I consider myself a good driver. If I'm ever impatient, it's with the car I'm driving and not with other drivers. And even though my driving is definitely marked by my having learned in Atlanta, Georgia (crazy traffic there), it's still good driving.
So on Monday, as I set out to do my errands, I drove with my usual intent to be careful and safe--consciously! And as I backed out of my parking spot at Walgreen's, I thought to myself "This is a tricky spot for backing up; I'd better check all sides of the car as I pull out."
I couldn't win! As I checked, checked, check...yeah, that was a bump, wasn't it. When I had been checking the right side, the left side gently thumped into the bumper of a car sitting at the pump.
No one was there, and technically I could have driven away without anyone knowing it was me. But I really couldn't do that, it would be wrong. And if someone had bumped my car, I'd appreciate them being upfront about it. I waited several minutes before someone came out of the gas station (I would have gone in, but Ender was in the car, and I'd risk not finding the person and having them leave before I could talk to them).
I called Michael, and even though we were stressed, we weren't angry. I'm so grateful he wasn't angry with me.
I felt very levelheaded while I looked at the damage-- mostly cosmetic on the other car, an ugly patch of scraped paint and a thumb-sized dent. Our car? A long dent by the back wheel, a streak of scratches, but still nothing very terrible. We could live with it. If the other car had been mine, I wouldn't have minded. It looked like a kind of old car, too. Gold Nissan Maxima, probably at least 10 years old if not older.
Finally someone came out and claimed the car his. I explained as simply as I could that I had backed into his car while pulling out of my parking spot, and that I just hadn't seen it. He nodded and muttered something, and when I mentioned that Michael was checking with our insurance to see what it would cover and what the costs would be, the man said we could call the cops and file a report.
That was okay. He didn't say much else, just muttering here and there. He had an accent, and with the muttering, it was untraceable, which I found very disconcerting. I realized I didn't want to talk to him, because I could hardly understand him, and having messed up his car, I didn't really like the idea of asking him to repeat himself and risk frustrating him. So we waited in silence, avoiding eye contact.
In the few minutes, I felt a tiny twinge of crying threaten to come up, but I shoved it down and cleared my head. I just felt so terrible; I'd never had a car problem like this before, never involving someone else's car. And he seemed to be very annoyed by the whole thing, even though in my eyes the damage was purely cosmetic and could be fixed with a little paint job.
When the cop showed up, he said congenially "Is everything alright?" and BOOM! There came the tears!
I nodded helplessly and gestured to my eyes and tried to apologize. I just couldn't keep them from coming! Oh, I don't like crying! Feeling like a miming monkey, I pointed at my belly and "laughed" that I'd just blame it on the pregnancy...finally I caught my voice and was able to start talking. The cop was nice, but sometimes that makes it worse. :\ Not that I'm complaining, it just made me cry!
*sigh* This has already turned into a longer store than I felt like narrating. To be briefer, the cop said he could write a report if we wanted, or we could just work it out together. The damaged-car-guy said to me "Whatever you want to do." Really?! Like, I could just go home and be forgiven and it's all okay?! Of course not, whatever I wanted to do in the form of paying for his car being fixed.
Michael was able to come from work and help out...which I suppose could embarrass me, but I was strangely uncomfortable with this guy, and I felt like I needed Michael's approval on anything I decided between insurance or paying out of pocket. I sensed that the guy thought it was sort of dumb that I wanted Michael there, but so what!
When Michael joined us, we all drove to a car place to get an estimate on the cost, and it turned out that out-of-pocket was indeed the cheaper (and even smarter) course. :\ I must say, almost out of a duty to having an attitude of gratitude, we felt blessed that we even had money to do that. Do you know what the estimate was for fixing that little scratchy-patch on the man's bumper? More than $500. Michael got the guy to agree that was baloney, so they chose to drive to another place for another estimate. I opted out of following them. I secretly confided to Michael that I felt uneasy around the guy and overall very emotional and gloomy about the whole ordeal. What a great husband to understand!
The other place estimated about $700. GAH! These car people! Have you ever seen their paperwork details? $42 per hour with some things, $28 per hour with other things...wow. That's fancy living right there. I'm sure it's justified somehow in the system, but I'm not about to be the one justifying it.
While I finished errands, I prayed that the guy's heart would be softened somehow. I felt so very terrible, and I felt somehow WORSE that it had happened despite my cautionary efforts! I was checking so much when I backed out! Maybe if I'd been careless it would have been easier to take the blame. Anyway, I felt sad. I didn't want to keep doing errands, I wanted to go home, get out of the stupid car, and eat ice cream and watch a movie and be a vegetable. An overcooked vegetable, drooping and frumpy. That sounded very agreeable.
But I went on, dropping things off at DI, stopping by the library, heading to the bank...and Michael called to tell me that he'd ended up chatting with the guy (I still don't know his name, and I prefer it that way), and they talked about their families a bit. Michael made a couple offers of covering part of the cost, and at first the guy refused. But finally he said Michael made him feel bad, talking about his poor family in school, and he gave in. Grudgingly, but with a signature on the papers and everything.
My prayer was answered! His heart was softened just the teensiest bit, enough to let us go with a payment of $400 towards his car's fixing.
(By the way, the library was a very comforting place to be. It wasn't quite as leisurely as it might have been because I had to go to the bathroom VERY badly, and I couldn't find one, and I didn't want to leave Ender or my purse or our growing stack of books while I went--silly? I ignored the urge as best as I could and found great comfort in grabbing any book that sounded mildly appealing).
I wish I could say that cheered me up for the rest of the day...I was rather stuck in gloominess. I felt sick, tired, hungry, upset at having cried, and quite sad that I had messed up the guy's car. A bad head cold had hit me Sunday, so I had a roaring sore throat, my head felt overstuffed and feverish, and I had a really disgusting cough. Plus, I had to eat something even though I wasn't "hungry." And there were tons of people smoking outside on such a lovely day, which was extremely nauseating (do they not notice how far their clouds of smoke reach? It's awful! Second-hand smoke is AWFUL)! I just wasn't in the mood to cheer.
Ender was patient all day. He was quiet and good-natured, and I think inspired, because he said many times to me "Mommy, I love you." Just matter-of-factly, out of the blue. What a darling sweetheart. I love my son. He and Michael made the day sweet, in the end. Michael managed to help me feel completely better about it all and convinced me that it was okay. Behind us, over and done with.
Isn't it a huge blessing that we were okay? It wasn't even a valid "car accident." The car hardly registered the bump, and we could have gone on without noticing a thing. We are not even barely hurt. There's no bad mark on our insurance, and the cop didn't end up having to write a report. For the record, Michael and I are still accident-free. And the money we paid is simply paid. And I will [hopefully] never see that guy again, right?
So that's a long story, and I didn't make it brief, but I felt like telling it.
You know those moments where you've been holding out on crying and then someone comes and pops the cork by, of all things, being NICE?!
Oh, which totally reminds me of a story that I've never put here on my blog. There was this nurse who told me not to cry, and she said it very sharply, which made me cry more, but then she explained that she was a sympathetic crier. I still cried.
Coming up next!
My Adventures in Kidney Stone Land (hah?)