Trackday Diaries: Pull up to the Bumper, Baby

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

“Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” Thus spake Auric Goldfinger — and I’m starting to think he had a point.

About this time last year, my 2014 Accord Coupe was smacked on the rump by a cheerful part-time weed dealer in a battered Mazda2. It could have been a lot more hassle than it was. The kid was willing to wait for the cops, his insurance company was slow to act but friendly enough once they got started, and the insurance-selected body shop actually did a half-decent job of installing and painting a new bumper.

I should note that part of the reason everything went so well was my determination to not get agitated about the incident and its repercussions. As long-time TTAC readers know, I’m very fond of my Accord, but it’s fundamentally a cheap little car built right here in Ohio by a bunch of teenagers.

Had it been my 911 or my old Audi S5 in that little fender-bender, I would have raised all sorts of hell and insisted on using my own body shop and having a third-party inspection and so on. Or at least that’s what I did every time one of my “nice” cars was damaged by someone else. Hell, when my 1990 VW Fox was dented on a downtown street some time in 1994 I contrived to have the repair done by the only Lamborghini and Ferrari certified shop in Ohio. It was too nice. The paint on the repair was deeper and glossier than the Brazilian factory spray.

If last year’s Accord injury was happenstance, then what happened to me yesterday was coincidence. Once again my car’s been damaged by an utter idiot — but as you’ll see, this time there’s nothing I can do but grin and bear it.

Whenever somebody asks me what I do for a living, I have no real idea how to respond. The truth is that I’m usually doing between two and four jobs at any given time. I have a pretty varied resume that includes time in fields as prestigious as management consulting and grocery bagging. I’ve owned a few companies and I’ve worked a lot of contract gigs as well. As fate would have it, I am in the middle of winding down one of those contract gigs as we speak. It’s with a Fortune 100 firm that has handed over pretty much its entire tech infrastructure to H1-Bs. I was the only native-born American on a 50-person team; it’s interesting to see how all the public-facing talk about “diversity” and “representation” goes straight out the window when the outsourcing companies get involved. There were 400 employees in my building. I never saw an African-American or a disabled person or a 50-year-old woman or pretty much anybody besides an Indian between the ages of 25 and 40.

With that said, the majority of my co-workers are pretty mellow dudes. Some of them are even car fanatics and/or motorcyclists. As I found out during my time in Malaysia, however, there are real and enduring differences between the way things are done in Ohio and the way they are done overseas, particularly when it comes to vehicle operation. So it pays to keep your eyes up from the minute you get on the access road to the office.

Pretty much every day there’s some kind of drama in the parking lot, and it’s not uncommon for the security department to issue sternly worded all-hands emails about the Camry or Corolla that has simply been abandoned in the middle of an aisle. Earlier this year, I had to bring my Honda CB1100 to a screeching halt and jump off the thing because there was a woman tearing around a corner towards me, on the wrong side of the aisle, at a fair rate of speed, in a temp-tagged 2007 Camry with her head pointed towards the back seat. She came to a ABS-skipping stop about a foot away from the bike, shot me a look that people commonly direct towards dog shit on the street, then leaned on her horn. I picked up the bike and moved it out of her way. On the trunk there was a sticker that said “NEW DRIVER BE PATIENT”.

Last month the company lost the lease on some parking spaces adjacent to the building and now we have 400-plus people competing for 300-ish spots. Things are getting crazy. I can’t take my truck to work any more because people will park in the aisle and leave me without enough room to leave my spot. So it’s the Accord or the bike. My contract ends in a few days and, to be honest, I was just in the process of congratulating myself for surviving the six months when I came out and saw a Maxima jammed into my Honda’s back bumper. Two hits to the rear in 11 months. What are the odds?

The damage is pretty minor — but it’s also pretty annoying. Although the bumper bent under the pressure of the Nissan’s license plate, it snapped back without too much trouble. Unfortunately, the chrome strip that lines the bumper on trimmed-out Accords has developed a couple dozen spiderweb cracks. It wasn’t meant to be bent like that. I’m not sure about the condition of the paint surrounding it — I will have to wait until I can clean the car up.

Had this happened to my Phaetons, I’d be utterly livid. With the Accord, I can’t bring myself to care very much. It’s a $76 part, although I’m not sure how to replace it. I’m not even particularly worried about the so-called “principle of the thing.” We have a lot of people in the building buying cars that they are explicitly incompetent to operate. There’s a nearly new Charger in the lot that has basketball-sized dents on all corners. The vast majority of the vehicles have some sort of damage on them. It’s probably a miracle that my Accord lasted five months and three weeks without being smacked.

I could file a report with the company, but doing so would cast a pall over my relationship with the various corporate entities involved in my placement. They don’t like troublemakers, particularly when there is an inexhaustible source of replacements across the ocean. Maybe it’s my fault for working gigs that amount to commodity labor. But I’m a parent, a racer, and a writer before I’m an employee. I’d have to reshuffle that order if I wanted to try my hand at being a corporate director or officer. It’s not worth it. I like seeing my son while there’s still daylight outside, even in the winter.

There’s one silver lining to the whole stupid incident: it reinforces a decision I made a while back. Around the time that the Challenger T/A 392 came out, I decided I was going to let the Accord go and get myself a proper six-speed Chally before FCA called time on the whole ridiculous operation. I looked at order books and I made some calls about getting a discount on the car. But then I got hurt in a bike crash and I kind of forgot about going through with it. Sitting here tonight, with my twice-scarred Honda sitting nearly paid off in the driveway, that lazy choice now seems more prescient than Paul Atreides walking the streets after the stone burner blinded him in Dune Messiah.

If somebody bashed up my lime-green Challenger T/A… I don’t care what Goldfinger says. How could I see it as anything but enemy action?

[Images: Jack Baruth/TTAC]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Lon888 Lon888 on Jan 29, 2018

    People who have zero parking skills is why I carry an automatic center punch in my glove box. A shattered window on a rainy and/or very cold night really drives the point home.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Jan 29, 2018

      So to your mind, them being bad at parking warrants you committing vandalism against their property? I think that makes you more of a societal problem than they are.

  • Road_pizza Road_pizza on Feb 01, 2018

    There's something to be said about driving an '05 P71 for a DD :) ...

  • Rando [h2]Coincidentally, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more than $41k as well -.-[/h2]
  • Ajla "Gee, wonder why car (as well as home) insurance rates are much higher in places like Florida..." Severe weather is on the list but even if a benevolent genie reverted the climate to circa 1724 I think FL would still have high cost. Our home insurance rates have increased 102% since 2021 and I don't think weather models account for that much of a change in that period. Florida's insurance assignment of benefit regulation meant that it had ~80% of the country's of the insurance lawsuits on ~12% of the nation's claims and litigated claims can be expensive to insurance companies. The state altered some regulations and is having some success on getting more companies back, even with the severe weather risks, through relatively bipartisan efforts. With car insurance just beyond the basic "Florida" stuff, the population increase of the past few years is overwhelming the roads. But, I think the biggest thing is we have very low mandated car insurance levels. Only $10K personal injury and $10K property damage. No injury liability needed. And 20% of the state has no insurance. So people that actually want insurance pay out the nose. Like I commented above my under/uninsured coverage alone is 2.5x my comprehensive & collision.
  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.