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Stopping Traffic

Living in a city dependent on vehicles for daily travel has its pitfalls. On Thursday, I experienced one of the more annoying ones – a fender-bender car accident in the middle of a busy highway.

The whole mess was my fault entirely. The only reason I bring it up is because of an exchange I had with the other driver. When I failed to get out of my car and immediately apologize to her, she demanded to know if it was because of her skin color.

She is Black. I am so blinding white you have to squint to even look at me during the winter months.

My first reaction: Wa-wa-what? Really?

No, ma'am. The only reason I didn't get out of my car is because my two kids were in the backseat crying. I had OnStar on the phone along with the Michigan State Police. And I was overwhelmed by the whole thing. What she looked like honestly didn't matter to me; I was just making sure no one was hurt.

I babbled that to her, telling her how her color is the last thing I was thinking about. For the record, I did say sorry. I got out of my car to apologize the right way, as I tell my son: looking at her directly in the eye and with a sincere voice. We traded insurance information, and I told Carla again that her skin had nothing to do with my behavior. Rather, I don't do well under pressure. That is all. I would have been a wreck (literally and figuratively) no matter if she was white, Black, Pacific Islander or anything else.

She reminded me that she was a mother as well, and I had better get some better manners. Too true.

Eventually, we took a collective deep breath, and civility took over. We stood together at the side of I-75 and I-94 waiting for the police report. We talked about how we were actually heading to the same city. She was now late for work, and her cell phone was out of minutes. It was not a good day for her, either. Carla used my phone to call her boss, and I was happy to a little bit useful. She clucked over the dripping radiator fluid coming from my crumpled bumper, I commented on the dent and scratches on her fender. When the paperwork was done, we said goodbye like two rational adults.

Looking back, I'm guessing we were just two shocked (and irritated) individuals. Does she really think I'm a racist, or was she just really mad because her day was thrown out of whack? Did she have another incident happen to her where she perceived a race bias? Are people here that outwardly cruel to one another? I'd like to think that in a different circumstance, she and I would have been rather decent to one another.

As for my deep thoughts…My son noticed little to nothing of this exchange. When I got back into the car, he simply suggested we should have stayed at the Science Center a little longer instead of coming home. Then he threw his hat at me. I threatened a Time Out, and we limped down Harper Avenue toward the East Side. I hope Carla got home safe as well.

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