I read some cheesy card somewhere that said it’s not how you live during a crisis that tells the most about you, it’s how you live every day. Well the woman I ran into in the parking lot on Sunday, the one driving the Audi, she and I are living our everyday lives pretty well, thank you very much.
When I say “the woman I ran into,” I do mean that I ran into her. With my Honda Fit. She ran into me, too. We both agreed that we ran into each other. She was leaving her gym and I was leaving Bizios, my favorite little grocery store, and we backed out of our parking spaces into each other.
Lyle Lovett’s Pontiac was playing on the car stereo. As our bumpers bumped, I heard these lyrics, from “Here I Am,” some of my all-time favorites, “Hello / I’m the guy who sits next to you / And reads the newspaper over your shoulder / Wait / Don’t turn the page / I’m not finished / Life is so uncertain.” There is really no better soundtrack for a collision.
When we got out to look at our bumpers we were both calm as cucumbers. She was, one might say, upbeat, positive, perky even. I was a bit reserved because I’m not a huge fan of talking to people in parking lots. In fact, I’m pretty nervous around strangers and to tell the truth I had no idea if I was at fault or if she was. It didn’t take long to warm up to her friendliness and openness.
We both had to rub the salt and grime from this never-ending winter from our bumpers to see if there was damage. I sort of thought I saw some scratches. Having lived in Alaska for 14 years, though, I have to admit that I’m a tad lackadaisical about a scratch or two on my bumper. You’re not a true Alaskan if you don’t have scratches and dings and a chipped windshield.
However, when we got to her Audi bumper, it was clear that we’d bumped and scraped each other a little bit. I might be lackadaisical about my bumper, but I’m not about your bumper.
We went through the process of calling our insurance companies, relaying our personal information, writing down numbers, telling our stories to the voices on the phone.
I loaned her a pen and paper, she made sure I wasn’t hurt. We followed all the rules and all the directions on our insurance cards. The voices on the phone told us, in a cagey sort of way, that we weren’t “required” to call the police but having a case number from the police would make things easier.
Ms. Audi and I embody the concept of good citizens, so we decided we needed to call the police. Actually, on her recommendation we drove across the street to the police station and discovered together that it’s harder than it looks to get the attention of the police at their station on a Sunday.
And once we did, it was clear that we’d made the cop’s day worse than it already was. He walked to our cars and said, “So there’s damage?” He squinted. We pointed. He rubbed away salt and grime.
“So, do you want to just pay for this yourselves and not call insurance?” He said this in a hopeful way and was crestfallen to discover that we’d already talked with insurance.
He was incredulous, I think, that we were involving either the police or the insurance companies. Ms. Audi and I were apologetic, but she explained that we were just doing what we were supposed to.
In the end, I do believe the cop was glad to have met us. We may, from one point of view, have wasted his time. But from another, I imagine it’s not very often that he deals with people as nice, as honest, and as good humored as the two of us.
When he asked us to tell him what happened, he said, “So, you backed into her?” And we both said, in perfect unison, “No, we both backed into each other.”
As he was filling out the paperwork, Ms. Audi and I sat in our idling cars with our windows rolled down chatting with each other. I told her about Alaska. She told me about working in the field and never having had an accident before.
She kept saying, “The most important thing is that no one is hurt. We’re so lucky. I feel so blessed.”
This woman I literally bumped into in the parking lot and I took a tedious and time consuming experience in stride and found warmth in a fellow human being. As Lyle Lovett sang in the background, his wry lyrics and honky tonk piano filling the car, I thought to myself that we were indeed very lucky.
Thanks to my friend Jeff White for the headline, which I shamelessly stole from a Facebook comment. And, thanks to fellow blogger Kathy Mathews (Quilting! Sewing! Creating!) for pointing out that the comment would make a great headline for a blog.
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