Thursday, June 07, 2007

How the Universe Tells You to Slow Down

Last night my younger sister, Cassi, calls. And I'm in the middle of a crisis relating to the check register and the amount in my bank account. You know the kind, I'm sure, unless you're an accountant. Sometimes I'm as detailed as an accountant and other times I get a little lazy. And then I don't record my transactions for a few days and the next thing I know, I've misplaced all the receipts I was saving to record in the register, and the amount I should have doesn't match with the amount I actually have. And this isn't a bank error (although I'm still waiting for that glorious day when the bank actually pulls a Monopoly on me and the error is in my favor and I receive $200!), so it must be me. Two words: savings account. Hail to the savings account!

But when Cas calls, I'm all frustrated; with my lazy ways, more than anything else. But I answer, because she had called the night before and I hadn't been able to answer and I didn't want her to think I was ignoring her.

"Hey, Nik."
"I can't talk right now. I'll call you back in a minute, I'm just in the middle of balancing my check register and I'm frustrated as hell."
"Ok. Well, Nik, I just called to tell you that last night, I totaled my car."

And I was like, WTF?

Let me explain a few things about my family. Cassi is the youngest. I don't care what they say about the youngest being spoiled and bratty and all that. For the most part, it's true. But Cassi is also responsible. She's a hard worker, she's talented, smart, hilarious, ambitious, and independent. Not to mention beautiful. This is all evident from her achievements (except the beauty part); a few weeks ago I flew to Philadelphia to see her graduate from UPenn. She just turned 22, and with her major and double minor, she should have taken, at the very least, five years to finish school. She scored very high on the MCAT and is working as a cancer research assistant in Omaha while applying to medical school.

So, upon hearing that Cassi totaled her car, my first thought isn't she must have been drinking, like I would think were another 22 year-old to tell me they'd just wrecked their car. When Cassi tells me that, I figure something else must be going on.

I finished balancing the check book and called Cassi back. She told me she had been stressed with work and the night of the accident she was really preoccupied with some thoughts about some cells needed for an experiment. I think she said monocytes, but the last time I had biology was in 10th grade and I could be completely wrong. She'd forgotten to pick up some monocytes because she was preoccupied with getting to the airport to pick up our mom (my other sister living in Omaha just had a baby). So instead of picking up the fragile monocytes needed for this landmark, evolutionary experiment (they're going to cure brain cancer. I'm not kidding), Cassi went to the airport. Completely spacing the sensitive cells (they could have died). Macropages and monocytes are expensive. But what do I know?

Later that night when she remembered the cells, she rushed to the cell pick-up point and then rushed them back to her lab. And then she drove home. I think this is about when Cas called me on Tuesday night, around ten and I didn't answer. As she drove home, she was preoccupied with thoughts of, "What if the cells are dead and we can't do the experiment?"

In Nebraska, as in Tennessee and other places, at night traffic lights turn to flashing red and flashing yellow. So instead of waiting an hour for the light to change, if there's no one coming, a person waiting at a flashing red can stop, then drive on when the intersection is clear. Cassi came to an intersection like this, a flashing red. She looked left, looked right, didn't see anyone coming and pulled out into the intersection. She didn't even know what hit her.

Now, I could go on and on about how the driver of the other car is also at fault, because I think they are. Probably because Cassi is my little sister, but who's to say? All I know is that I've often been sitting at a light where it turns green, I'm about to pull out into the intersection, and some bastard goes blazing through the intersection while talking on their cell phone. If I hadn't been driving defensively, I would have been hit. That's all I'm saying. My caution saved their ass.

This driver who hit Cassi could most likely see that another driver was waiting at the intersection. This driver had a flashing yellow, which means use caution, not, "Hey! You have the go ahead! Floor it, baby!" Which is how so many people interpret the yellow light. If the driver who hit Cassi had had a flashing green, I could see that it would have been only right, nay, a responsibility, to blaze through the light without so much as a hesitation on the gas pedal.

Cassi thinks it's all her fault, and it isn't. I'm not suggesting a law suit here, or anything of that nature. I just see that Cas has this weight on her shoulders and no one to share her burden. She told me that she blacked out, she didn't know she'd been hit. Had she been a second earlier into the intersection, the other car would have crushed her. As Cas got out of the car and examined the mess—her car and her life (now)—she momentarily wished she had been hit. Only two or three weeks earlier, she had paid $900 to fix a dent in her car where she'd bumped into the wall in her narrow, assigned parking spot*. And now her car is a worthless heap of metal.

I'm glad the other car didn't crush her. And I know that in the future there will be many, many others who will be glad Cassi walked away from that crash. When I was a kid, my mom lost her youngest brother in a terrible work accident where he essentially burned to death. For a long time it haunted her. I don't know exactly how my mom felt about her youngest brother, but if it's anything compared to how I feel about Cas, I'm sure it hurt like hell. As a child, when all hell was breaking lose in my family, Cassi was born, and in many ways she held us together. She was this ray of hope in a very dark time.

All my sisters are precious to me.

I hope Cassi listens to whatever the Universe** is trying to tell her. Take it easy, maybe? Slow down? Don't be too hard on yourself? Take a breather? That's just my interpretation. I'm sure there are many other lessons she will take from this experience.

*Classic Grotepas girl mistake. We typically don't hit other cars. Just stationary objects. It serves to rip us from the monotony induced stupor and then we proceed with caution from that point on.
**I won't lie to you, Universe really means God. I think the Universe answers to God. Something like that.

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