An Unexpected Bang

Well hello, July. That was a fine ass-kicking you gave me.

No, I am not talking about fireworks. That would be cliché.

And I am not talking about that other kind of bang either, you pervs. Seriously, get your minds out of the gutters!

To start July right, I got into a car accident.

Awesome, right?

First, everyone remain calm. It was a minor fender bender.

I was at a stoplight. Yup. Not moving at all.

Red means stop and I had done stopped.

When the light changed, I slowly moved my foot towards the accelerator.

And that’s when the grey car in front of me came flying backwards and slammed into the front bumper of my car.

Right.

Backwards.

I shifted into park and jumped out of my car — as did the driver of the other vehicle.

ElderDude was about 128 years old and kind of hunched over.

“What happened?” I said, maybe a little too loudly, but I was competing with traffic.

“I think I accidentally shifted into reverse,” he said, shuffling his feet a little.

Whaaaaat?

I didn’t understand how that could be possible.

To be honest — and completely ageist — I also couldn’t fathom why a man over the age of 100 would be driving a stick-shift. Was he out trolling to pick up the ladies?

So there we stood, like The North-Going Zax and the The South-Going Zax from Dr. Suess, those two furry creatures who bump into each other and refuse to budge from their tracks.

(Only we were much less angry and much less furry.)

Anyway, we just kind of stood there in the middle of the intersection.

Foot to foot. Face to face.

I asked ElderDude if he wanted to exchange information.

He inspected his rear bumper. It was a little scratched. His license plate was a little dented, but otherwise perfect.

I looked into his old man’s eyes. They were blue. Like ocean blue. Like really pretty ocean blue, like the kind of oceans you see in documentaries where the ocean is just gorgeous and you want to hop in and take a swim.

“I don’t think we need to exchange information,” ElderDude said. “As long as you’re okay with it.”

One day I will be 100 years old, I thought to myself. And I will do something stupid. And it would be nice — assuming no one is injured — if that person could just forgive me for it.

So like a fish dangling from a line, I let him go. It was catch and release, and I threw him back. I mean, he was just a little, kyphotic fish. Feeling good about my decision, I got into my own car and followed ElderDude down the road until I eventually turned left and he drove off in his sporty, little gray car.

When I picked up Monkey after a morning of swimming, he took one look at my Honda and asked, “What’s that thing hanging off the front?”

I went to inspect.

And dagnabit if my license plate wasn’t gone.

That old man in the gray car — the one with the blue eyes — the one I let go without taking his name or plate number or information about his insurance company had bashed the fancy, black plastic license plate holder that secured my plate to my car like… like… like it was a cheap, black plastic license plate holder.

What can I tell you? I can’t find a good metaphor.

It’s clear to me now what happened. ElderDude hypnotized me so I forgot basic accident protocol. Hubby says this is ridiculous, but I was definitely momentarily blinded by blue.

Monkey and I returned to the scene of the crime where a good Samaritan had stuck my license plate on the median next to some pink flowers that looked a little wilted.

I think they were pansies.

I also think it’s going to cost eleventy-bajillion dollars to get my license plate bolted back on my car.

Have you ever tried to do something nice but then have it come back to bite you? What’s the story behind the most expensive car repair you’ve ever had to make?


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30 responses to “An Unexpected Bang

  1. In Florida, you would have been charged with rear end collision unless the fellow admitted it. Even with kid as witness. Why do you have a plate on your front bumper? Are you in Canada or something? If a car has the plate on the front bumper, how are bystanders supposed to get your tag number as you drive out of the lot after having robbed the bank and shot all the hostages (if you kill them, silly, you don’t have hostages! Duh)? Do you live in Canada or something?

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  2. An old – really old – man backed into my car at full speed one summer in Maine, totaled my Volvo. It does leave you in a strange place of wanting to respect your elders and yet scream your head off at them for being stupid enough to drive! Glad you’re ok!

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    • That was it! If only I had known about your Maine incident, perhaps I would have found a better way to express my feelings. Initially, I was furious. (I mean, now I’m left having to take the action steps to have my car repairs.) But on the other hand, ElderDude was just so darn pleasant. And honest. And I was the stupid one. If I had seen the damage, I’m sure he would have given me his info.

      I guess I’m doing a lot of my stupid stuff now. That’s why I’m Chief Twit.😉

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  3. 3 point response:

    Point 1: Glad you’re OK, but Carl is right. In Florida you would have been charged. It doesn’t matter what the guy said to you. Even if he said “Sorry, I hit reverse by mistake. All my fault.”, it won’t matter if he changes his story for the police. If he said you rear-ended him, you would get the ticket.

    Point 2: He may have been 100, but at least he knew enough to check out his car before he asked you to drop the matter. As long has he had insurance it would have been find to excange info.

    Point 3: If he was so old that it was unsafe for him to drive (backing up at a red light might be a sign), then maybe reporting it would have been a public service. It’s possible that’s why he didn’t want to exchange info. Maybe he had a similar situation before and was afraid either the police – or his family – would take away his license.

    Since you got your plate back and your car still runs it seems like all turned out OK. I doubt it will be a big deal to reattach the plate.

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    • I won’t know how things turn out until I get back from the mechanic next week. Will let you know.

      You have me scared.

      I didn’t think about any of these things.

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      • I think you are just a more trusting person, and I am a totally paranoid person. I do have reason….

        I few years ago someone hit my car while it was parked in the temple parking lot during Purim services. The person did leave a note (Evidently because her kids and relatives were there with her. She was visiting from NYC in a rental van.) Her friends were there when I came back to the car (dented and scraped across the driver’s side). They showed me the note. It had her phone #, but no insurance info.

        The friends went to find the driver, who would not come back from the Purim Carnival. I left with her note (also got the friend’s #). I called the driver the next week and emailed her the estimate. I spoke with her once and she said the estimate was too high. I told her it’s fine if she wants to go thru the insurance. She said no. She would send the check. Months went by, and no check. I called her and someone (I’m guessing the maid) answered and told me she was unavailable. I Googled her and found that he lives on the Upper East Side and frequents the Society pages.

        Solution: After a few months I called her friend. A week later I got a check. Apparently image is everything.

        Now I am convinced if someone does not want to give you their insurance info – they have a reason. Don’t trust them.

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  4. blackwatertown

    Hello – I’m not gadding about much on blogs at the mo cos trying to earn some money. But when I saw this post I had to come by.

    I applaud your reasonable and tolerant approach, except…

    Except I hope it does not backfire. A friend of mine had a collision where the other driver shot out of a side road without looking, caused a collision and immediately admitted fault. She then pleaded for my friend not to take it any further. As the damage to his carwas slight, he took pity on her and let it go.
    End of story. Except it wasn’t.
    A while later he received a letter from her insurers demanding he pay up for damaging her car. Apparently her story had changed somewhat.

    It is harsh to deprive anyone of their personal mobility – especially, I suspect, in your country, where public transport is not such an accepted phenomenon in some places. But that guy may possibly need to take a refresher course, or stick to the rally track.

    I say all the above as a perfect driver myself. Except for that time one of the front wheels came off. And I only had a spare engine, but no spare tyre. Or time we went through a hedge. Or that time there was a mix up between oil and water. Or… anyway, where was I? Oh yes, being a paragon of motorized perambulation.

    By the way – we have number plates on both the front and rear of our cars too. I hadn’t realised it wasn’t universal in developed countries. (Not that I’d checked at all.) Why don’t you legislate to make it compulsory in the United States. It could help turn manufacturing around.

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    • Paul, I pray I don’t end up like your friend. The whole backfiring thing. I’ll know next week when they re-affix my license plate and I have inspection.

      I have to admit, other people’s accidents are much more amusing. Going through a hedge? Confusing oil for water? C’mon. That’s good stuff.

      I do wish we had better public transportation in the US. Having spend some time in France and London, man did I learn to love trains! That said, I have never developed that same kind of love for the subways here in NYC. They are so much more complicated to this country mouse.

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  5. 1st of all, glad you’re okay and there wasn’t any serious damage done to either car.

    2nd: Carl, most states have both front and rear license plates. There are something like 18 that don’t.

    3rd: To answer your questions: At work I allowed a house to be built without going to my commission for approval. The whole thing blew up in my face when a town council member’s wife had to wait to go grocery shopping due to a construction worker being hit in the head with a crane ball. She had to wait, she b!tched to her husband who b!tched to my bosses and I got into a little bit of trouble. It all worked out in the end, but still, what a pain in the @ss.

    Most expensive car repair came when I was 17. It was a snowy December 31 and I was going to pick up a buddy of mine to hang out with my family over New Years Eve. I hit a patch of ice and slid sideways. The guy behind me (following too close for conditions) plowed into me. Me being the stupid 17 year old just exchanged info with him, and didn’t wait for cops to show up. After much running around we finally got his insurance company to pay for the damages. It worked out in the end, however. Because we have a friend who does body work we are able to fix the car for 1/3 the estimate and go to Disney World on the rest of the money.

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    • Hi Eric:

      1) I lived in Louisiana where front plates were not required, so I think that’s why I didn’t notice the missing plate initially.

      2) I’m guessing you always go to the commission for approval these days.

      3) You fled from the scene! Oooh! You naughty boy! (*Two spanks with teacher’s naughty ruler for that!*) Good thing you knew a friend who did body work.

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      • Yes, I almost always go to the commission for approvals (have I mentioned that I don’t always learn from my mistakes?).

        Yeah we both fled the scene. I was dumb and naive. I think he wanted to get the heck out out of dodge to avoid a ticket. It worked out in the end, but what an expensive mistake…

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  6. Hi Renee! I’m so glad that you weren’t injured. If it’s any consolation, I probably would have done exactly the same thing!

    The only accident that I’ve ever been in was when a guy in a really beat up car changed lanes, without seeing me, and hit the right, front, side panel of my old Nissan. Luckily, we we’re on the loop around the mall parking lot and only going 10 mph! By the condition of his car and the by the fact that he looked sort of rough around the edges, I assumed that he would be an uninsured driver and that I was screwed. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was insured, very nice and everything worked out. I left the accident with a dented side panel and the reminder of not judging a book by its cover!

    I’m glad your license plate was still there and I hope your costs will be minimal!🙂

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    • Sprinkles,

      Like you, I’m going with the idea that there are more nice people than dirt-bags in the world, but I have heard so many horror stories… ugh! I’ll feel better when they tell me my bumper is okay and the plate is back on.

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  7. Years ago I think I was on both sides of this scenario. I hope it’s all good!

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  8. Teresa Lepore

    I’m glad you are okay, Renee, but everything Larisa said is on point. I worked for the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (DMV in most states) for four loooong years. New Mexico drivers over the age of 75 must renew their licenses (at no fee) yearly. If they have any medical conditions (and at that age most do) they must bring a medical report from their doctors. Everyone takes a vision test and folks at this age often struggle with vision issues due to multiple prescriptions in one set of glasses. I guess this is my way of supporting your right to be ageist in certain situations. His was NOT a simple error. Shifting a car into reverse is not a common mistake. He may be well on his way to dementia, or perhaps he needs an adjustment on meds. The man is a hazard!

    Having said this, at your age I would have done precisely the same thing you did. I wasn’t aware of all the repercussions of this type of stuff until I worked for the MVD (and believe me, some of the stuff I witnessed would stand your hair on end and encourage you to never step into your vehicle again).

    You need to have your front bumper checked as well. Most vehicles have a bit of a buffer (so airbags don’t inflate in minor accidents) and he may have erased this buffer. Make certain to have them do a thorough look under the front bumper. Rear bumpers generally have the same buffer and Mr. Reverse may have lost his buffer as well.

    I honestly can’t remember the most expensive car repair I’ve ever had since they all send me into multiple states of shock. I’m afraid I’ll manifest PTSD if I try and envision them. I’ve done nice things that I wish I hadn’t but the lessons I’ve learned from them supercede any regret so the particulars don’t really matter.

    Of course, there is one potential you’ve seemed to ignore. I think he may have been flirting. You are pretty, he has blue eyes to die for and they probably weren’t able to make out the wedding band on your left hand. I think he was lonely and lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.

    (T starts to chant over and over again, “Renee has a boyfriend, Renee has a boyfriend!”) ;}

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    • “New Mexico drivers over the age of 75 must renew their licenses (at no fee) yearly.”

      I wonder why we don’t have that here. It would make for a lot of revenue so I’m surprised that somebody hasn’t tried to push that legislation past. I guess the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) must have a pretty strong lobby in NY State.

      I will have my bumper checked. (*hangs head*)

      If Mr. Reverse was, in fact, flirting, I was not picking up that vibe. I would have been more suspicious if I had sensed flirtation. I would gotten his information and then shut him down.😉

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  9. About a year ago, I was rear-ended as I was pulling off the road to get out of the way of a tailgater. We got out of the cars, assessed the damage, which was not insignificant. The kid that was driving barely spoke English but his friend knew much more so was doing all the talking. Given my years of being an ESL teacher, I’ve come to feel a little protective of non-native speakers, and I also know how tough it is sometimes to be an immigrant. I was mad but I wasn’t sure what to do.

    The friend first tried to tell me that it was my fault for slamming to a stop in the middle of the road (I saw an opportunity to pull off, so I tried to get off the road quickly, but there was no slamming on the brakes, and I was already off the road when he hit me. Anyone not tailgating me wouldn’t have even needed to slow down to avoid me).

    When he saw that this approach did nothing more than to piss me off, he tried to charm me and then play the sympathy card – they’re just coming home from work, they’re tired, you look like a nice person, we can’t afford to have this on our insurance, yadda yadda. However, I’m used to dealing with this particular act as well. Plus, anyone who knows me would tell you – correctly! – that this would piss me off even more.

    I called the police. Best thing I could have done. The damage to my car was body only but it was several thousand. The two kids turned out to be unliscensed and got two tickets. Luckily the car was insured by one of the uncles, so because it wasn’t my fault, I got my deductible back.

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    • “I called the police. Best thing I could have done. The damage to my car was body only but it was several thousand.”

      Limr:

      And this is why I am the chief Twit-in-Residence. I swear, I KNEW all this. I don’t know what happened that day. I just kind of freaked out. I knew I had to get Monkey from camp. And Ole Blue Eyes seemed so honest. But I can see now what a doofus I was.

      And to think that he could be unlicensed or driving without insurance — or perhaps has a record of other infractions! I feel awful!

      I will be smarter should this ever happen again.

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      • Believe me, this story stands out in my life because it marks the point at which I finally thought of my own interests first! Besides, I wasn’t up against sweet blue-eyed old men. I had much more of a clear-cut case because they sounded exactly like every student who has tried to bully, charm, or sneak his way into a better grade🙂 And lord knows it has never worked for those students!

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  10. I’m so sorry about your fender bender, but this post had me giggling. The “Elderdude” and the Dr. Seuss reference. Hilarious shizzle, girlfriend.😉

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  11. I have seen those blue eyes in the elderly. I’m not sure how those pools develop–they’re almost unseeing. Perhaps that’s it, so much falls away that the eyes are no longer veiled. My neighbor has eyes like that, although hers still churn up every once in awhile. I saw those eyes in my elderly parishioners. They look out with child eyes but there is a flatness about them, around them, cheeks drawn down by age and gravity–no shelter here. Perhaps that why he turned to you to let him off the hook. Your eyes offered a place for hope, a momentary refuge. Perhaps he knows it’s time to give the keys to his son but as long as the son doesn’t know, he has not lost his wheels, he is still the dad, still capable, still in charge of his own life

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    • D’Alta:

      Yes, see! Exactly! That’s what I thought was going on. I could see it in his eyes. His longing. His hope. His needs to remain a lone wolf, to stay free, to stay young.

      That said, I will want to punch him in the neck if my car has major damage.😉

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      • Teresa Lepore

        LOL, Renee! Man can D’Alta write, but there is one piece missing, “Perhaps he knows it’s time to give the keys to his son but as long as the son doesn’t know, he has not lost his wheels, he is still the dad, still capable, still in charge of his own life” AND OURS. I shudder to think of his next accident. Better alive and less in charge me thinks. ;}

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  12. Methinks one good turn deserves another-and this good act will be repaid in some way, in this life or the next.
    And this is a funny story well told! =)

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  13. Good heavens, all this advice…. I’m just glad you’re okay!

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  14. You’re always taking a risk anytime you decide not to be a selfish jerk. However I find that, for the most part, it’s more satisfying. If anything, it gave you credibility as a not entirely awful person. That doesn’t count for anything tangible but it still makes me want to buy you a coffee or tea.

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