remembering this + it happened sooner than I thought

February 3, 2013 |  Category:   life


I was looking through some old photos the other day and came across this picture of our car accident 6 years ago. I wrote about it in this fear of driving post a few years ago. It’s a really weird feeling when something happens right after you think about it or say it out loud. Almost like you just willed it to happen. That’s how it went down 6 years ago and it happened again Friday night.


It went something like this (times are approximate):

6:00pm: Mark turns the car on as the kids pile in. We are headed to my mom’s for the weekend. I say, “It sounds loud. Is that noise getting worse?” Marks shrugs with an “I don’t know. Maybe it sounds louder today, yeah.” Hmmmmm.
6:20pm: Rush hour, BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for you non-local folks. I love how there is a Yelp review page for the BQE. Haha, what?). We both hear a soft, padded deflating kind of noise as we are driving down the multi-lane highway. “Did you hear that noise?”.
6:22pm: “Something’s happening”, says Mark. “The car’s losing power”. I see that we are slowing down, but miraculously I stay calm.
6:25pm: “I’m trying to make it to the exit”. Mark tries to floor the gas to get as far to the exit lane of the highway as he can . He’s hoping that we can coast down the exit and get off the highway.
6:30pm: The car is slowing, slowing, the lights are dimming….aaaaaaand the car stops. In the middle of the BQE. During rush hour. It’s dark. Oh.
“What do we do? What do we now? What are we supposed to do now??”, I ask. I’m no longer calm. “I don’t know!”, yells Mark. “We have to get the car towed!”. He gets his phone out and searches for towing companies. Meanwhile, I turn around to see what the kids are doing. They don’t really know what’s going on, except that we are no longer moving on the highway, and they continue to chat with each other.
But then I see what is happening in the rearview window and completely freak out. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”. I see headlights speeding up to us and only slowing down at the last minute when the driver realizes that there is a car basically parked on the BQE with hazard lights on. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH SHITTT AHHHHHH!!!!”. The girls now turn around to see what I’m freaking out about and start nervously chatting in louder voices. Mia looks back and tries to do hand signals in wildly exaggerated movements to let cars know that they should move around us. “Mia! Calm down! I need quiet so that I can talk on the phone”. Then Mark turns to me and says, “you can’t freak out like this. Not now. Just don’t look back!”. He starts dialing some numbers and after a few tries, ends the call and says, “They told me they could get here in half an hour!”. HALF AN HOUR.
So you know how you really shouldn’t be looking at something, but you just can’t help but look? I can’t stop looking out the back window. I see cars and huge semi trucks speeding towards us. Some barely make the stop and swerve around us at the very last minute. Cars nearly hit us multiple times. “We can’t sit here for half an hour!”, I cry. “Maybe we should call 911. This is dangerous.” Mark says ok and mutters something about never having called 911 before except for the time a parked U-Haul was on fire directly in front of our apartment. In the meantime, I try not to look back, but instead am transfixed with the view from the side mirror. I see 2 police vehicles with sirens pass by, but neither of them stops for us. My heart sinks.
6:50pm: “My toes are cold”, says Mark.
6:55pm: “Should we go outside so that we’re more visible? So that people can see us?”, I ask. Mark shakes his head. I wonder if the girls should come up to the front in case we do get hit, but then decide that’s a stupid idea.
7:05pm: I see a truck coming up behind us and it’s slowing down. “Maybe this is the guy!!”. He stops behind us, gets out and asks us what happened. After a few exchanges, the plan is to push us down the highway to the exit and down the street. He has another car on top of his raised tow truck and can’t tow another, but he can push us in neutral. The man gets back in his truck and starts pushing us. We are moving. “Weeeeeeeee!!!”, yells the girls. I am relieved to be getting off the highway, but wonder out loud, “what do we do when we reach the end of the exit?”. The truck continues to push us all the way off the ramp and through a green light. We miss a turn that we’re supposed to make but just keep going. Suddenly Mark sees an empty spot on the street and turns into it. “Hey, it’s a parking spot!”, he says, straining to see the street sign, “And street cleaning isn’t till Wednesday! Score!”
7:15pm: We figure out that we are somewhere in Greenpoint and call a car service. While we wait for the car, we start emptying out compartments, unhooking car seats and grabbing whatever is in the car and stuffing them into bags. Mark and I both know that we probably won’t be driving this car again. This was the last straw, especially after the car stalled in Times Square in the middle of Mark’s delivery runs during the stressful month of December and wouldn’t start up. Never mind that we just put in new tires that cost us $500. I didn’t want to put in any more money on a 14 year old car whose speedometer didn’t even work, and I already had a financial plan in place to prepare ourselves for this moment that even I had to admit was rather genius. I just didn’t think we would be doing it so soon.
And that is how we ended up with a new car.

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  • victoria February 3, 2013 at 3:14 am

    I hate HATE unreliable cars, it sucks. We changed to a leased NEW NEW BRAND NEW car 3 years ago after our older car constantly cost us money and was even then unreliable. I will never go back, it’s worth the financial burden to know you’re covered no matter what and also that the WHAT doesn’t happen, because it’s NEW. So glad you’ all got through safely.

  • Cate February 3, 2013 at 4:45 am

    Scary story! But when did you crash?

  • Marie Hansen February 3, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Thank goodness the Gods were with you. You realize it is a miracle that you weren’t rear ended sitting like a duck in traffic!!!
    Some days we are luckier than other days and this was sure your lucky day!! Aloha, Marie :-)

  • Carol February 3, 2013 at 8:13 am

    I was so nervous just reading that. I’m so glad you are all okay.

  • Jenna February 3, 2013 at 8:55 am

    @Cate oh, that photo is old. That crash was 6 years ago. You can see toddler Mia in the corner there!

  • susan February 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Oh my…I keep having the thought of accidents or breaking down when driving with the babies. I try not to think about it, but how awful….so much worse with kids!

  • Sophia February 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Scary stuff. Glad you and your family are okay.

  • John February 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Wow, that was a close call. Thank goodness for the good samaritan tow truck that pushed you off the BQE. The police could probably have done that also, they are used to clearing traffic accidents and could have lit the scene with their flashing lights.

  • Jennelle February 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Wow, so happy to hear you guys made it out of that situation okay. How scary!

  • Jessica H. February 3, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Oh goodness, that was intense to read. I’m sure it was even more so to experience. I’m glad you and your family were protected, and good planning with the financial plan!

  • Uncle Beefy February 3, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Like everyone else, that was mighty tense to read through. I was freaking out with you in my head. Whoa! Glad that it all worked out as well as it did despite the scary and the sucky.

  • gaia February 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Ugh I’m so sorry. That’s so scary! I’m glad you’re all ok.

    A friend and I had a similar experience about 7 years ago on the Williamsburg Bridge. 3 am, someone swipes our car and keeps driving. We spin around and hit the median, facing the wrong direction, right as the bridge starts to slope down– ie oncoming cars can’t see us. Oh man, I know that awful feeling of cars coming AT you. Not good. But we made it out ok too and later found out someone actually chased the car that hit us so it was identified. Hooray for good samaritans!

  • unha engels February 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    oh man. i remember the car accident. didn’t know how bad it was!
    mine stopeed on brooklyn bridge once. in the middle of the bridge. yaikes.
    glad everyone is ok!

  • Leslie February 4, 2013 at 12:01 am

    So scary!
    So glad you guys are safe! :)

  • Jen February 4, 2013 at 2:05 am

    After I bought my first ever (and only ever) brand new car, I used to have these intrusive thoughts of walking out of my house and seeing it totaled (street parking)…and one day that actually happened (well, just the left side was totaled, but still!) Why is it that visualizing winning the lottery doesn’t have a similar prophetic effect?! So glad you’re safe, and good on you for having a car contingency plan!

  • Anne-Marie February 4, 2013 at 5:38 am

    I’d be completely freaking out too.! Thank goodness no-one hit you.
    I’m sorry about the waste of the new tyres – if the car is being scrapped, any chance you could take them off the old car and keep them or sell them on?

  • stephanie February 4, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Glad that you’re all ok!

  • Simone February 4, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Wow that sounds stressful. How I know the feeling when your car makes a sound you don’t want to hear. You could salvage the tires and sell them?
    We once had a car (for 2 days) in the south of Germany (that is 800 miles from our house) the engine flew on fire. Luckily it didn’t burn out and we were alert enough to get off the highway. So we and our stuff were just fine in the end.
    That’s really all you can ask for. The improvising we needed to do was a bit stressy but it added one of the nicest aspects to our holiday. The lovely city of ULM, we know it a lot better now hahaha. Very fortunate that you were already saving up for a new car. Have a wonderful day.

  • SYC February 4, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Glad everyone was safe. We have a 20 year old car, yes, 20 yrs, and it still runs. However, I feel like it’ll give out any day now, and now that I’ve read your post, I feel like i’ve sealed my faith. Might have to seriously go look for a new car..

  • Anne February 4, 2013 at 11:45 am

    You had me sweating from that story! I am equally sorry that you and your family had to go through that and so happy you are all okay! I hope it won’t scare you from driving again, although these things take time to get over. I send my best wishes and a lot of love!

  • Stephanie February 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Wow- I was just reliving some PTSD right now. :) We had a similar thing a couple years ago on the Bay bridge in SF. We had gotten off at Treasure Island to take some pictures of the city and when we merged back onto the bridge must have run over something in the road that shredded our tire. We couldn’t drive more than about 3 mph and meanwhile were right around a blind turn where cars were going 55 mph and narrowly avoiding us and our kids and dog in the backseat. Thank God Caltrans was on it, and they were there in back of our car within 5 minutes to help us get off the bridge– but that was some SCARY stuff. Glad you are all okay!

  • Jeanne February 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I was dying reading your account. That is soooo scary especially with the girls in the backseat. Thank god for the tow truck driver. Some of them are angels from heaven. I shredded a tire in Los Angeles once (more crazy traffic) and the shoulder was barely wide enough to accomodate the car, let alone a guy changing a wheel. I said to him “Um I’m sitting in the car (he wouldn’t let me get out) and I’m scared watching you do this.” He replied cool as a cat, like he was pouring a glass of water or something, “I’m really scared too.” So glad you are all safe.

  • Carlee February 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Oh my word! That’s my biggest fear…stalling on the highway! Your story stressed me out! :) Thankfully you all made it out in one piece!

  • Sora February 4, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Wow, Jenna. It was scary reading your about your car adventure. I, too, am relieved you and your family are safe. This is one of my fears driving in LA — breaking down on the freeway with kids in the car. I’ve been in numerous accidents here and just statically, b/c so many Californians drive, it is hard to avoid being involved in one. Enjoy your NEW car. Way to go on being prepared for that one!

  • Jill February 5, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Oh my gosh. I had no idea. I’m so glad you guys are safe and sound! So, so scary and that half hour must’ve felt like an eternity! I’m having heart palpitations just thinking about it, holy cow.

  • Nerissa February 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Wow–stalling out on the BQE is no joke. I feel like if you can drive the BQE, you could handle any road in the world. I am so glad you guys are safe. Did you poor a 40 on the block for the Subaru? Haha…

  • Una February 5, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I was nervous for you as I was reading your post. It happened to me before as well in the middle of a main road. Jenna, you are a genius! Glad everything is okay now.

  • Nancy February 5, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Eek! Reminds me of the time my 17 year old sister was driving all of us upstate and we broke down on the Deegan! Scary!! Enjoy your new car!

  • kate o. February 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I’m glad you all are okay. It must have been terrifying.

  • louise @ buttercup days February 6, 2013 at 6:12 am

    You must have been scared witless! I passed my driving test (here in the UK) when I was 19. The day I passed my test was the last time I drove a car. I’m 40 now. I have a real fear of driving. I thought having kids would spur me on to driving again, but it hasn’t. Luckily I live in a city with great public transport, so have no real need to drive (my husband does). I have days when I think – I must just do it: almost everybody drives at my age. It can be kinda embarrassing that I don’t – people just assume you can drive. But at the heart of it all I’m simply terrified at being behind the wheel, more so if I was to have my kids in the back. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that ultimately, when driving you don’t have control of the car. That alone is reason for me not to drive.

    So pleased to hear that your drama ended safely – it sent a shiver down my spine, I can tell you.

  • Jenna February 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for all your well wishes, friends. What a weird week….

  • Jeanne February 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Not long after reading your post, I was almost involved in a really bad accident. I was driving a new car…seriously less than 24 hrs old. I was making a protected left hand turn (has a dedicated green arrow) and an oncoming car ran the red light. It was so terrifiying. My friend in the passenger seat started screaming that we were going to be “T-boned”. I did some crazy, instinctual, swerve type thing and the oncoming car had an amazing anti-lock break system. We missed each other by a foot or so. It’s bizarre how the mind works when an accident is happening. I kept thinking “My car is less than a day old, this can’t be happening” in addition to “Why isn’t my foot finding the brake pedal?” Hopefully that incident got any new car jinxes out of its system.