I could not say. Am I okay? It was a weighty question. My hands were shaking, my teeth hurt. I kept asking Max, "Are you okay?" Then I asked him to find my phone. I was aware that something should be done. But what? Call someone. Who? Whom? I felt loopy. My phone record shows that at 3:25 I called 911. Three minutes later I called Geoff. I now know that was more or less the correct procedure. I checked that there were no obvious injuries to passengers. Max felt "fine." Maria was at home, safe, with Alex. Thank God. And so good, it seems I hit more of the what-to-do bullet points.
But as many times as I have read those bullet points about what to do in the aftermath of an accident, I was unprepared. I was more hurt than I could manage to express or cope with, more shaken than was ideal for managing clear thinking and all I really wanted was to go home, cry and sleep. I was dizzy. I was sad. I was muddled. And the other driver was so distraught, I felt this maternal urge to just ease his worries. He gave me his phone number, his dad's name and number, his mother's name and number. He said, "I'm sorry," every time he spoke. I felt bad for him. I still feel bad for him. It's a rough business being a new driver, making mistakes, learning the hard way.
The AAA page suggests staying calm, not venting, or blaming, being polite... and this is the part that I got too right. In the interest of getting home, having my cry, I told him, and his mother, who by this time was at the scene, that we would figure this out... I have your number(s)... I'll call you. And, by my phone record, I see that it was 3:42, and still no sign of a sheriff, or some kind of authority, and I called 911 and said... I'm going home. We exchanged numbers. So 911 cancelled. I sat in my van, gathered my thoughts, took a deep breath, asked Max, for the tenth time, "Are you okay?" And went home.
Then Alex took me to the ER, because Geoff, in San Francisco, was listening to me, and probably basically freaked out by my loopiness, and crying. No one wants to hear ER details, least of all me... what a year! Quick version: CT Scan came back with "no breaks, no blood," but the doctor did say something about asymmetrical bits to your head, prescribed strong medicine, and said, "Tomorrow you will hurt a lot more than you do now. If anything changes, come back."
Here's the thing:
*Never leave the scene of an accident, no matter how minor, without a clear-headed person of authority taking numbers, making notes, doing the right things.
*Never let sympathy or compassion cloud the fact that there are procedures, and there is protocol, and those will save and protect you from a car wreck becoming an emotional wreck.
Yesterday, I was an emotional wreck. My misguided attempt at being "nice" and "cooperative" was received with hostility, accusations, and confusion (for me.)
Now we are back on the prescribed track, I hope. I am hurting, and still shaken. I don't feel quite as naive... something tells me getting my car repaired, unraveling medical bills, and dealing with two insurance companies is not going to be a walk in the park. And I hope that my lesson is something that can save you from bad turns, and unnecessary upset. Read the article in this link. Print it out, and stick it in your glove compartment. Read it, know it, refer to it, depend on it. And be safe.