Meditations on a Car Wreck


It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I was daydreaming at a stop light when bad karma, in the form of a blue pickup truck, came crashing into my life. To be completely accurate, the blue pickup hit a white sedan which then hit me, but the effect was the same: suddenly my afternoon was no longer sunny. But I did learn a few things:

- When a large piece of your bright, shiny, only-two-year-old car is lying all by itself in the middle of the road, it's hard to remember that material things are not important.

- It IS possible to suppress the urge to choke the life out of the driver responsible for this damage while screaming creative descriptions of his marginal intelligence and questionable family background. It's just not easy.

- It's wonderful that no one got hurt. But after two weeks, what would really be wonderful would be getting my car back. In one piece again.

- Cops are not stupid. Upon exiting his pickup truck, the driver who started this whole chain reaction immediately complained that his brakes hadn't caught when he stepped on them. Later, when I mentioned this to the policewoman called to the scene, she arched an eyebrow and said, "I think he probably just wasn't paying attention."

- Auto body shop employees and insurance agents end every conversation and phone message with "Have a nice day." If I were having a nice day, I wouldn't be talking to them.

- Forty-five minutes after you've been in an accident is no time to be dragged through the details of the exclusions on your rental car coverage by a perky insurance agent. At that point you don't care about the maximum total allowable charge or the possible denial of coverage in months ending in "Y." You just want a way to get to work in the morning.

- Someone needs to tell the insurance people that back in ancient history girls weren't allowed to take auto shop. The nice young woman on the phone asked me to describe the damage. I told her the fender fell off. "Was it the fender or the bumper?" she asked. I said I guessed it was the bumper. "The bumper, or the bumper frame?" she wanted to know. I said I didn't know, it was just the whole outside of the rear end of the car. We moved on to how the frame the (whatever that part was) attaches to was bent. "Is it horizontal or vertical?" she wanted to know. I said it used to be horizontal, but it wasn't anymore. "So is it parallel to the side of the car or perpendicular?" Lucky for me, my cell phone started cutting out just then, and I had to hang up.

- You do learn from experience. The first time I was ever rear-ended, my first thought upon impact was "Oh *#^$&$*, I'm having an accident." This time around it was "Oh *#^$&$*, now I'm going to have to deal with all that insurance paperwork again."

All in all, as with 99.9 percent of life, things could have been much worse, which means there is all the more reason to go forward with hope and gratitude. But you'll excuse me if I keep one eye firmly glued to the rearview mirror.

ŠJuly 2003