The Original Crash Test Dummy


When I was sixteen I totaled three cars.

It seemed like every time I got behind the wheel I magnetically attracted the one vehicle on the road begging for bodywork. You could argue after the first crash that I was too young to drive, but ironically my parents continued (somewhat reluctantly) to pass the keys over and away I went…in search of my next collision.

I obtained my driver’s license ten business days after my sweet sixteenth. It was the second try, as I’d flunked the initial test.

Without going into a lot of unnecessary details I think it suffices to say that I received the failing grade as a direct result of crashing into the DMV building. I knew I’d hit the government site with a degree of force, but even I was amazed at the amount of brickwork I’d managed to loosen from the structure. Remarkably the tank-like bumper on my car sustained little damage so I’m not even going to qualify this one as a fender-bender.

I should have known right there and then that I’d failed the test. Clearly the building had the right of way, and a motorist who mistakes the gas pedal for the brake is not demonstrating a safe standard of driving, but I remained hopeful as one does in the face of impending doom. After all, technically I wasn’t under review at the moment of impact. I was navigating my way from the parking lot to the designated area to wait for my instructor. So in fairness, one might ask…how could someone flunk an exam they hadn’t yet taken?

Praying that miraculously nobody had felt the tremor inside the DMV, I quickly managed to shove the car in park, scrambled to pick up the crumbled mortar and brick, and flung it as far as I could from the crash scene. Unfortunately, my instructor had already rounded the corner just in time to view the wreckage and my pathetic girl toss, subsequently writing in bold red ink across my certificate the word…”FAIL.”

My first “official” accident happened when I blew through a yield sign. Pesky thing those yield signs. You really have to be on your toes to spot one.

My dad had given my mother an early birthday present…a light blue Plymouth convertible with a kickass AM/FM radio. It had less than two hundred miles on it when I sat in her plush leather seats and started the engine. That baby purred like my old grandmother before she had sleep apnea surgery.

If memory serves me, at the time of the crash I was changing the channel on the radio. Sure I was distracted, but in my defense, there were some low hanging branches obstructing my view.  That’s not quite how the cop saw it…the man in blue who slammed into me after I had ignored the yield sign. The officer hit my driver’s door with such force that it immediately crushed the leather seat flattening it to the floorboard, and launched me to the passenger side.  The car spun like a drunken sorority pledge on a frat bed, but I managed to hold tight until it eventually came to a stop…with the help of a maple tree. Luckily no one was hurt, but the car was leveled. I was told afterwards that if I’d been wearing my seat belt chances are I wouldn’t be writing this post.

My next demolition took place a few weeks later. This time, I drove through an intersection only to have an approaching student driver attempt an illegal U-turn in front of me, violently transforming us into carnival bumper cars.  In slow motion I witnessed the instructor’s face turn from calm…to head-on hysteria. One of my last thoughts was how effortlessly the impact hurled me through the windshield like an Olympic shot-put onto the beckoning asphalt.

I suppose it was my fault for not wearing a seat belt, but you have to understand I had just been told that wearing one during the first accident would have produced grave consequences. Who’s going to “Buckle Up For Safety” after that informative tidbit! This mindset might have made more sense  had it not all happened  prior to the creation of  interior inflation devices. But way back then, an airbag was a term more often than not used to describe one’s mother-in-law.

Sirens were blaring as I regained consciousness. My arm was in a very strange position and there were little shards of glass lodged in my flesh. Thankfully, both instructor and student walked away unharmed as a tow truck hauled off my second offering to the junkyard.

The Plymouth dealership was becoming a regular stop for us and we rolled yet another beauty out of the showroom and into our driveway.  You probably gather by now I wasn’t  exactly chomping at the bit to test drive the newest addition to our fleet. Actually I was leary of anything with four wheels and a steering apparatus. After all, in a very short period of time I’d managed to total two cars and cause substantial structural damage to the DMV.

When I finally did muster the courage to get behind the wheel again I began slowly, practicing on rural roads near our summer cabin. After a few days of driving well below the speed limit, I decided to find a patch of open highway and put the pedal to the metal. My confidence was back, the radio was blaring, and I was feeling damn near euphoric as the speedometer inched up.

Then it happened. Without warning, two cows appeared. I swerved to avoid the unwieldy milkers …I really did. At the very least they could have bopped their heads to the beat, shook their rump roasts, or done something to get those cow bells ringing, but the two of them just stood there, frozen as if in a nativity scene.

You will be happy to know that both bovine beasts survived the accident.  The car and I, on the other hand, after dodging their shanks and flanks, careened down a ditch and into a pasture where I blew through an electric fence. I was sure this was the end of the line for me…third time being a charm and all, but when the car plowed to a stop, I found that I’d somehow survived both the crash and electrocution.

By this time you can imagine I was getting pretty good at filling out insurance claims, but this was a little more difficult as the only two victims had no intention of implicating themselves in the accident report. It became painfully obvious I was going to have to show that those hoofed heifers were clearly culpable if I wanted a favorable settlement.

Question #1.  Were others involved in the accident?

Answer:  Two

Question #2.  What is the name of their insurance company?

Answer:  Farmers.

Question #3.  Who did you collide with?

Answer:  An embankment, a ditch, a pasture, and an electric fence…after I swerved to avoid the second party.

Question #4.  Were you able to give adequate warning?

Answer:   Yes, I honked…repeatedly.

Question #5.  What warning was given by the other party involved?

Answer:  Moo.

Question #6.  Was there a dispute or confrontation at the scene?

Answer:  I would describe them more as passive-aggressive. I honked. They had horns, but refrained from using them.

Question #7.  Did the other party suffer any trauma?

Answer:  After crawling back up the hill from the pasture where my car was smoking, I noticed that one of them had defecated on the road and the other appeared to be leaking a white milky substance. I can only describe the scene as udder chaos.

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  1. “Udder chaos” made me spit my lunch out.

    Nuff said.

  2. Too freaking funny! You may have inspired me to write a post about my teenage car accidents. Yes, multiple. Most of the teenagers I knew had at least one accident in their first year with a license. Makes you wonder…

    • Yes, Kario, please do. I love teenage car stories, as long as they have a happy ending. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

  3. Hysterical! In her teens my sister-in-law had similar multiple car “incidents” like a roll-over into the farmers field while reaching for a cassette for one.

    • Lynne,
      Forgot about the cassettes! I always seem to get the tape caught in the deck. Oh the joys of aging and those fond memories…Not!

  4. I’ve never met anyone else who was broadsided by a cop besides me! In my defense, I was 16, radio blaring and car packed with friends, going through a green light and he was going through a red one. In his defense, he had lights and siren blaring and was on his way to an accident. Irony… 😉

    Very charming and funny post, Annie.

  5. Jayne,
    I’m in great company if you had a run in with the law too. I think the dead giveaway is the radio blaring. Hard to hear those annoying sirens. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Annie, you are a one woman wrecking crew (or you were anyway). It’s a miracle any of us make it to adulthood. You’ve reminded me of an accident I was in when I was 17. I had gone to dinner with a 21 year old guy I knew and he got drunk. Even though I had no license, I figured I would drive. I hit a puddle of water and skidded directly into two parked cars. The guy I was with took responsibility for driving. He also went to jail as the car he was in was “borrowed” without permission. Oy vey!

  7. Wow Linda, that sounds like you rival me for crash test dummy. You better write about that one. You’ve got some more crazy stories to tell.

  8. The conversation with the cops at the end was so well crafted! My favorite was ‘clearly the building had the right away.’ till I got to the end, I loved that more!

  9. Thanks so much for your nice comment. It was a blast writing this one.

  10. Loved this! So funny and so well written. Your mention of a “kick ass AM/FM radio” reminded me of my husband’s and my first car: “It’s a car with a radio” was all we had. I’m not sure I know anyone who can top this story!!! It comes just as I’m taking my oldest to get his learner’s permit next month – thanks.

  11. Damn, Astra…you’ve got one going for his learner’s permit? Taking my kids out to practice driving was not one of my finer moments. They should have gotten in an accident just from listening to me yelling and slamming my foot like there was an imaginary break. I wish you tremendous good luck as you forge the highway!

  12. Annie, this was sofa king funny!

    “That baby purred like my old grandmother before she had sleep apnea surgery.” HA!

    But seriously, I am amazed your parents gave you the keys to ANY car after your first two accidents.

    And yes, Yield Signs really are pesky.

    PS: Nothing can top “Udder chaos”

  13. Meleah,
    Yes, I am still amazed that my parent’s gave me their car(s) to drive. After the first one I might have invested in a bus pass. Thanks for the nice compliment!

  14. I must admit I laughed out loud at your post, and not many blogs make me do that.

    Over the years I have hit a few things in a car and a few things have hit me, best was a wild pig when driving down a country road.

  15. Thanks so much, Robert. I think hitting a wild pig tops anything I hit and raises the bar to a new level.

  16. LOL, when you were filling out the third insurance claim, did it cross your mind to fill in a request to have your parents sainted? I love the warning “Moo” given by the other party!! You slay me, girl!

  17. My parents definitely should be sainted for putting up with my shenanigans. Although I think I faired pretty well compared to my brother who paved the way for me. Thanks, Nicky!

  18. Wow and I thought my parents had to put up with a lot lol…

    Ugh…my first (& only) official accident was when I was 17. It was my fault and even though it was a small fender-bender, the bat crazy lady sued my family for 50K and we spent two years fighting it. In the end she got 12K…all for only $150 bucks worth of damage haha.

    • My dear Nate…can’t believe the witch behind the wheel was going to screw the Shenk’s for 50K but still got 12! That is just wrong on so many levels. I’m so sorry that happened to you. Like I said from the beginning, stick with me! I’m may hit a thing or two, but I bounce back.

  19. LOL. Your posts are always so funny, Annie. I had tears in my eyes reading about the cows. I’m lucky enough to have been in just one wreck, but it was a bad one. I flipped by car and ended up upside down and facing the other direction. Why, you ask? Texting. Was so lucky I didn’t get seriously injured.

    Thanks for sharing your crazy stories:)

    • Ah Stacy…just what I worry about…texting. Glad to hear you weren’t hurt and probably don’t do that anymore. Funny…I was out for Valentine’s Day and all the couples were sitting at their tables texting. Why didn’t they just stay home and text? They could have saved themselves a lot of money. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

  20. I have to echo the others, udder chaos! C’mon. HAHAH! After teaching my brother how to drive, when it was my turn, I was shipped off to a professional driving school. My brother- 4 accidents- 3 cars totaled. Me- same car for 11 years, no accidents! Just saying.

    • Knock on word, Dani! Glad you are accident-free. You must be an amazing driver. I have turned into one, but damn it took a while.

  21. This is hilarious Annie! There was one January a few years ago when I backed into something on three different occasions. I was under a lot of stress to begin with, but after that completely paranoid as well as broke. I’m glad you can look back and laugh, especially at the accident involving a different species!
    Take care girlfriend!

    • Wow, Elizabeth. Three times. I can totally understand it. That’s what stress does. It creates more. Glad you are done with that threesome and hopefully haven’t moved on to hitting something else. Luckily for me I don’t own a car so I am fairly safe…and so are all of you!

  22. I’m glad you survived to tell the tales! Your parents must have nerves of steel and tons of patience! LOL! You could probably be a stunt driver now with all that experience.

  23. Renee,
    Yes, my parents sure did have nerves of steel and patience to boot. I think my stunt driving days are over…but I may have taught a cow or two some fancy moves how to negotiate an electric fence.

  24. Lordy mercy, Annie. Does my child belong to you? Five cars he’s wrecked in five years. We actually liked the decor of the last junkyard we went to, last week matter of fact. It was clean and the woman didn’t act like a pit bull behind the gate protecting the property,

    At what point did you evolve from the wreckage? I’m looking forward for the sake of this child of mine.

  25. I hope I don’t jinx it but that was pretty much the last of it for me. Hope your son has completed his demolition days too. Five in five years? That might be a record. Not a record you particularly want to break, but I’m just saying… Glad you found something positive with the last junkyard. Good attitude, Totsy!

  26. Oh my God, Annie, this is priceless! I don’t know what my favorite lines are: the sorority/frat bed analogy, the defecation and milky white substance, or the insurance claims line. I am so glad you are okay, but dear Lord, never EVER let me be present when you’re on the road. I’m assuming no amount of experience has branded you a superb driver.

  27. Ha Laura! Actually I’m pretty good behind the wheel now. No major accidents since those early days. I was so easily distracted back then. Never could stop waving at friends, changing the channel, and belting out a tune at the top of my lungs. Bad combo when signs and pedestrians keep lurching forward. Thanks for reading!

  28. “But way back then, an airbag was a term more often than not used to describe one’s mother-in-law.” bwhahaha! OMG, Annie! This time you’ve really outdone yourself! This post is hysterical! I loved it! And the insurance claim, I’m still chuckling! Udder chaos indeed! If anything, I’m certain your with each accident you acquire more experience in how to brace yourself for the crash! hee hee! But I’m so glad you haven’t been seriously hurt in any of them. The world is a better place for your wonderful sense of humor! :)

  29. Wow, I didn’t bang up my first car until I was 17… you win!

    It was the family Chrysler Cordoba, and that accident didn’t total it, but my next one did. I consider it an act of mercy, that car had to go….

    • Sounds like you caught up with me though! I remember those Chrysler Cordoba’s. Tanks with wheels. Thanks for visiting!

  30. Udder chaos…now my computer has coffee spit all over it;)

  31. Glad I am good for something…even if it’s only a coffee spit!

  32. LOLOLOL! You daft bint! That was a well funny post ….. four serious accidents? Jeez girl …. you have got to start thinking about your driving skills!

    The cow one was my favourite (because I thought the cows were gonna die but they didn’t).

    • Hey Annie,
      Love it when you call me a daft bint. I probably should find out what it means but I’m thinking it’s like “you crazy old bat.” Thanks for traveling over the pond for a read.

  33. Oh. My. God. I’m glad you’re alive!

  34. Thanks, June.

  35. Those damn passive-aggressive cows. They did have horns after all! Great piece Annie, I laughed from start to finish.

    I’ve had a few fender benders myself – none that I’m proud of. My husband always says when I pay attention, I’m a really good driver, and he’s right. I am a really great driver, superior actually. When I pay attention. Unfortunately, I’ve learned to focus the hard way.

    My last accident years ago was when I was rushing to make an appointment while eating a hoagie. I went through a red light (advance green for the oncoming) and smacked into a brand new Rendezvous. She in turn smashed into 2 other cars and all four were totalled, one of them was off the lot on a test drive with the dealer. I went thought the stoplight crawling, but there was so much destruction. Bent metal, mushed in doors, lettuce, tomato and turkey all over my windshield. There was no hiding the fact that I was in the wrong. It was also enough to scare me into never eating or doing other things while I drive. Old bad habits die hard I guess.

    Buckle up and stay focused…

  36. Thanks so much, Noelle. Lordy, that last accident sounds like a doozy. I think I am going to refrain from eating and driving in honor of that hair-raising tale. Thanks for your lovely comment. Stay safe!

  37. Oh Annie,

    ROFL. What a play on words “udder chaos”. I pray, for your sake, that this at least 90% pure fabrication :). HYSTERICAL.

  38. Thanks so much, Coco. Unfortunately it’s more than 90% true, but at least I’m here to write about it! Great you stopped by and left me a comment.

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