Today is January 17, 2014. I was writing in Volume XIV of Triumphs & Tribulations—my longtime personal journal—and, as I do daily, I look back on previous entries on a specific date in years past just to see what I was going through and what my mindset was like at the time. I came across the entry out of Volume XI…on this day 3 years ago. It was the day that I lost my 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo…affectionately named “The Midnight Blue Express”.
How I first came across this moment? It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I was living in Waldorf, Maryland as I was stationed at Joint Base Andrews at the time. It was about 7pm in the evening and I was just relaxing on my very comfortable sofa in my equally as comfortable apartment. In the midst of my relaxation, I remembered that I had planned to spend a couple of hours in the office the Saturday before preparing for a presentation I was giving on that Tuesday (January 18th) but I found myself quite busy that entire weekend and loss track of time. So I decided to drive up to the base, where I’d finish my preparations, and return home. Pretty simple business. It was very cold out that night with a light snow falling. In most places I’ve been where it snows, that’s no big deal. In Maryland, it’s a bit of a different story…made no easier by the fact that there was some ice on the roads and that the driving habits of the locals was questionable, at best. I left my place around 7:45pm and headed up to the base. About 4 minutes from my apartment, I was involved in an automobile accident. I was driving through an intersection and some lady mistimed her left turn and ended up hitting me. I was driving at about 50 miles per hour when it happened and she hit me in the spot between the front and rear doors on the driver side, causing me to swerve. Instantly, I grabbed hold of my steering wheel and it took all of my strength to control it. I ended up driving across the median and coming to a stop in one of the turning lanes in the opposite direction. That quick reaction with the steering wheel avoided swerving into other cars traveling the same direction as I was and it likely avoided a rollover situation, especially with the ice out there. The first thing I did was roll down my driver side window and look out. It appeared that The Midnight Blue Express was in one piece…I thought it was a real trooper. I first noticed a problem when I tried to open the door. There was a bit of trouble in that respect as it was sort of jammed. After the police did their thing, I ended up going to the local ER to get checked out…to make sure I didn’t have a concussion or anything. After that, I went home. The next day, I talked to USAA about the accident and they told me to stop by an affiliate repair shop. I didn’t think the damage to my left side was major…only thought I needed to get the door replaced as it wasn’t closing all the way. It turns out the damage was more significant than I thought and the repair shop ended up totaling my Jeep. I was heartbroken.
What it meant to me then? I was numb in the immediate aftermath of finding out that the Jeep was totaled. USAA and the repair shop reasoned that the cost of repairs would exceed the Jeep’s value. I actually cried as I called my father to tell him the news. USAA arranged for me to get a rental car to hold me over and they expedited my claim. I was planning on acquiring a 2nd vehicle later in the year anyway to augment the Jeep in an effort to reduce the wear and tear on the horrible Maryland roads. The accident pushed that timeline up. Two days after the accident, I found myself at a salvage yard looking at my Jeep and signing all the necessary documentation that pretty much gave it away. Before I left, I asked if I could have some time alone with my fallen ride. As I sat in the front passenger seat, I gave thanks for all the experiences I had with The Midnight Blue Express. It represented one of my first lines of credit. It was my home for a night after that lease mix-up in Valdosta, Georgia back in 2006. We logged close to 100000 miles together in the 6 years I had it. As I closed the door for the last time, I rested my hand on the hood. It was kind of a human element to it. I said goodbye, handed the keys to the yard supervisor, and I made my exit. It was the last time I ever saw the Jeep.
What it means to me now? 3 years have passed since those days and while I’m ever grateful for The Gazelle (my 2010 Jeep Compass Sport), I still find myself heartbroken over losing the Midnight Blue Express. For me, it represented more than just an automobile. It represented the start of this era of responsibility for me. Just over a year before the accident, I had finally paid it off and was free and clear. I had planned on keeping it for sentimental reasons and riding it out until the wheels literally fell off. But the accident and it being totaled changed that. The loss of The Midnight Blue Express reminded me to really appreciate the things I do have in life, whether it’s relationships with others or the tangible things I own: you never know when they may be gone forever.