“Jesus Take the Wheel” my ass.

Oh, mercy. First, let me state very clearly: everyone here is fine. We are not physically hurt; no one is bleeding or broken.

Next, let me address the title of this post. “Jesus Take the Wheel” is the title of an alarmingly popular song by Carrie Underwood. I actually like Carrie Underwood, but to me this song is wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.  Essentially, it’s a story of a woman who’s had an especially hard year, driving in winter with her baby in the backseat, when she hits black ice. Rather than employ standard winter driving practices, she throws her hands up and cries “Jesus, take the wheel!”  The baby doesn’t even wake up, she spins gently to the shoulder, and promises to change her life, etcetera, etcetera. The chorus is catchy, the lyrics are vapid, and the religious overtones make me sick.  I could write a post on all kinds of levels of disgust for this song.

But, as you may have guessed from my first point, this post will address an unfortunate happening. And it deals with the car mentioned in my last post, though I believe what happened was not the dealer’s fault, but a freak accident. But first, to fill in since I last wrote:

I had the front shocks replaced on our new Mazda, purchased with such poor customer service from Corwin in Fargo. The automotive department in my college undertook them, and they did fine work. On Tuesday, I asked the instructor who oversaw the work if I could take the car to Minneapolis this weekend, and he said “Absolutely.” I trust him: he’s a smart man and a good mechanic, and I see him at work all the time.

Still, Shaun wanted me to take the Scion, our car of three years. We know it well, and it has been a really good car (knock on wood). But I was trying to have a honeymoon with the new car. I hoped V and I would have many great adventures in the new to us Mazda, and I wanted to start right now. We were going to stay with Dan and Tenessa, our dear friends, for the weekend, on the north side of Minneapolis, a trip I’ve made dozens of times.

So V and I set out on Friday on the inaugural road trip in the Mazda5. We brought snacks & planned our fast food stops. I had sewn an organizer for the back seats, and V had a favorite doll or two tucked in the sliding doors. We had a great drive down, with nary a wobble, and it drove like a dream. I exhaled, sinking in to a seat I hoped to ride for at least 100,000 miles.

On the way home, as is often the case, V was getting crabby. She had to leave her two best friends, Dan and Tenessa’s boys, behind with their basement full of Wonderful Toys. She had to go back to her real life, and she was none too happy about it. But still the miles flew past us, and though she lost her expected root beer treat just outside of Alexandria because she was using that whiny voice I can’t stand over and over again, we were having a pretty good trip home, too.  Out of habit I checked the tires each time we got back in the car, and as we’d transitioned V recently out of her booster seat (she meets the size requirements, I swear!) I made sure to remind her to make sure the belt was tight across her hips, even though she’s been buckling her own seat belt for 6 years.

We’d stopped at the rest area just east of Fergus Falls, and noticed the wind had picked up significantly. “I’m so not ready for winter,” V said, and I agreed. We climbed back in the van for what I expected to be the last leg of our trip.

Just before exit 55, (52 miles from home), road noise suddenly increased. A whole lot. At first, I thought maybe the wind was catching the rear hatch. This was our first trip in this car, and I wasn’t sure about the sounds it made in different situations. I looked in my rear view mirror and the back window was shaking, badly. “I’m gonna pull over, honey,” I said. “I’ll figure out what’s going on.” For a split second I thought about trying to press on to exit 54, only a mile ahead where there were many businesses to seek help from, as opposed to the closed antique shop at exit 55, but I figured we could get there if I couldn’t find out what was causing our new noise and shake. “Mama, I’m scared,” V called from the backseat, as I slowed from the 70mph speed limit I was driving to around 65, easing us off onto the exit ramp. “Oh, honey, you know I can fix almost anything,” I started to say, when suddenly I wasn’t steering the van anymore. The tail end flew up from behind us, turning us 90 degrees to the right. V started screaming, and I knew almost instantly that we would roll. We were going too fast toward the ditch. “Hold on,” I said. And then we were slamming into the ground, and the windshield was shattering, and the floor mats were flying up, and V was screaming. I wanted to grab her and hold on but all I could do was say, loudly so she could hear me over her own screaming, “I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.” I said it with each terrible thump: left side, roof, right side, tires, left side, roof…

We landed tires down at the bottom of a ditch, three inches from a barbed wire fence. I think we rolled over two full times. We both exhaled, and I said “Are you okay?” before I even turned around. “Yes, are you?” She was not as hysterical as I expected, and asked “Can I unbuckle?” before she did. I stepped out of the car and came around to her door, and held her tight, looking carefully for blood or brokenness. She walked out of the van on her own, and I stared with wide eyes, not believing we could both be okay, but so, so thankful we seemed to be.

My cell phone, I thought. I’ve got to call the police. It was in my purse on the seat beside me, but I couldn’t find find it. Or my purse. It had flown all the way to the third row, and I had to lift up floor mats and dig through Cheezits. . By the time I did, though, two kind women who’d been driving behind us had pulled off, and one, whose name was Krysta, had already called the highway patrol.  They came quickly, as did the tow truck, and I gathered our suitcases out of the car. I went to gather V from the Krysta’s car, but she lives in West Fargo and offered to drive us home. I humbly accepted, and I’m sure that being able to stay with Krysta helped reduce V’s anxiety over the whole thing. It certainly reduced my anxiety.

I went back today, because I’d left all my work papers in the car, and I wanted to get V’s dolls and the organizer I made, in case insurance totals it out. I took some photos in the tow company’s barn. It’s always worse the next day, I’ve found.


Both mirrors snapped off, of course. I wasn’t sure the windshield would hold.


The hood.


We landed hard on the roof. Notice the fauna under the windshield wiper.


The windshield from the inside. The only blood I shed was today, when I went to gather our things, and had to shake the glass dust off.


The tire, left rear. Well, actually, the rim. The tire is almost gone. I was on the road for maybe ten seconds after the noise and the shaking, and I didn’t see or feel us hit anything, but this is what caused the accident, we reckon. We moved awful fast through the underbrush, as you can see.  I’ve gone over it hundreds of time in my mind, and I can’t think of anything I could’ve done differently. Other than not go to Minneapolis. Or to have taken the Scion. Or to have never bought this cursed car (in all fairness, I have no reason to believe this was anything but a freak accident. If I had driven on the shocks Corwin sold me, then this would be a very different story on many fronts. But I didn’t).


A shot of the rim from above, with what’s left of the tire.

Sigh. V won’t look at the pictures, and has declared she’ll never take another car trip. She’s got three red lines left behind by her seat belt, for which I am so, so grateful. For our wee anxious one, this is more than just an accident, and we’re working on how to best help her through this. I’ve called all the appropriate people, and am waiting for an estimate of loss & to hear what the insurance company can do for us.

Retelling all this has made me tired, and I don’t really want to have a religious discussion over this. You’ll see this through your own prism no matter what I say, but I have to go back to Jesus taking the wheel. This song came in my mind soon after we crawled out of the car, and it made me angry. If Jesus took this wheel, he did a damn poor job. And that stupid woman in the song was speeding, which I wasn’t, and she didn’t even wake the fucking baby. My baby was not just woken up. And I know that many Christians will tell me that all the good that happened here was god at work: that no one is killed or even hurt is a bit of a miracle. Krysta saved us heartache and expense beyond measure. The cop and the tow truck driver were quick to arrive and kind. It wasn’t February, and there was no snow to climb through back up to the highway. I am thankful to the universe for all of these things. But for whatever caused that rear tire to fail, I am angry, exhausted, and sad. I’m sorry that it will take a long time for my daughter to be willing to go to Minneapolis again. Every muscle in my body hurts. I would rather have not had that tire fail in the first place, if Jesus was so busy making things happen for us.

I bought V a rootbeer in Rothsay.

Our first payment on this car is due on October 31.


About Jennifer

Writer teacher mama sister friend sewist poet trying to stay warm in Minnesota's northwest.
This entry was posted in Daughter, Universe. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to “Jesus Take the Wheel” my ass.

  1. Shirley Johnson says:

    Oh, Jen, I am so relieved to learn that you and V are both okay. You both have new life experiences to build into your life stories. Shit happens. l am sure you will deal with this the way you deal with all those life experiences, with love for your family, keeping everything in perspective and not letting this incident to throw you. With love, Jen and V. Take care of yourselves.

  2. Carla says:

    Holy crapoley. I am so glad that you and V are fine and safe and not hurt. I hope you get a brand new (to you) car out of it. I don’t recommend Corwin Auto, though. Love you!

  3. Christine says:

    Glad to see that you both are okay. I won’t share my perspective on this since you probably know where I stand but thanking the universe is a waste of time. Just sayin

  4. Lesley says:

    Whoa, that is some scary shit. I am so glad you guys are okay. In my life I have what I call the Trauma Factor. I rate things according to a high or low TF. This, my friend, is a high TF event. And, accordingly, I hope you allow yourself some serious pampering and indulgence, in whatever form that takes for you. Big hugs across the country from me.

  5. Pingback: Corwin, a Full-service Asshat Company. | Languishing

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