Yesterday I was out for a walk when I saw an accident happen. It wasn’t a bad one, the driver of a small delivery truck came off the clutch and his rig hopped forward and smacked the back of the small SUV stopped at the light ahead of him. The light changed and the two trucks involved pulled across the intersection and the drivers got out. The driver of the SUV was a well to do looking woman in a business suit and when saw the damage to the back of her car, smashed rear bumper and piece missing from the plastic bumper cover – there may have been other things, but I really wasn’t that close – she absolutely flipped out in the middle of the street. It go so intense that I am sure the sound of her shrill shrieking is still suspended in space somewhere over the city even now.
Last week, I took a trip to antediluvian Toronto and, thanks some massive construction project that left me sitting in traffic for almost three hours, got back to Buffalo just after midnight. My wife was waiting for me in the garage when I rolled in and I could tell from the expression on her face that the conversation wasn’t going to be a good one. Sure enough, while I had been gone, she had managed to strike the front fender of our Ford Freestar against entrance of our garage while she was backing out. The passenger side fender had a pumpkin sized dent and the damage included the headlight, which had broken out of its mounts and now hung by its wires in front of the van’s bumper. Since I take some pride n my vehicles, she assumed I would be quite upset. Oddly, I, a tried and true “car guy” wasn’t upset at all.
Years ago I read Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and this one sentence jumped out at me the moment I read it: There are men in this world who go about demanding to be killed. They argue in gambling games; they jump out of their cars in a rage if someone so much as scratches their fender. These people wander through the streets calling out “Kill me, kill me.”
I decided then that I would not be such a person. While it pains me to see one of my vehicles damaged, I understand that these things can be repaired and, so long as no one is seriously hurt, there really isn’t much to be upset about.
The next morning, I wandered out to the garage and took a good look at the Grey Lady’s “red badge of courage.” I unscrewed and pulled back the inner fender lining and with the help of a hammer around the edge of the dent managed to get it popped back out. The body line is still not perfect and the places where I hammered so gently ended up with a few dimples but all in all it looks pretty good considering how bad it was. The headlight was cracked in several places where it broke away from its mounts, but I jury rigged it with some zip ties and ordered a brand new unit from Rock Auto for less than $100. When it arrives in the next few days I will fit it and the entire episode will be done.
Before you assert that these two incidents have nothing else in common let me tell you about the young woman who backed into the side of our Freestar at the supermarket a few months ago, scraping the corner back bumper. I wasn’t pleased, but since she had managed to miss all the fragile sheet metal and only left few scuffs and some baby blue paint off the back of her Chevy Cruz – paint that I removed with some polishing compound and elbow grease – I let her off scott free. Then there was the time a guy in Japan rolled into and scuffed the back bumper of my MPV at a stoplight and still another time before that a woman in Seattle rush hour traffic gave my 200SX Turbo a pretty good jolt as well. In those cases as well, after deciding the damage was minimal, I let the offending parties walk.
To be sure, the stories I am relating about my own vehicles all involve minimal damage while the car I saw struck is going to require some professional attention, but I still think the woman’s overreaction was totally uncalled for and I pity the poor delivery driver who hit her. I am certain the “victim” of the accident has already called her insurance agent and has probably made an appointment with her doctors to check for possible back injuries as well. This whole thing is going to cause them both a whole lot of stress in the days and weeks to come and I feel bad for both of them, her the victim of the driver’s carless mistake and he the victim of her senseless, over-the-top reaction. Better, I think, for everyone not to get too carried away lest we end up sleeping with the fishes.
Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.