, we got everyone sat down. Dad did his thing and offered her food, water, pop, whatever. He offered me a beer, knowing the girl wasn’t old enough to drink. I figured that should wait until after the cop leaves. He asked us some questions, got our information, and filled out the report. He was very nice and what stuck out to me was the entirely patient way he ‘uh-huh’d us when we both started our phone numbers with the area code.

After that, I got very frustrated. I tried my best to engage her in conversation and joke around with her, I can’t imagine how scared and traumatized she was. Dad was doing his best to embarrass me and joke around with her to make her feel better. The girl said her mother is an ER doctor/nurse and, as her mother should be proud of her for, she urged me to get checked out even though I refused. When the cop was finished with the report, I told him I’d like to have a quick check after all. At that point, the adrenaline was starting to wear off and I was really starting to feel it in my arm. I knew nothing was broken, and I didn’t think doctors would be able to do much for me besides prescribe me – at the time, incredibly desired – pain meds. 

He said he could just have the squad check me out in the ambulance and I could refuse transport. Having never been to a hospital for an emergency or even anything other than a physical, it wasn’t the place I wanted to spend my night. The cop assured me that he’d call a fire truck, too, because he was sure the guys would relish the opportunity to do something. I said, yes, anything with lights and sirens, channeling my inner Ed from Shaun of the Dead. I asked the cop if the firemen would be calendar firemen or just firemen firemen, channeling my inner cougar of a mom. He said he couldn’t guarantee – sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t.

I got my wish: soon there was an Omaha Fire Department fire engine and an ambulance outside the house with their lights on. A very cute fireman got out of the engine and started up toward the door. I made sure to be the one answering the door, even in my no-hair/no-makeup done state, and tried to ramp up my charm. The cute one asked my name and then stepped toward me. He reached out and took my wrist, very Sherlock-like. I looked up at him and said, it’s elevated. Wit and charm, that’s what I’ve got.

It was elevated. A few other firemen and paramedics had stepped inside now and were all looking me over from head to toe. I wish it was because I was hot and not because they were doing their jobs, looking for sticky-out bones and blood. 

They walked me out to the ambulance and I took a seat. One paramedic put that little clothespin on my finger while another asked me questions for a sheet: name, age, address, etc. A fireman stepped on and asked, did you need her pulse? as the paramedic who administered the clothespin was putting on a blood pressure cuff. So then I had the one guy holding his fingers to my left wrist, while the other was taking my blood pressure on the right arm. I don’t even remember it going stiff – the cuff, ahem – I was too busy correcting the spelling of my last name to the one filling out the sheet. The fireman taking my pulse said, yeah, F-R-I-I-S. Thanks, buddy.

It was a whirlwind of not-much-happening and soon they were telling me I’d be sore as fuck, my words, tomorrow and to use an ice pack, do I have an ice pack? No. So I got one. One helped me down off the rig and then I was walking back into dad’s house. I noticed the girl was gone. Her brother’s fiancée had come to see her since her mom was working. 

The cop, however, was still there. He gave me my license/reg/ins back and handed me a sheet with the girl’s information on it (for insurance). Dad further embarrassed me, so I told the cop to learn from this situation and not embarrass his daughters. I asked if I could leave my beaten MINI on dad’s property, since it’s private and off the road. He offered to put crime scene tape around it and I pleaded with him to please do so. (He didn’t, much to my dismay). He said he’ll probably be inundated with calls about the busted car in someone’s yard and I told him to tell the callers you’re just ignoring it until it goes away. (Doubt he did that, much to my dismay).

I shook his hand and he left.

The food I’d come over for in the first place no longer sounded appetizing. Dad made sure I was still okay and we hung out while I called insurance. It was literally the last thing I wanted to fuck with after all of that, but I knew I’d feel better having gotten it out of the way. The rep asked me if there was any damage to the pole. I wanted to laugh in her face. Like, drive to wherever her office is, ask for her to come to the waiting room, and then literally laugh in her face. I just said, um, I don’t know, I didn’t check.

After that, dad said I could take his truck since he wasn’t going to be working the next day. When I was ready, he went out and started it and helped me clean out some things from my car. After that, he called my mom to see if she’d come sit with me for a while. She would. We thanked God that I was still alive and I was ready to go home. 

Pulling out onto 120th Street wasn’t really something I wanted to do. I realized about four blocks away from dad’s that I was going about 25mph. I looked up into his rear view mirror and saw headlights approaching. I looked away and sped up toward home. 

Couldn’t get to sleep until after 3am. Thought I’d be exhausted, but I wasn’t. I was out of breath, talking too much, another adrenaline spike. Mom suggested that I eat some protein, so I had five sunny-side-up eggs. Dad’s urban chicken eggs. They were fantastic. 

I thought back over how I reacted to the crash and felt bad about what I’d said to the girl. I was angry and in shock and I could tell she was completely upset, and I yelled at her before I asked her if she was okay. I found her number on the accident report and texted her an apology. She said not to worry about it and she’s glad I’m okay. I told her I’m glad we’re both okay – it could have been so much worse.

I woke up early today, knowing I’d be getting a call from the insurance agent assigned to my claim. Sitting up in bed was tough. All of a sudden, it felt like I’d done a massive workout the day before. My legs were achy and stiff, my abs ached, my neck was sore and stiff, my left arm was sore and I could tell the bruises were worse before looking at them. It was like I ran a marathon and then fell down a flight of stairs to cross the finish line.

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Getting darker…

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Not entirely sure how I even got this on the inside of my elbow – smashed against my ribs, most likely.

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From the door/airbag, I reckon.

Besides a constant physical reminder, every time I think about my car, I get choked up. I know it sounds silly, but I truly love my car. It was brand-fucking-new, ordered and sent from Oxford just for me; limited edition Baker Street edition with special interior design and exterior color/bonnet stripes; sat for three months while I was in London; never, ever had a problem with it; I looked at the odometer on my way to dad’s, actually, and it read 8800 miles. It’s just a year old. I’ve had it a year. It’s fucking stunning and it’s perfect and it’s me and now it’s demolished. 

I don’t know the totaling process, but even if it’s not totaled, I can’t imagine it would be safe to drive after repair. Not with the extent of the damage. I tortured myself last night by going on the MINI website to see if they even had my car anymore. Didn’t see it on the website. Well, it’s limited edition, so I guess I should have expected as much. I don’t know. I’ll see if MINI of Omaha can find one for me. Somewhere. Anywhere. If not.. oh. I didn’t want to have to get another MINI. I wanted this one to get me through 300,000 miles. 

My heart’s broken. My bones are fine, but my heart’s broken. Just like my dear car. 

Before I get any more emotional… I went to dad’s today so that I could get into a rental car. The crash, cloaked in soft snow and darkness last night, looks even more awful in the garish light of day.

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The incredible side-airbags.

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Impressed with the mostly-clean glass break.

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Well, no wonder I couldn’t get my driver’s side door open. I think even an inch more to the front would have shattered my glass.

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Pulled apart at the seams, it seems.

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Did that pole take a fucking welding class beforehand?

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How far the pole got. And an excuse to showcase my fantastic gloves.

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Bits and pieces.

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Standing at the car, looking into the yard. Can see bits of glass as well.

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Oh hey, my back window’s tint. Including some of the glass. (and those fabulous gloves, again).

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Wonky.

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Gosh, you know, I’ve got two trashbags full of clothes for the Goodwill in there.

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The cop gave me the red bit that goes in the silver bit. As a souvenir >.>

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I see my donut is alright.

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Well, shit, snow got in there.

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I’ll have you notice, that key is to the TARDIS. Might need to drive that for a while, to be honest.

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Well-parked.

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What does that face say to you?

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Thank you, you wonderful, marvelous, magnificent, superb, glorious, sublime, lovely, delightful, fantastic, tremendous, stupendous, sensational, incredibly, brilliant little bull dog of a car. And thank you to the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. 

The appraiser will be around in the next couple days. Then it’ll have to be towed to MINI of Omaha. Then I’ll have to figure out the next step. As I grudgingly think about my next car, there’s no doubt at all: MINI Cooper. 

As completely shitty as this situation is, not just for me, but for the girl who hit me, I’m totally thankful for a great number of things: each of us was able to walk away, we were literally at my dad’s house so we had shelter from the cold, we also had my dad – ever the host – offering us food and drink, we had time to calm down and even laugh a bit. I would hate to think what it would have been like for her, well, for either of us, really, to have had this happen A: with someone less than apologetic/cooperative/etc, and B: out on the road where it wasn’t safe to sit/stand/otherwise. Again, as completely shitty as it was, it really was as good as it could be. Because we’re both okay, and cars/bumpers can be replaced, this is just more of an inconvenience than anything else.

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