It was another freakishly beautiful day, the kind of weather I’d expect in Southern California this time of year, not in Minnesota. This afternoon, as I walked my new neighborhood, I thought, I’m being gently welcomed by the sun and the soft air. It’s inviting me to relax into what feels like a more peaceful place. I know it’s far more complicated than that and I am well aware of how fortunate I am to be able to experience it that way. I walked a little over a mile on sun-dappled streets of lovely homes and well-tended plantings (giant cacti?) before cutting down to Lake of the Isles for the loop back home.
My preferred time to walk is toward sunset, when the shadows are longer and the sun not so unforgiving, but I was meeting the only other person I know in Minneapolis for an early dinner so midday it was. With the temperature hovering close to 70, I was happy to discover a bench over which four trees cast welcome shade. It was an exquisite spot (I had my phone memorize it) and I closed my eyes and let myself rest into the moment. For those who don’t know me personally, I am of the do-do-do variety. It is rare that I give myself permission to just stop, so I was aware that making the choice to sit there doing “nothing” was not a small thing.
When I opened my eyes, a young man clad in what looked like a lime green track suit was unzipping a backpack and wrapping two of the trees with heavy straps. In less than three minutes, he had a hammock strung between them and, wrapping himself up in it to shield him from prying eyes (like mine), was having his lunch. I am not, of course, the only one to notice that this is a particularly beautiful spot. I’m just the latest one to discover it and was tickled to share it with him and his hammock.
Pottery Barn is one of the places on my list to investigate for a chair and there is one located in a Minnetonka mall five minutes from where I was I was meeting my friend and her niece for dinner, so I drove out there a little early. But it was easier to find the mall than the store and I returned to my car to check my face (it was still there) and sit for a few minutes (it could become a habit, this just sitting) before taking that five minute drive. I don’t know quite how to describe what happened next.
At first I thought it was an earthquake, the shock of first one, then a second, jolt being that powerful. But I’m in Minnesota, not in Washington or California, and there are no major faults here. Did I bring an earthquake with me? I’m sitting parked in a suburban mall, my car not even running, exactly one week after having driven 1600 miles across the country, and Boom! something hits me from behind and then, Boom! again, another powerful impact. It was the second one, according to some incredibly nice bystanders who witnessed at least part of it and who stayed to give statements to the police, that they thought took off most of my bumper. I was so stunned that it took me a moment to get out of my car, so all I saw was a small white car careening the wrong direction out of the parking area. “He’s got a flat tire,” one of them said. “He won’t get far.” But, even though one of the women had managed to write down the license plate and the police had tried to find the car before coming to what I felt was my rescue, he was gone. They had been able to look it up and seen that the owner had had his license revoked.
My dinner dates came to stand around with me and the bystanders and the police, which was incredibly kind of them. It helped to ground me. I kept repeating to anyone who would listen, “I just drove across half the country without a mishap.” “Welcome to Minnesota,” one of them said. I didn’t hear it as just sarcastic. I did feel welcomed and taken care of. The people who witnessed the event were shaken by the speed and the violence of what happened. I think they stayed around partly so they could keep talking about it, going over and over what they saw, trying to make sense of it. Because it made absolutely no sense. No one could figure out where he would have been coming from to have hit not only my car but the car next to me as well. That one sustained very little damage, though the force of it was enough to push its nose into that of a large pickup truck parked in front of it.
And now here I am going over details in an effort to process it. In the moment, I was focused on calling the police, calling my friend, asking the witnesses to stay, calling the insurance company, taking pictures of what was left of the rear bumper of my car. In one of life’s little ironies, shortly before I left Seattle, I had some body work done on that same rear bumper to take care of a couple small scrapes that I thought would make the car vulnerable to rust and whatnot in the land of snow and salt. I could have saved myself the money.
After it was all done, my friend took me to dinner and then I drove home. “If they stop you because you don’t have a license plate,” the cop said after removing my rear bumper and putting it in the back seat, “just show them the incident report. They won’t ticket you.”
And then they took my picture, which I’m sharing just to show you I’m fine. And, with the exception of missing its butt, so is my car. Oh, and see that red stripe on the side? I had that put on at the same time I had the bumper repaired. It wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t had the other work done, so I guess it was worth it after all.