My Life in Asian Stereotypes
Preface: Once, my Caucasian sister and I were driving on the highway together when a mini-van cut us off and then slowed. We glanced at each other perplexed and annoyed. By the time we were able to pass it, both our heads turned to glance at the driver. It was an Asian lady. Inexplicably, we glanced at each other again and burst into giggles.
I am that Asian driver.
My first crash happened at a bakery. It was the November I turned 17. Merely weeks after earning my driver’s license in New Jersey. My brother got out of the passenger seat and ran home. I had hit a parked car. While in a bakery, a car parked behind my parent’s Buick station wagon—ironically nicknamed the Silver Bullet for all its diesel power. This car was slightly blocking the driveway, parallel to the bakery, perpendicular to the Silver Bullet.
So when I was backing out, I was looking back and over my right shoulder for on-coming traffic. I understand now and also then that I should have checked if the driveway was clear over my left shoulder. It was not clear.
The bakery had floor to ceiling windows wrapped around three-quarters of the front. At least, that’s how I remember it. It felt like an entire Italian family not only witnessed the crash, but also beckoned more family members immediately to come squealing up in cars to the scene of the accident. I remember irate people in backs of pick-ups, but that may not be accurate.
The officer who arrived, commented wryly, “It looks like she chipped your blinker.” That’s not how The Family saw it. Not at all. Apparently, the frame had been bent and required massive compensation.
My parents’ car insurance sky rocketed at this point. My Poor Caucasian Parents with virtually flawless driving records.
My second crash also involved a station wagon. I was babysitting during college. The family had 3 boys and their parents were away for a long weekend. I had been given the keys to the family station wagon. It was raining. We decided to go out for ice cream.
Their driveway was on what I can only describe as a precipice. It was enigmatically higher than the neighbor’s adjoining driveway by almost a foot. As I backed out, one of the wheels went over the edge. We were stuck. I picture the wheels of the station wagon spinning hopelessly as I try to recover from this set-back.
Once again, my error is witnessed by a crowd that seems to grow exponentially. Neighbors began streaming out of houses, despite the inclimate weather. At one point, as I stepped out to survey the damage, amid scared crying and instant questions of the three young boys who were anticipating ice cream moments before, I hear a neighbor yell, “It’s going to blow. It’s resting on the gas tank!”
At this warning, the crowd disperses, many on the run, except for one aspiring member of the paparazzi who continues to shoot the scene from several angles with his camera. Who knew someone would have such a high quality camera, at the ready for such neighborhood drama?
I am forced to call a tow truck and spend the money I will earn from taking this long weekend job. I have zeroed out my pay in one horrible thump.
The last of my crashes that have been my fault will hopefully remain the last! It occurred right after graduation on a dark and stormy night. I was on my way to a Bible Study—Bible Study Fellowship, to be specific. I would never make it.
It happened after I had completed a jug handle in order to make a left turn. If you’re unfamiliar with the jug handle, it is a New Jersey solution to the Michigan “right to turn left” and possibly the London “turn-about.” I abhor, despise, hate left turns!!
In any case, I made an unfortunate left and hit a car that seemed to speed out of nowhere—possibly a quick start after the light turned green from the intersection where I had been forced to take a jug handle to turn left.
The driver was angry, understandably. At the scene, he did not claim physical injury. Then later, his insurance informed my parents that the man had suffered a thumb injury costing over $10,000.
I did not receive a ticket in any of these incidents. However, the man in the last one sued me. I hired a lawyer. In court, the man did not show. He was fined court fees.
My greatest fear is not public speaking. Not death. But being the cause of someone else’s death or injury. Despite my early driving record, I have not been the cause of an accident in years. In fact, I have been the victim of a hit and run while parked on a side street on a New Year’s Eve. I’ve been side-swiped, rear-ended and t-boned. I want to make clear–but feel like I am jinxing the streak, that I have not been the cause of these accidents. Thank God! Seriously!
Yet, I have spun out more than once on icy roads. I recently discovered that my new car sometimes lights up with ESC. When I first noticed it, I originally thought, “That couldn’t mean escape, could it?” It’s activated whenever the car senses dangerous driving conditions on the surface of the road. Electronic Stability Control. It makes a crunchy sound when I brake. But the manual warns that it is not a substitute for safe driving practices.
I am a huge proponent of public transportation.