Feast of the Guardian Angels

October 2nd is the feast day of the guardian angels. Usually when people tell you their guardian angel stories, they tell you about being saved from a car crash and not “My guardian angel and I played a board game together.” I’ve only recounted the near-misses in the car. How about the time I got hit?

About four years ago, I asked my guardian, “Tell me a story. Tell me about the most spectacular time you saved my life, and I didn’t even notice.”

I was convinced he’d done it, of course. I grew up in NYC after all, so it wasn’t a far cry to think he might have given me a creepy feeling about taking the train home, or something like that. That’s why I said “and I didn’t even notice,” figuring that it was something I couldn’t have noticed since he’d averted it long before it got close to me.

The next day, for reasons I forget, my husband worked from home, so I took Kiddo#3 to preschool in my car (the Civic) rather than the minivan. I loved my Civic because it was my first car.

On the way home, at a stop light, my mind went back to another time I’d been first at a stop light, back when I was pregnant with Kiddo#1. I’d been stopped on the green because of traffic in the intersection, and then it had turned red. I remembered how my mind had been on the radio while stopped.

And I sensed how I’d been relaxed. How a pair of teenage girls had slammed into the back of my Civic at about thirty-five miles per hour, and how the way I was relaxed had enabled me not to get hurt with the force of the impact as the car got slammed forward — and then I had a sense of the tremendous force of their car into mine, the way my car had crumpled, and then the way the energy of the impact had been directed around me. Away from me.

I snapped back to the present, staring at the stop light, and realized: I’d never thanked him for that. I’d been absolutely unhurt in a crash that had done six thousand dollars worth of damage to my car, an impact where my head had been whipped hard enough that my glasses ended up beneath the drivers’ seat — and yet I’d had no whiplash. I was fine. The baby was fine.  He’d saved my life — spectacularly. And that’s how he’d done it: relaxed me so the impact wouldn’t harm me and deflected the force.

And me? I’d always joked that “the car protected me.” I’d never thanked him. It had never even occurred to me. I felt awful, and I thanked him then. I’m sorry for being an idiot.

Happy feast day to all guardian angels. I’m baking some kind of dessert in your honor. Thank you for all you do, even when we don’t notice it for a while.


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  2. Bystander

    Fair point, but no, it’s not a joke that the car did protect you. Had you a car that hadn’t been designed to crumple and leave the passenger compartment intact, no amount of relaxation would have made much difference. We’re happy to have you! 🙂

    1. philangelus

      This is a serious question: were 1991 Honda Civics designed with crumple points? I do know the girls with their vehicle were going so fast they actually got up over my bumper, so the bumper was fine but the trunk itself took the brunt of the hit.

      Everything on the back end of that car had to be replaced. The trunk floor was rippled back to the wheel wells. It was really a judgment call whether to total the car, and when I talked to the adjustor, I asked him not to. He authorized repairs, and during the process they found problems that would have put the repair total up over the book value.

      1. Bystander

        Yes indeed: these aren’t brand-spanking new innovations only discovered in the last five years and makers of smaller vehicles have had to confront the problem of how to make their cars safer for the passengers within long before legislative standards came in. They crumple so you don’t have to (as much).

        1. philangelus

          Crumple zones were first introduced in 1959, but I thought they were primarily front-end phenomena until the mid-1990s. I couldn’t find any documentation on whether a 1991 Civic had a rear-end crumple zone.

          The vehicle that hit me was a Ford Escort wagon, and its front end didn’t crumple, although its airbags deployed. (The idiot girls who hit me used my side-view mirror to check their hair and makeup before the cops came. Yeah, they were fine too.)

  3. Bystander

    I couldn’t resist this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBDyeWofcLY

  4. Cricket

    Being relaxed probably prevented some muscle strain, as they didn’t try to do things they weren’t designed to do. You were also probably in the absolute best position for the belt to do its job. There are all sorts of little things in a collision that can be better or worse.

    Fascinating public lecture on the history of car safety:

    Before seatbelts were legislated, the engineers at the car companies said that: a) Seat belts could do no better than sitting properly with your hands at 10+2 and bracing yourself. b) No matter what they did, a 50mph crash was unsurvivable, so why make the car more expensive.

    BTW, the old 10+2 rule for hands on the steering wheel is outdated. It’s not needed (unless your power steering goes) and with airbags it’s now safer to do 9+3 — your hands and arms are thrown to the sides rather than into your face. (See, Canada’s Worst Driver isn’t a total waste of time.)

  5. The Sojourner

    “No matter what they did, a 50mph crash was unsurvivable.”

    Considering that I was in a 65mph crash a year ago (and, obviously, lived to type about it), I am a little disturbed by that idea.

    (Semi-truck tried to change lanes and didn’t realize our minivan was in his blind spot. It flipped twice and ended up on its side and facing into traffic. My mom had a pulled muscle in her shoulder that took about a month to heal, my friend and I were stiff for a couple of days. Guardian angel WIN.)

  6. Cricket

    The lecturer (or maybe the guy he quoted) accused those engineers of criminal lack of imagination.

    I highly recommend that lecture to anyone interested in engineering. It had some very interesting anecdotes.

  7. The Sojourner

    P.S. to anyone interested: I posted a more detailed account of my guardian-angel-WIN-moment here: http://clearingthesill.blogspot.com/2010/10/belated-tribute-to-my-guardian-angel.html

    Cricket: “A criminal lack of imagination.” I like it. I might start accusing random people of this fault.