Car Crash Jokes: Not Funny

by Loolwa Khazzoom • March 19, 2010 • Family Secrets

Yesterday I drove to an event about 20 miles from where I live. I got caught in rush hour traffic, despite the fact that I waited until 7 pm to leave. I was on the freeway for about 90 minutes. Then I hit a part of the freeway that is nuts:

Multiple lanes suddenly become one. A lane heading to a destination suddenly becomes an exit-only lane — off the freeway or onto another freeway. Cars criss-cross lanes at breakneck speeds. A tunnel emerges, so all this chaos goes on with no room for a margin of error. Then on top of it all, one lane is suddenly marked not by white paint lines, but by halogen lights that are blinding.

Despite my 900 mile power road trip this summer, which appeared to have successfully catapulted me past my fear of driving, I start sweating to the point that my hands are slipping on the steering wheel. My heart races. I am having a panic attack. At 65 miles an hour. And I know I am having a panic attack at 65 miles an hour, in a narrow tunnel, with cars criss-crossing at breakneck speed and lanes disappearing right and left. Which makes me panic even more. And that, of course, makes me panic.

There are no exits. The freeway curves right and left. Still no exits. Five minutes drag on, tunnels and walls come and go. I am terrified I am going to faint and end up dead. I hang on for dear life. I periodically wipe one hand, then another, on my pants. Finally there is an exit to the right. It is narrow and curves abruptly and sharply and has blinding halogen lights all over the place, shining into my eyes.

I make it off the freeway. I pull over to the side of the road. My whole body is shaking. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to the event or back home. I feel stuck and scared.

I call my friend who lives in the area. “It’s just five more minutes on the freeway,” she says. I cannot under any circumstances get back on the freeway. I rest for a bit, then find surface streets to take me to where I’m going. Twenty minutes later, I find the street of the event, but not the building. I circle around three times. I stop at a pub and ask for directions. Nobody knows how to get me to the damn place. It seems there is exactly one long building on the street where I’m supposed to be, and it’s not the right building.

Finally I reach the guy at the event where I’m heading. He tells me it’s almost over. It has been two hours since I left home. I say, “Well, I’m here, so I might as well go.” He tells me how to get there. I drive and drive. Streets and freeways run parallel, then intersect. I never know if I will get stuck on an on-ramp going lord knows where. I am nervous and utterly confused.

Finally I give up and stop at a Starbuck’s downtown. It’s connected to a Barnes & Noble. I pick up a book and read it, first a section toward the beginning, then the entire ending. One hour later, caffeinated and feeling back in my body, albeit still nervous, I get back in the car. I take a different freeway home.

I call my mother a couple of times en route. She reveals that the freeways to and from this town are the most hideous she ever has encountered. She has driven 40 miles out of her way to avoid them. She encourages me that I will make it home safely and that I can pull over at any time.

This alternate freeway is not as crazy, but it is still a freeway. My nerves are totally jangled. I pass a section with a wall on the right. A big rig truck passes me on my left. It is loud and over-stimulating. There are just a couple of inches between the truck and me and between the wall and me. I again begin sweating and shaking and feeling as if I am going to faint.

I get off shortly after reaching a place where I can take surface streets all the way back home. I try jumping on the freeway at a place that usually feels very safe to me, but my system is too jacked up. I get back on the surface streets and am grateful to Gd when I make it home alive.

This morning, I wake up and head straight to my computer. Ten or fifteen minutes into checking emails, I hear screeches, slams, and crashes. At least three cars have just plowed into each other. A man yells, “Holy shit!” I call 911. I am angry. They are always driving at breakneck speeds in my neighborhood. I hear a car crash about every other month. I am always frightened when walking across an intersection here or pulling into my alleyway.

An hour later I am cleaning out my car. A woman walks down the alleyway and strikes up a conversation about the chaos that has been going on for the past hour. The woman reveals that the collision required multiple ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. I tweet about it, asking how many more car crashes it will take before people slow the fuck down.

It is evening. I call my mother and have a joyful conversation with her, sharing some things I feel proud about from the day. About 20 minutes into the conversation, I tell her I feel like skipping and dancing in the street, but I feel uncomfortable doing that in this neighborhood, as opposed to when I lived in Berkeley. “I feel like I won’t be met with a loving response,” I say. “You’ll be met with a car,” she replies.

Excuse me?

I am furious. I feel sick. Exasperated. I confront my mother. She says, as she always does when she says something inappropriate and/or hurtful, “It was a joke.” (Whether or not it actually was. It is her escape card.) Tell me how joking about a car hitting me, especially knowing that a car crash turned my life upside down and knowing how terrified of driving I was last night, is funny.

“It wasn’t personal,” she defends herself. “It was just general. It’s not safe out there.” I repeat: How is it funny. How is it something to enter into a previously light-hearted and happy conversation.

Sometimes my mother is my biggest ally. Sometimes she is my worst enemy. Talk about it not being safe out there.

5 Responses to “Car Crash Jokes: Not Funny”

  1. Deandrea Blumhardt
    Mar 20, 2010

    An execllent article with legitimate points, We’ve been a lurker here for a short time but desire to become a lot more included in the future.

  2. Mick Hanson
    Mar 28, 2010

    I’ve been looking for this exact information on this subject for a while.  Bookmarked and recommended!

  3. Tyson F. Gautreaux
    Mar 29, 2010

    Great article thx a lot!

  4. Sheba Shinnick
    Apr 13, 2010

    go figure :(

  5. mulderfan
    Sep 18, 2010

    Abusive responses: “He was joking.”/”He didn’t mean it.”/”You’re too sensitive.”/”It wasn’t directed at you.”/”Why do you take everything so personally?”

    Sounds like my NM when she excuses my NF’s abusive behaviour. My parents are a team. Who’s the most dangerous?

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About Loolwa

Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

Holistic Media, Marketing, PR

Loolwa Khazzoom is a a public relations manager specializing in holistic media, holistic marketing, holistic public relations, and holistic promotions. Her services include branding and messaging development, image and communications management, website content development and optimization, social media management, traditional media campaign management, book development, and in-house writing and editing.

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