I like to refer to the week before I went on vacation as “The Week My Faith in Humanity was Temporarily Shattered.” Okay, I’ve never actually used that term in actual conversation. But I have thought of it that way. Not only was I screwed over by Orbitz (requiring many phone calls with both Orbitz’s out-sourced customer service department–think major language barrier and voice-driven menu options that in no way actually applied to my situation)…and not only did my least favorite neighbors stand outside my house and loudly talk about what a “stuck up bitch” I am because I picked up some litter…but I was also in my first car accident.
I realize “car accident” implies a moderate-to-high level of damage and injury. “Fender bender” is probably a more accurate term, but it’s just to cutesy for me (this from someone who uses a pink Hello Kitty calculator at work).
I was driving up Aramingo Avenue in lovely Port Richmond after an early Saturday morning yoga class (yeah, I know). I was actually only a few blocks away from my destination when the “accident” occurred.
I’m not ashamed to admit this: I drive like a granny…except for when I’m on the highway. Driving in Philly requires nerves of steel and cat-like reflexes. It’s been a hard adjustment for someone who has used a bicycle as the primary mode of transportation for more than 10 years. I can only imagine the wear-and-tear on my brakes.
So I wasn’t moving at more than 5 mph when the truck in front of me slammed on its brakes. I immediately braked, but alas, it just wasn’t enough. I barely tapped the truck. The driver–an old-ish man–started screaming at me and waving his fist. I suggested that we pull of the street–Aramingo is a really busy thoroughfare–to discuss this. He continued to yell threats at me like, “Lady…you better have insurance or you will really regret this.” Okay, okay. I assured him that I had insurance and we could talk about it WHEN WE PULLED OFF THE MAJOR FUCKING STREET WHERE WE WERE HOLDING UP LOTS OF TRAFFIC AND PEOPLE WERE HONKING THEIR HORNS AND PROBABLY PLANNING TO BEAT ME UP/ROB ME. I didn’t say that. I just kept smiling and motioning to the side street.
We finally pulled off to the side street. When I turned off my car, I realized that I was shaking uncontrollably. I grabbed my insurance information, a pen and paper. I expected that there might be some kind of surprise damage, especially since they guy was acting so ENRAGED. My car had a little scratch on the front, kind of like someone backed into me when parallel parking. To be honest, the damage could have been there before and I wouldn’t have noticed it because it was so minor (and my car is 15 years old).
A glance at the guy’s truck revealed no obvious damage. He jumped out of the truck and continued to yell at me, threatening all sorts of misfortune for me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “This is my first accident ever and I am not sure what I am supposed to do. Please calm down so we can exchange information.”
I wrote down all of my insurance information for him. My handwriting looked crazy because I was shaking so much. He demands to see the card so he can confirm that I am not making all of this up. And then he says something like, “Is this a real insurance card?”
Sometimes I am really amazed by how passive and frightened I can be in situations like this. If my friends are like, “Let’s jump off the roof onto that moldy mattress down below,” I am already taking off my shoes and assuming my best swan dive position. But if some dude is yelling at me for possibly slightly denting his bumper, I’m paralyzed with fear. So really I should have said, “Listen bitch! Of course my insurance is fucking legitimate. Surely you have heard of ? They have television in the cave where you live, right? Well, then…I have a knife in my car and I will not hesitate to gut you right here and now if you don’t treat me this some fucking respect. So shut the fuck up and give me your insurance information.” But instead I just continued to shake and sweat. I thought about walking to other side of my car and vomiting up the Clif bar I had before yoga class.
After I copied down all of his information, he suddenly changed his tune. “Sorry for yelling out you, it’s just that things like this are really stressful.” I accepted his apology and we shook hands. And then I drove home to sit on my couch to freak out for awhile. I know it sounds weird, but I was really mad at myself for the accident. I was going through this whole, “Why am I such a fuck up?” reel in my head. And then I imagined that my parents were going to be like, “Oh, god…now what? What trouble did you get into now?” But then I realized that stuff like this happens every day and it’s not like I was drunk or something. Car insurance exists for a reason.
But then…my insurance agent called me on Monday. Apparently this guy was claiming that he was injured! What? I practically shrieked on the telephone. When I explained the nature and details of the actual accident to the agent, she realized that the guy was obviously scamming. I didn’t even mention that he was so nasty to me. They brought him in for an “interview” and I guess they saw right through his ridiculousness. But still…what is wrong with so many people? When I told my mom about it, she said, “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. I mean, you know how people are…”
Okay…I understand that everyone is struggling to survive. It’s Darwinism, survival of the fittest, blahblahblah. But why does actually integrity and honesty have to disappear? And why should we expect that other people are constantly trying to get one over on us? Very disheartening. Why is picking up litter a stuck-up, bitchy thing to do? And why is it not only okay to scream threats at a stranger, but then also try to scam them?
Should we always expect the worst?