Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Second scariest event of my life

I had a couple of drafts for posts on other topics in the works, but they all got trumped by this most recent event.

So Monday (October 19th) I had a day off because I "worked" all day at the Kirita School Festival (which was awesome, by the way!) on the Sunday (October 18th). The day got off to a great start. I woke up around 8am, did some laundry, ate a giant cream puff (a kind of "thanks for your hard work" present for all the teachers after the Kirita School Festival) for breakfast, and did a bit of tidying up around the house.

Around 12:00-12:30pm I decided to go shopping! I completely killed my budget at Uniqlo and did a bit of grocery shopping at Max Value as well. Since I bought pants that needed alterations, I was at the Uniqlo until just before 2:30pm.

From the Uniqlo I decided to go to another grocery store, Powers U, as well as the next door Daiso (100 yen shop). I took a sort of back road that I always take and...

As I was going through an intersection, I saw a flash of white out of the corner of my left eye and heard a horn blaring. I tried to swerve and speed up to avoid a collision, but the car hit the rear passenger side of my car, sending my car sliding/spinning. Because K-cars are really light, it ended up toppling over and finally slid to a stop when it hit a telephone/electricity pole and a short garden wall or something of a house at the corner of the intersection.

Even though I ended up lying against the driver's side window (i.e. against/parallel to the ground), I was basically OK. In fact, the first thing that I said (other than "I'm all right") was "I didn't have a stop sign, right?" Funny how my biggest concern at the moment wasn't being injured, but the possibility that I had been at fault in the accident.

But I did feel a moment's panic when I realized that I couldn't open the passenger side door to climb out from the top. Thankfully, though, 4-5 guys from around the area came out and were able to push my car back upright, so I could get out through the driver's side door.

I guess it all must've looked pretty bad because someone called an ambulance instead of just the police, but when they arrived I was like "I was in the car that was hit, but I'm OK." The paramedics asked me some questions, got me to sign a form saying that I had decided not to go to the hospital and that was that.

Oh, at one point the old lady who had hit my car with her k-truck had come to where my car was and all of sudden she fell to her knees and was holding her head in her hands. The paramedics were all like "Are you OK?" And she was like "It was scary." I know it's uncharitable of me, but at the time I was thinking "Shouldn't I be the one saying that? You're not the one whose car went spinning and flipped over!"

Fire department people also came along with the ambulance. They mopped up the oil/radiator fluid/whatever it was that was leaking from my car, unplugged the battery to stop the engine (the key was jammed so I couldn't just do it the usual way), and picked up some of the larger pieces of debris from my car.

While this was going on, I was calling my office to get in touch with my supervisor. Everyone was out at an elementary school, so one of the office staff, Tomabechi-san, called the school to get in touch with Mukainakano-sensei for me. Thankfully she was able to come because dealing with a multi-car accident is a heck load more complicated than a single-car one. I also remembered to call my dance teacher to cancel the practice I had scheduled for 6pm that night.

Then it was a lot of waiting for the police. By the time they came, most of the people had cleared out. They took my statement, asked me to show them at what point I noticed the other car, where I heard the horn, etc. etc. It was a lot harder to give accurate details this time because it happened so quickly. Plus there were a lot of old skid marks on the road--suggesting that it was a pretty dangerous intersection that has probably had it's fair share of accidents and close misses--so the police officers had a bit of difficulty figuring out which ones were related to this accident and which weren't.

While one officer was taking my statement, another one was taking the old lady's. A couple of times she came over to me and was like "I did stop, right?" And both I and the police officer(s) were like "Well, if you did, I couldn't tell."

The one thing I'm a bit worried about my statement is my speed. The speed limit was 40 but when the officer asked, at first I automatically said I was going 50km. He was like "I don't think you were going that fast." And I was like, "Oh, somewhere between 40 and 50, then? I tried to speed up when I saw the other car coming." With the Japanese liability system, the only time anyone in a multi-car accident is considered at "no fault" is when that car was parked/stationary. I just hope that my confused statement doesn't cause me to get a larger percentage of the fault--people have said it should probably be 90%-10%.

Speaking of oddities of the Japanese legal/police system, I found it incredibly strange that all of the bystanders were allowed to disappear before the police came. There was another car that had stopped on the right side (the K-truck old lady came at me from the left side) of the intersection, so that person would probably have had the clearest view of what actually happened. And since s/he wasn't directly involved, her/his account would probably have been the most accurate. But I'm pretty sure that person was long gone by the time the police came, so even if they had wanted to take a statement from that person (although I got the feeling it wouldn't have occurred to the police to do so) they couldn't have.

To me it was just really bizarre that people didn't know to/weren't expected to stay at the scene of the accident. I mean, in Canada it's a chargeable offense to leave the scene of an accident (even if you weren't involved in it) without leaving your information so you can be contact later if necessary!

The other thing that really bugged me (more so now than at the time) was the old lady's behaviour. I know I should cut her some slack because she was old and probably a bit panicked from the accident, but still... I don't remember if she even asked me if I was all right (although lots of other bystanders did). The first thing she came up to me to say was to ask me to make a call to her insurance company or something. (I couldn't understand what she was saying at all at the time, but she made the same request to Mukainakano-sensei when she came, so I'm guessing that's what it was about.) To me it seemed like her biggest concern was insurance and how much of the liability for the accident she would be assessed with. And after Mukainakano-sensei had made calls to her insurance company, husband, etc. for her, she was just like "Can I leave now?"

Maybe her attitude would have been different if I hadn't looked so healthy/unaffected by the accident, but I know that if I hit another car--even if it was nothing more than a light tap on the rear bumper--the first words out of my mouth would've been "Are you all right? I am SO sorry!"

And I mean, I really could have been seriously injured. Granted, both of the cars were K-cars so I suspect that neither of us was going that fast (although it felt to me like the old lady was), but still, with my car toppling over the way it did,I feel like it was really thanks to God's protection that I wasn't hurt.

She was also insistent that I get the car repaired (instead of having to get a new one). But it's not like that would be a decision I could make on the spot, right? Mukainakano-sensei kept having to tell her that was something that would be decided after discussion with my insurance company.Then too, she really wanted Mukainakano-sensei to get my car towed to a repair place that she knew to get the insurance quote done.

But I was like, isn't that kind of shady? Wouldn't it make more sense to go through the Honda dealership where I got the car? And when Mukainakano-sensei called the Honda dealer I got the car from, Komukai-san, he also said it was more normal to go to a place that I knew rather than following the wishes of the person who hit my car.

Argh. Just thinking about the attitude of that old lady still gets me riled up. Her husband, at least, was much more sensible to deal with. When he came the first thing he did was apologize for the trouble.

But anyway, there are a lot of things I'm really grateful for regarding the accident. First and foremost I feel really blessed to have been able to walk away from the accident without even a bruise (and I bruise easily!). Admittedly I'm a bit sore and have felt like I've had a low-grade headache all day today, but it's about the same severity as the soreness you feel after working out for the first time in a while. And given the way my car toppled over, it really could have been a lot worse.

I'm also thankful that I got my car from Komukai-san at the Honda dealership. The dealership had it's own tow truck, so I didn't even have to deal with calling JAF. Plus they brought a daisha (substitute car) for me at the same time so I could drive again right away. (The Netz people were nice, too, but I've spent some time talking with Komukai-san--when I was buying the car, getting my tires changed, etc. etc., so I feel extra reassured knowing that he's taking care of everything on that end.)

I'm thankful that Mukainakano-sensei was able to leave to come to help me. The first accident I had was pretty straightforward, but having another party involved just made it so much more complicated. I could deal with the police on my own, but handling that old lady was well beyond me.

I'm also really grateful that not only did Mukainakano-sensei come out to the scene of the accident, but that Aaron also came. After getting a bit emotionally battered by the apparent callousness of the old lady, it was really a relief to have someone there to offer sympathy and support. He also invited me to have dinner with him and Sanae and I was really glad to be in the company of friends last night. (The dinner was delicious, too!) If I'd stayed home by myself, I probably would've just kept dwelling on the accident.

Even though I know the old lady was mostly at fault for the accident, I'm a bit of a control freak so I can't help but wonder what I could have/should have done to avoid the accident. I suppose if I'd been driving super cautiously--instead of regularly--I might've seen her in time to stop, but then again...

But anyway, I've realized a few things from this accident:

1) My mind tends to latch onto minor/inconsequential things as a way to avoid dwelling on bigger things. Some of the thoughts that went through my mind during the immediate (and not so immediate) aftermath of the accident:

- I'm glad I didn't get a car wash as planned this morning. It would've been a big waste of money.
- Luckily I decided to wait to buy eggs at Powers U instead of at Max Value; they would've broken during the accident anyway.
- I wish I had brought my camera with me so I wouldn't have to rely on my cell phone to for a photographic record of this event.
- This was the worst possible timing insurance-wise. (My contracts go from Oct-Sep so the new premiums might come into effect immediately if there's an increase.)
- Thankfully this happened just before payday so I won't be strapped for cash if I end up needing to pay for stuff out of pocket.
- It's going to be embarrassing going to the Eneos (I always get my gas at the same gas station) because they'll probably ask about the change in car and I'll "have to" tell them that I was in yet another accident.
- Ditto for explaining the situation to the Kirita teachers.

2) In his reply to the email I sent to a few friends back home informing them about the accident, Alan wrote: "I find it strange and intriguing that you are finding blessings out of so much calamity!" Apparently I'm more optimistic than I thought. I've always believed myself to be a "worst-case scenario", "glass is half-empty" kind of thinker, but that's usually so I can be prepared for the worst. Once "the worst" has actually happened, I guess I try to look on the bright side of things rather than bemoaning my fate or dwelling too much on "If only's."

3) Apart from being more ecologically friendly, riding and bike and walking to places has the additional benefit of being a lot less trouble in the case of an accident-like if I wipe out on my bike or slip while walking, chances are the damage won't be too severe, and I won't have to go through reams of paperwork afterward. I really need to make more of an effort to walk/bike to places that are close by. ^^;;

4) I did learn something very practical from my last accident: make sure to empty out the contents of your car before it gets towed away! I had all of my "indoor shoes," some CDs, maps, and a bunch of random things in the car, so luckily I also had a Jusco shopping basket in the trunk to stick everything into! =P

5) Japanese old ladies (obaachan) scare intimidate the heck out of me. @_@;;