Belfast Telegraph

I learnt harsh lesson about civic duty when I crashed

By Frances Burscough

I learnt a valuable lesson last week when I crashed my car on the outskirts of Belfast.

Well, technically I didn't actually crash it. I was crossing a notoriously busy junction when my car stalled. First time it's ever stalled on me, like, and it chose to do it right there in the middle of rush-hour. Grrr. Of course I couldn't react quickly enough to get it out of the way in time, so I got hit by an oncoming car. And, incidentally, I can now confirm what a lot of people say about accidents; from the split second I realised I was in peril everything seemed to happen in slow-motion.

As this car was hurtling towards me (to be fair it was only going at 30mph, but when you're on the receiving end it certainly looked like 'hurtling') my life genuinely flashed in front of me. Images of the boys when they were little and of my mum and dad all appeared in the blink of my mind's eye. But then, THUD, and it was back to the present with a massive jolt.

There I was, with the front corner of my car crumpled, blocking two lanes at the busiest time of day. It took me a while to regain my composure and to open the car door, by which time I had an audience of passers-by and fellow drivers all on hand to witness my reaction as I cautiously climbed out to survey the damage and to face the music.

The bloke whose car hit me was very calm and cool about the whole thing, but I could see in his eyes he was thinking 'stupid dumb blonde!' and who could blame him? It was my fault after all. I broke down in tears, in true dumb-blonde style. In full public view. In front of a long - and growing - queue of vehicles. Mortified? You betcha! To make matters worse, the battery on my phone was dead so I had to depend on him to call the cops.

First to appear on my right was a cyclist who just happened to be passing that way. He stopped, took off his cycle helmet and simply stood there, gawping at me as I began my mini meltdown. He didn't say anything, or offer to help; he simply watched, just for the craic it seemed. Then the rubberneckers started to file past, winding down their windows to get a good look as they drove slowly by. Some smiled sympathetically and shook their heads while others just glared or blared their horns at the cause of their inconvenience.

Meanwhile, a few more spectators had appeared alongside the cyclist - a couple walking a dog and an elderly man with a walking stick - who also stood and watched from their vantage point as your man phoned the police.

My front bumper was snapped in two and hanging off, the headlight smashed and there was shattered glass and perspex strewn across the road. But once it was established that neither of us was injured, the police on the phone told us to clear the area and move on.

Apparently they weren't required to attend as there were no injuries, so it was simply a matter for us to solve ourselves. We exchanged insurance details and then he went on his way, leaving me to pick up the pieces, literally, of my car, which was still stuck across two lanes.

As I bent down to gather the fragments off the road a woman pulled up and ran over to me. At last, I thought, someone offering to help! But no. On the contrary, she started to read me the riot act about causing an obstruction. "You can't just leave your car there!" She yelled. "You'll cause another accident!"

So I attempted to move the damn thing. The engine started up ok, but as the wheels turned they made a sickening screech as the jagged bits of smashed bumper got entangled. I just managed to move it across the road to the relative safety of the curb. But I didn't know what to do next and I couldn't call anyone to ask. At last, though, someone sympathetic appeared. A man driving past had seen my plight and immediately stopped to help. He bent the bumper back into place and lifted it away from the tyre so that at least I could drive home. I was so grateful I wanted to hug him.

I learnt two lessons that day: Always keep your phone charged and never ignore a fellow citizen in trouble.

Belfast Telegraph

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