Friday, August 15, 2003
Things That Go Bump in the Night
There's such a thing as being too clever sometimes. Like the other night when I came home from the movies and parked my prized Honda CRV across from the parking lot of the local bar. Knowing that they were having a big beer bash that night, I thought "no way am I going to leave my car here, directly in the path of dozens of half-blind, judgement-impaired drunk drivers!" No sir, I decided to play it safe. I moved my car way down the block to a protected location, congratulating myself on my foresight and prudence. As I walked back to my apartment, I noticed a big black Cadillac Escalade wedging itself into the space I had just vacated. I couldn't help but think what a great target that Escalade would make for some inebriated slob, careening out of the parking lot a few minutes after closing time. Oh well, we can't all be geniuses. I slept soundly that night, secure in the wisdom of my precautions.
The next morning as I walked down the sidewalk towards my car, I could have sworn that I had parked it in a different spot than the one it now occupied. In addition, it seemed to be sitting at a slightly cockeyed angle to the curb. I was sure I had done a better job of parking than that. I walked out into the street to get a better look. Sure enough, my car was crooked as hell. I immediately flashed on the time my old Toyota had been banged so hard that it was shoved up against the curb. Damn these drunks!
When I got closer I realized that it was worse than I thought. My front left wheel was jammed up against the inside of the fender. I felt the bottom of my stomach drop out and a wave of rage flood my brain. I got in and tried to move the car, thinking I could take it to the repair shop down the street, but it was undriveable. What the hell happened? There was hardly any damage to the body, but the wheel was completely cocked and the car looked like it had been bounced several feet. I looked around and noticed another car parked on the other side of the street that had its whole left side crushed in. I figured some idiot had bounced off that car and sideswiped mine. I was completely freaked. Here I've only had the car about ten days and it's already wrecked! It seemed like every time I try to do something for myself it ends up in disaster. Oh, and did I mention that I hadn't changed my insurance policy over to include collision coverage? I still had the minimum coverage that I had on my Toyota and was planning to update the policy after I sold it. But at least I still had my Toyota, and despite it's squealing brakes, smoking engine and dangling bumper, it got me to work.
That evening I was out looking at the damage when a guy called out from an upstairs window, "Is that your car?" I nodded. "I'll be right down," he said. He comes out of his house and introduces himself (his name is Marvin) and asks, "Do you have any idea what happened here last night?" I said, "I guess someone hit my car." He laughed and then told me the whole story:
Apparently this guy, we'll call him the Asshole, pulled away from the curb at the end of the block and proceeded up the street towards my car. Marvin happened to be returning home at the time and noticed that the Asshole's vehicle was swerving over into the wrong lane. As Marvin watched, Asshole clipped the front of my car, driving it backwards a full ten feet until it jammed up against the curb. At that point, Asshole's 1999 Malibu flipped completely over and landed on an Acura Integra parked across the street. Moments later Asshole emerged from the car, looking none too sober.
Soon thereafter, several police cars appeared on the scene, along with a fire truck, EMT's and a tow truck. Dozens of onlookers gathered around to watch. The street was blocked for hours. The tow truck had to drag my car out of the way in order to get Asshole's Malibu off of the Integra. The police arrested the Asshole and charged him with DUI. Marvin gave a clear, credible and comprehensive statement and the guy who owned the Integra took digital pictures of the whole thing. His name is Ralph, and as it happens, he was out walking his dog and heard Marvin was telling me about the wreck. Neither one of them could believe that I had missed the whole thing, considering the tremendous noise of the crash, followed by the sirens, bright lights and general commotion that followed. I was kind of surprised myself. But, I am a pretty sound sleeper. Besides, I lived in Brooklyn for nine years, so things like gunshots, police sirens, car wrecks and loud screams are as soothing to me as the sound of a babbling brook or the gentle ocean surf.
Anyway, I spent the next few weeks dealing with the Asshole's insurance company, who turned out to be quite cooperative and have agreed to pay for all repairs. Those repairs ended up being pretty extensive, as there was a lot of damage to the front axle. On an interesting side note, however, the one item that needed attention on the car when I bought it just happened to be a loose axle boot on the front left side. Since I'm now getting an entirely new axle, I won't have to worry about replacing that anymore.
The car is still at the shop where it was towed by a Russian guy named Shawn who kept saying, "don't vorry, is collusion center, is fix everything, no problem." For a while I wasn't sure exactly what a "collusion" center did, but now I realize that they try to find as many things wrong with your car as possible without going over the amount that the insurance company will pay for repairs. Fortunately, in my situation they seemed to have reached just the right balance, so that the bill for all the repairs will be very nearly equal to what I paid for the car in the first place, but still a couple thousand less than its market value.
It seems that I lucked out after all. I outsmarted myself by moving my car to what I thought was a safer parking space, but was in fact directly in the path of a drunken driver. And that damn Escalade got through the night without a scratch. Have I learned my lesson? I don't know. No matter what you try to do to prepare yourself, something always happens that you never saw coming. I'm sure I'll be a little nervous the first few times I park my car out on the street again. And I'll probably go ahead and get the collision coverage on my insurance. And next time there's a beer bash, I'm parking behind that goddamn Escalade!
Good Luck to you all,