Accidents and decency

Traffic Accident

Yesterday, I had an accident. A truck rammed into the back of my car. I’m fine, but my car might be totaled.

“What’s that to me?” you might ask. Well, let’s talk about altered perspectives.


I suppose you’re curious what happened to my car. Well, as you might already notice in the picture above, the sun was directly in front of the car. I was driving to work, and everybody was edgy because the roads were iced over in places. I’d just passed an accident and had to turn a corner.

Unfortunately, when you pass that specific corner, you immediately run into a traffic light, and beyond that traffic light, two lanes become one. On top of that, the sun was suddenly in my eyes. I was half-blinded for a moment, then realized the traffic light ahead was already changing from yellow to red. I’d almost followed the car ahead straight through a red light, so I braked the car and came to a stop.

Then, suddenly there was a loud bang and my head was slammed back against the head rest. Then I was thrown forward and came to a halt.

“Well, f*ck,” I thought. No memory loss, no pain. Okay, I was alright. I noticed my audio book was still playing. I turned it off, put on the emergency lights, then turned off the car and put on the parking brake. Outside, I noticed a large truck behind me and saw my car was shorter than before and leaking parts and glass.

So, that should satisfy your curiosity. Let’s talk about unusual perspectives and weird circumstances, like you get in a car accident.


We all run into situations that are outside our usual routines and expectations. You might get lost in a city you don’t know, lose your house keys somewhere, or find yourself confronted by a fire in your house. Or you can be in a car accident.

Physically, these things kick in your adrenaline system, and you have a fight-or-flight response. Like Al Pacino said in the Devil’s Advocate:

“Pressure, it changes everything. Some people, you squeeze them, they focus, others fold.”

I guess, in this case, I focused. Good. But that’s only one half of the equation. The other is: know what to do. Be prepared.

I’m a writer, and I tend to run through hypothetical scenarios. My wife always comments on me bringing a lot stuff on holiday, but she’s also happy when we do, in fact, need some of that stuff.

In this case, I’d already run through what could happen if I ever had an accident. You often hear stories of people refusing to admit faults or just driving off. So, step one: I took pictures of my car, and of the truck, making sure I could read the license plates on them. Step two: you need to have a form in your car to fill out. Most people have that. But do you also have a pen? I’d placed one in my car years ago, and was very happy I did. Three, do you have up-to-date information about your insurance in your car? I can actually look mine up online, and I’d made sure I knew how. And so on.

In short, if you take anything from my story, it is this: think about how you will handle things if you ever find yourself in my shoes.

Good Samaritans

But actually, I didn’t want to talk just about my response. I’m writing this post because of the response of others.

As I said, I got out of the car, and from there I had to take care of a lot of things. And you know what: by-standers are pretty kind in such circumstances.

The truck driver that hit me immediately asked if I was alright, and I asked him if he was fine too. We had a nice chat while we filled out the forms. The police showed up — there were a number of accidents in the vicinity. They were kind and helped me park the car on the parking lot across the street.

While I waited for a tow truck, I went into the hotel the parking lot belonged to and the receptionist was very sympathetic. I had a cup of coffee in the hotel, and they got me a nice chocolate roll to eat. Back outside, random people offered sympathies, and one man offered to drive me to a train station nearby. I didn’t need it because the tow truck driver gave me a lift and dropped me off near my house.

Bottom line, things like car accident give you a new perspective on people. Yes, they can be shitty. They can be mean, rob each other, or even start wars. But in a close-to-home face-to-face situation like this, many are actually very kind.

I lose my perspective on this sometimes, writing about some of the more egregious evils in this world, but selfishness and callousness are not a universal trait. For from it.


Strange circumstances can give you new perspectives on situations and people. Like I wrote above, always be prepared, but also: many people will help you, given a chance to do so.

In these dark times it is a comforting fact that a lot of us are actually pretty decent people.

Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands