Sitting on the offramp waiting for the light to turn green, I realized the street in front of us was the same one the news station noted as having the cheapest gas of the day. $3.32, is what I think they said and it got my attention because the last time I filled up, I paid $3.83. The street I was looking at was not in my part of town so I wondered if I just kept following it and checking gas prices, if I’d eventually just run into it.
That’s what I was thinking when the WHACK whacked my boys and I and got our full attention. It has been right at thirty years (when I was 16 or so) since I’ve had any sort of car accident (knock on wood) so it surprised me.
My boys both yelled in shock, “Mom, did someone just hit us?”
“I think so.” I calmly told them. Everyone was wearing seat belts and it did not throw our car so we were good.
I put the car in gear and walked back to the other vehicle. He was in an older, full size pick up and I could see some minor denting on his front bumper. “We’ll need to call the police and I’ll need your insurance information.”
He spoke with a strong accent as he told me, “It was the brakes.”
“We’ll need to call and report it.” I said.
I realized I needed to get my phone and make the call so I began to walk back to the car to remove the phone from the cubby it sat in since, today, my shorts have no pockets. It was as I was reaching for my phone that I noticed him leaving our left hand turn lane in a big hurry, scooting across two other lanes, and scurrying off into a right hand turn. All of this happening while I was still standing in the street beside my car.
I was speechless.
He just left. He just left? What? People don’t run away. Oh, it donned on me…this is a hit and run. Oy vey…a hit and run? Really? Because I’m sure my schedule says our Despicable Me 3D movie starts at 10:30 and I can’t believe we’re going to miss Gru and the Minions because of THIS.
This is the moment when I remembered I did not have his license plate number and I NEEDED it. I asked my eleven year old to get a pen out of my purse and I began to call out the license number. We all began to say it over and over to try and remember the succession of letters and numbers.
Did I mention when the adrenaline flows in me I get pretty scattered? Did I mention forty year old eyes are not nearly as precise as twenty year old eyes? Yeah…THAT.
Without much thought, and because the traffic had now cleared, I crossed those same two lanes of traffic and tried to follow after him. He was traveling fast and I was behind him but he was way ahead of me by now and I could only see the tail end of his truck as he turned into a parking lot off the main road. Within thirty seconds I was in that same parking lot but all I could see was the corner of his truck again, turning another corner. I sped through the parking lot and made that corner right as I saw him turning into the Residence Inn and then into a parking space.
For a gentle and forgiving minute, I though maybe he hadn’t run away. I naively went to that forgiving girl place that excused him and told myself, maybe he is staying here at the motel and just thought I was following him. Yeah, I went there. It didn’t take him long to startle a bit as he saw me parked behind him as he began to get out of the truck and it took him even less time to jump back in and punch the accelerator into reverse.
As my youngest son asked, “Mom, is he going to hit us again?” I was thankful that I had not blocked his path because he certainly would have. He jammed to get out of the parking space and then around another corner until he was out of the lot.
Right about that moment was when I noticed my hands shaking as I tried to grab my cell and call 9-1-1. It took me a minute to hit the right numbers but I did not lose sight of the truck and I asked both boys to make sure we had the license plate right. When the 9-1-1 operator answered and let me know I could stop because I had the plate number, we stopped. “What was the license plate number,” he asked.
That is when I asked my boys and they each had a different version of the number. That’s when I got nervous because, at that second, my brain was mush. “Both my boys have a different version,” I admitted. “But, I’ll tell you one of my boys is on the spectrum and he has this crazy, nearly photographic, memory and I’d go with his version if I had to because he is pretty amazing when it comes to numbers.”
He laughed like it was no big deal. He said to head to a nearby restaurant parking lot by the main road and he’d send an officer to take the report.
It was less than a minute before my phone was ringing with an unfamiliar phone number listed. I wasn’t sure who it was but I answered and, even though it is summer time, it was one of my spectrum kiddos teachers.
“Hey I just saw you on the offramp. I was the car behind that truck that hit you and I saw him speed away. Do you need the license plate number?”
Yeah, life is crazy like that. True story and it happened just like that.
I got a pen and paper out and I wrote down the number she gave me and, sure enough, my spectrum kiddo nailed it. Had the number memorized perfectly even though he did not have the pen and paper to write it down. His brain is brilliant like that. Don’t waste your time telling me that autism is less because, that spectrum kiddo of mine, he has some serious real world skills. When times get a little nutty, that boy rocks the chaos and he wins in the crash.
We turned around to go meet the CHP officer at that parking lot on the main road to report the incident. I don’t know if they will find the man who ran away but I know I did my part. I learned a great lesson about my boy and I also used the teachable moment that it was to share with my boys how important it is to never shirk your responsibility. That if you make a mistake, it’s just a mistake and can be fixed. But running away? That’s entirely different. Running away from your responsibility…that’s something that destroys your character and that, my friends, that can’t be fixed so easily. It is one of the few things that will make you less. Autism never will.
The best part of that morning is my boys and I still made it to see Despicable Me and that little movie was worth every minute :). Great flick and just as funny during the credits. Don’t forget to stay for the credits. GREAT 3D stuff AFTER the movie so stay seated!