In which R. lands in a ditch and nearly finds god

The other day, R and I went to the zoo, which was a bit of an escape for both of us; I think there’s a rule that if your 16 yo son wants to go anywhere with you, you should drop whatever you’re doing and just go, and especially if what you’re dropping is work, and what he’s skipping is school. 

R. commented that he was the only non-adult over the age of about 3 at the zoo, which was pretty accurate; watching all of the parents with toddlers reminded me of how much easier it is to go around with people who can walk and manage their own toileting needs.  We had an excellent time, and got home in time for R. to drive himself to band practice at a friends’ house. 

A few hours later, I got the call that every parent dreads:  “Mom, I’ve been in a car accident.”  Luckily, no one was hurt, and no one else was involved – he hit a slick patch and spun out, landing in a ditch.

He ended up right in front of a small church, which happened to be occupied by a small youth group meeting.  It’s the only commercial-ish establishment for about 5 miles in any direction, so it was a strange coincidence that this is where he landed, and equally freaky that people were there, because the building is probably only inhabited for about 3 hours a week.

When I arrived to arrange for a tow, I found him inside, bible in hand, which was, and I hope I don’t insult any of you, but it was nearly as disturbing as the accident itself.  I'm all for whatever people do to help them be decent and hopeful, and I'm sure the bible is a big part of that for many, but does it seem a little opportunistic?

They invited him inside to wait for me so that he could stay warm, and then handed him a bible and a worksheet on scripture.  His chances of finding god might have been slightly higher than normal, given that he had just survived the terror of being behind the wheel of an out of control vehicle, and not only walked away unscathed, but ended up immediately being whisked into a bible study group.  If one were inclined to see signs from god, well, I think this whole episode would count.

The pastor came out to talk to me, and started by saying, “Is he in trouble, mom?” which, while I find it smarmy when random adults call me “mom,” I did like that he seemed to be R’s ally, and was prepared to talk me down if I turned out to be the hysterical angry sort, so he did win points for that.  I told him no, he’s not in trouble.  I tend to think that if R. didn’t learn anything from being behind the wheel of a vehicle that was spinning out of control, there’s nothing I could say that would matter; he either learned the lesson or he isn’t going to, so I kept my mouth shut and was just grateful, as clichéd as it sounds, that we’re all still on the planet for at least another day.

While we were waiting for the tow truck, R. thanked me for being cool; I wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but I’m pretty sure it was a completely different thing than I would mean.  I think he was thanking me that I wasn’t upset about the damage to the car, but I like to think that his future adult self was present for a second, realizing, shit, every day she lets me out of her sight and has no idea if I’ll make some stupid testosterone-driven mistake that will change all of our lives forever, and yet she walks around, acting normal, letting me drive, and doesn’t appear to be on the verge of a breakdown. 

As we waited by the side of the road, a police officer arrived, and I recognized him as the person who interrogated M. last week, because I looked him up on the web. I was going to say, allow me to introduce myself and my other child.  I believe you frisked my daughter last week, just a couple miles from here, and had the dogs sniff her stuff?  Well, here’s my son.  Yes, I am the proud mother of these fine young drivers.  But I didn’t, and he was remarkably meek: didn’t ask for ID, didn’t seem curious about the speed that must have been required to end up in the ditch in the opposite direction and on the opposite side of the road than the direction of original travel.  He asked if we had a tow coming, and when I said yes, he drove off.

The pastor came out again and invited us in for hot chocolate, and gave me this brochure:

I laughed and asked why he thought I needed mood management classes, and he got all back-pedally, "oh no, no, that's not what I meant", but it's hard to imagine what else someone would mean by handing you a brochure titled "managing your moods."  I’m sure he’s trying to grow their church, for both self-serving and altruistic reasons, but um, do you think that’s a good strategy?  When random people come in (which is surely pretty damn rare, like, we were probably the first ever), you hand them a brochure that suggests they’re kind of cranky?  It gets worse when you open it up, but I'll spare you.

“Oh, no, I’m sure you’re not moody. It’s really just a ladies bible study group.  The ladies in the area gather to talk about the bible. You’d be welcome any time.”

Right.  Studying the bible with a bunch of women, moody or otherwise, is quite low on my list.  I always wish I had the courage to just say, no, I really don’t have any interest in doing that.  Thanks for being good to my son, because I’m sure he was totally rattled, and you’re obviously a very decent human, but must we quickly leap to the part where you want us to join your church?

Thankfully, the tow truck arrived.  The best part of the whole thing was how it felt like 1952 or something – the tow truck driver shook hands with both of us, and called R. “son”, (which for some reason didn’t seem as bad as the pastor calling me “mom”), and said he’d “have the car out in a jiffy”.  If this were a movie, it would go on for a while before the viewer discovered that R., through his accident, had opened a time warp that propelled us into Mayberry, USA, but it wasn’t that movie. 

Before the tow truck driver left, he shook my hand again, and asked how the service was, which, well, I dunno, should you ask that?  Is that like asking, while still on the date, “How is our date going?”  But I said it was great, and he said I might get a survey in the mail and he’ll get a cash bonus if I give him positive scores, so he’d appreciate it if I do that, making me feel a little like, sheesh, at least he’s being transparent, but everyone here seems to want something from me and all I want to do is not get all choked up that R. came this close to an accident that could have had a completely different and worse outcome.


  1. A worse outcome was what I had in mind when I saw the title and the photo of the tiger--I thought R. fell into a ditch in the tiger enclosure.

  2. We too have had a couple of up-close-and-personal ditch encounters in the last two weeks with zero bodily injury. Whew! My hope it that it takes the driver a notch higher on the "must be a bit more careful while driving" scale. But we parents can only hope.

  3. Awesome as always. And for the record, I thought the same thing as S.E., above.


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