Tuesday, 16 August 2005

don't slow down you're gonna crash

I had a little accident this morning.

I had just got into my car, and as it was facing the wrong way, I backed it into the neighbouring street to turn it around and head into work. As I was reversing my car, I bumped into a stationary car which was parked (badly) across the apex of the corner. I wasn't driving fast, but there was a definite impact. My initial reaction was that I couldn't have done any damage at that speed, and mindful of the fact that all the cars in my street have the little nicks and scratches associated with on-road parking, including mine, I drove on to work. As I pulled away though, I looked in my rear view mirror, and saw a yellow flash on the otherwise blue bumper. This played on my mind. Had I hit the car harder than I thought? I stopped a few streets further away and got out to have a look at the back of my car. Nothing. Barely a scratch. I shrugged, and rationalised that whatever I saw on the other car must already have been there.

Of course, me being me, I couldn't leave it at that, and this has preyed on my mind all day. When I got home, pretty much the first thing that I did was to surreptitiously wander down the street to have a look at the other car (which had been moved). It's an Escort, and it looked as though the bumper had some kind of crumple zone filled with foam to absorb impact, and this had collapsed, leaving a hole.

Shit.

That must have been me.

I immediately rang Lord B and C and asked them what I should do. Both of them had the same advice. Do nothing. The world is full of terrible people and you will only be exploited if you try to be nice. Not last week, someone in a white car had bumped into me in the car park at work and left a little dink in the bodywork and a whole lot of white paint. I had been mildly annoyed but left it at that.

I felt terrible about this, but I knew what I had to do. A dink is one thing, but a hole in the bumper is something else. I had to do what I would hope that someone else would do if they had dented my car. Mindful of C's advice to admit nothing, I wrote a note saying something like "Call me regarding your car" and my number. The plan was to screen the call and see what they had to say. If they rang me immediately and knew what it was about, then it probably was me and we could just move on to getting quotes or something. If they didn't ring me, then they may just have thought it was about their bad parking or something.

I immediately felt better. This would cost me a few hundred quid, but I would be doing the right thing, and would be able to live with myself. I wandered out to the car, and slipped the envelope under the windscreen wiper. Now I was out in the open, I wandered to the back bumper to have a closer look. The bumper had definitely caved in, but actually there was some more damage on the body work around the side of the car, and a splash of blue paint on the bumper as though someone had touched up the bodywork. As I looked at it, I started to think how this would be more expensive than I thought, but that it looked like a hell of a lot of damage to have caused by touching bumpers. In fact, hang on, close up, this car looks a bit crappy. I started having misgivings. Did I really do all that?

I wandered back round to the front of the car to retrieve my envelope. As I did so, I could see that the tax had expired at the end of May. No tax. Probably no insurance. Surely more extensive damage than I could have caused. I walked.

I did carelessly reverse into that car, regardless of how badly it was parked, and I really wanted to do the right thing; to do what I would like to believe all decent people would do in the same position. Instead, I have assumed that the owner of this car would have tried to exploit me for damage that I probably didn't cause.

Why can't I believe that this person would just smile and tell me not to worry and that it wasn't anything to do with me? Why have I assumed the worst about someone to protect myself? I feel like a total shit, and I think a little bit worse of myself than I did this morning.

(I also hope no one saw me).

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