I knew that I would be waking my parents from a sound sleep. It was past midnight during the week, but I needed their help. My roommate and I had gotten a wild hair to take a drive up into the mountains and visit the cabin I had told him so much about. After midnight. After most clever folks had packed it in. We were still going. So we went, and a couple miles from our destination I hit an icy patch and slid off the road into a tree. My Volkswagen was worse for the wear of a blue spruce. The front right fender having taken the brunt of the collision. We pushed the car back on the road and inspected the damage. My VW looked to have a serious case of Elvis lip, with the passenger side curled up onto the wheel. For a few minutes, we worked with branches and a tire iron to try and repair the crumple zone. When I figured it was drive-able, we decided to abandon our initial destination in favor of turning around and heading home. That's when I head the noise.
It was loud enough that it could be heard over the stereo,which was already turned up, and as I drove back toward civilization, I became more concerned. At the top of Boulder Canyon, I had made up my mind: I really shouldn't be driving this car down a steep, winding road. I pulled over at a gas station and went to the pay phone.
My roommate got out behind me and asked what could possibly be going through my head.
"I'm calling my parents," I announced. This made sense to me. Not so much for my roommate. There was no way that this little accident was going to go down like a minor inconvenience. It was the middle of the night, and the wild hair that had us making the trip in the first place sprang from a series of cocktails, not simple joie ve vivre. We weren't going to get away with this one. Were we?
Here is what I knew: My parents were more invested in my safety than they were in correcting my stupid mistakes. When my father picked up the phone and grumbled at first, "Where are you?" I recounted a benign version of our drive, but the circumstantial evidence was sitting there in a nice neat heap, as large as the pause before he asked, "Do you need me to come and get you?"
"Yes please," I was as sheepish in my reply but not nearly enough. I know this now because I have received a few of these phone calls from my son now. His have been speeding tickets, and he was a passenger in his roommates truck when it rolled off a road down south of here. I didn't have to go pick him up. I just had to reckon with the reality of the near miss. The way a parent's heart leaps to their throat when a conversation starts, "The good news is I'm okay and," then I am left to try and remember who first suggested that any crash you can walk away from in a good one. Chuck Yeager? And that's what I did to console myself, much in the way I am sure my father talked to himself and my mother as he was pulling on his pants and looking for his shoes in the dark.
And that's when the phone rang again. It was me, calling my father back to tell him my roommate and I had managed to pull the fender up off the wheel in to a yawn instead of a sneer and we would be able to make our way back to town without further incident. "You're sure?" he asked.
"I'm sure." Now I had achieved maximum sheepishness and made the drive home without further incident. Leaving only blue paint on the tree and a memory that would make being a parent of a teenage boy just a little easier.