Sunday, June 22, 2008

Resisting the urge to sell my car because it's probably cursed

I jinxed myself in the most horrible of ways. I should've known when the words left my mouth that I was doomed to regret them forever after.

While on a dinner break from work about a month ago, I had to slam on my breaks to miss the groundhog that ran in front of my car just outside my office parking lot. My heart was pounding, the car screeched to a halt, my purse flew to the floor and its contents spewed in every direction. But then I saw a furry little body shoot down a hole near an electric box to my left and that's all that mattered.

The way groundhogs are built, you'd think they would lumber along with all the grace of a sandbag, but those suckers are surprisingly agile and quick. I've driven much more cautiously past that area ever since.

When I got back to work, I warned everyone about the groundhog family living under the electric box, explaining my near miss and how much it would've upset me if the outcome had been different.

Then I said it.

"I've never hit anything."

I realize my perfect track record had a lot more to do with happenstance than my driving ability, but it's something I was proud of. Not so much the fact that I had avoided my fair share of animals such as the groundhog, but that I knew in my heart I'd never taken a life just because I have the ability to climb into a speed machine made of metal.

But I can't say that anymore. In the past three weeks, Jerry and I have hit two birds and a chipmunk. One of those times, I was behind the wheel.

It may sound silly to some that it has affected me deeply. I can't shake the horrible feeling that I killed an animal, a being that didn't know any better and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All three were probably unpreventable. Well, unless we had left a few minutes earlier or later. Or had gotten one more red light instead of green. For me, the bird flew right into my driver's side door. I heard the thud before I even saw it coming. It was terrible.

I'm sure Jerry probably thinks I'm overreacting. He's always been wary of the way I brake for animals, saying how I would sooner drive off a cliff and kill everyone in our car to avoid hitting a butterfly.

But even as a child, I was deeply disturbed by roadkill. I've since learned that my father would try to distract me and get me to look in another direction so I wouldn't cry. For someone who wanted to become a veterinarian when she grew up, I guess it makes sense that it would upset me more than most.

I couldn't follow that career path because of severe allergies, but I haven't lost my attachment to animals.

The worst part is that it has stirred a horrible memory I've tried to repress for years. My dad and his girlfriend, her two daughters and my brother and I were driving back from a Renaissance festival in upstate New York. I was probably in my early teens at the time. It had been a wonderful day filled with jousting, perusing artesan shops, apple dumplings, face painting, witch dunking and throwing tomatoes at criminals in the gallows.

As we were sitting in the truck, recounting our favorite moments, my dad was maneuvering the narrow roadway. Then, from the back seat, I heard my dad's girlfriend scream and felt the thud.
A dog had wandered into the road from a nearby farm. It was stuck up underneath the truck.

Once I realized what had happened, I immediately started crying. To make matters worse, the farmer came out and thanked my dad for doing him a favor. He had been debating whether or not to shoot the dog for weeks -- not something I needed to hear at the time.

My dad was forced to climb into the car, drive and break forcefully a few times just to get the dog to drop. He apologized repeatedly, but the farmer shrugged and thanked him again.

I remember we stopped at a roadside stand for corn on the way home, but I couldn't stomach the thought of eating -- ever again.

I know the birds and chipmunk weren't anywhere near as traumatic, but I can't shake the bad feeling that has been following me ever since.

Maybe I'll go buy a big bag of birdseed for our backyard.

Just because.


Randall said...

I brake for a lot for turtles, rabbits, squirrels and raccoons here in Florida so I understand your concern. A dove once hit my windshield with a loud thud and a literal POOF of feathers. It was awful and I cried the whole way home. To this day I do what my mom always did when we pass a dead animal, say a prayer to St. Francis. It's okay to be careful with animals around but agree it is better to hit the bird than a tree. Drive safely!

Anonymous said...

Just don't put the bird feeder near your car..or you'll be spending quite a bit on car washes. ;]

Maria said...

Oh dear, my boyfriend and I are litterally argueing over this right now. He's saying I'd ditch the car rather than hitting an animal. Over the weekend we went fishing and we passed the spot where, when I was a teen, my father hit and killed a black dog. I was so angry at him because I had warned of the two dogs walking on the road and asking him to slow down, but he never thought they would wander into the road. I still remember the exact sound and feeling like it just happened. I'm also afraid of hitting an animal and constantly worried they are going to run into the road whenever I see them by the street! My boyfriend thinks I'm "overly compasionate" because I don't think watching animals killing each other on tv is "totally cool", and that I would actually try to avoid hitting an animal with my car if it were safe to do so. Bah!

Naomi said...

Oy. I grew up on a farm with more animals than I cared for, which has made me rather pragmatic when it comes to the life and death issues of animals. BUT, your dog story would scar any normal child for life! Three's a charm--surely you're good to go for the next several decades now. :)

Kimberly said...

I completely understand. Up until very recently I had never hit a living creature either. Then one morning on my way to drop off Mia at her babysitter’s house it happened. As we turned the corner into the babysitter’s neighbor hood a squirrel darted into the road. I saw it just as it stopped to reconsider it’s decision, but instead of going back to the yard it came from to safety it continued to cross the street and before I had time to react I felt the tiniest bump. I tried to convince myself that I had imagined the bump and played it off as to not upset Mia, but on the way back out of the neighborhood after dropping her off the evidence was plain as day. I started to cry and called my mother who laughed at me. You are not alone.

chelsea said...

On my first day of Driver's Ed I got in trouble for braking for a chipmunk. Hopefully your love for animals will rub off on Alli =)

Emily said...

I know how you feel Kelly.

I heard chirping from the kitchen stove vent weeks earlier and had talked to my mother about getting a stronger mesh to keep birds from nesting again once summer came to an end.

The next time around I saw her contractor outside on a ladder of the kitchen window. She had gotten the contractor to clear the vent out that day.

I never thought of how deeply it upset me until she described how the baby birds were still blind and had only a few feathers when he 'killed them'.

- To this day I cannot look at his face without feeling complete repulsion and disgust. And it's not something that I can control.

kelly said...

Emily -- Oh my god. I'm so upset just READING that.

Hannah said...

Within the past two weeks I've hit two opossums and two birds - all unpreventable! A couple of nights ago I was driving home and it was a dark country road and two opossums darted out in the middle of the road I swerved to try and miss them but they ran in the same direction and I hit them. :( Then, I was driving to work and a bird flew into my windshield! It scared the crap out of me! THEN this morning I didn't even see a bird in front of me when all these feathers went flying up my windshield then the birds body rolled up the hood of my car. I really didn't mean to hit any of them. I felt bad...except maybe for the one that FLEW INTO my windshield. He was in a flock and they all moved but he was just enjoying the pretty day and "SMACK!" It was like a cartoon. After a few seconds I actually started to chuckle because I pictured this bird like a cartoon. I felt bad for laughing...but...

Ray said...

"It may sound silly to some that it has affected me deeply. I can't shake the horrible feeling that I killed an animal..."

^^I don't think that sounds silly at all. Animals have just as much a right to live as human beings do. It's only normal to feel emotional over it.

And what a crazy story that was! With that horrible man happy that, that poor dog was dead. People are so cruel.

Well, take care.

Candi said...

I hit a puppy the other day. :( It broke my heart. Thankfully he ran off letting me know I'd barely nicked him. But It upset me more than I expected.

eadie said...

Hey, I came here from your old xanga site because theblackspiderman recommended it, I just wanted to say that I think you have really cool blogs

the_plainsman@xanga said...

When driving, we expect the street ahead to be clear and that is what our minds are lulled into "seeing" therfore the delayed reaction when some animal or person seems to "suddenly jump" in front of us. In the past year one of the major networks did a story on that discovery.

cweber said...

once i hit a squirrel and it flew out from under my car. Jeff was on his motorcycle behind me and saw the whole thing. He called my cell at the next red light giving me the "nicely done" hurrah. I of course was in tears! the other day i almost hit a turtle and had to pull over to collect myself!


Gisela said...

ugh. thanks. :(

Anonymous said...

But. You are not a vegetarian are you? I don't mean to be rude; just that love for animals should extend to that, if present. I sincerely apologize if this sounds rude but I didn't know how else to put it.