Someone hit my parked car the other day.
I really hate when people mess with my car when he is sitting there minding his own business, but this was a complete accident. What made this event blog-worthy is the way the lady reacted to her mistake (hint: not well).
Originally I was going to post a rant about the entire incident but after I vented to my friends for a while I realized that even though this lady pissed me off and made herself look a little ridiculous, she gave me a small gift.
So let’s start from the beginning:
I am closing out of my email and getting ready to leave the office when a young guy that works in the building comes running in shouting my name.
“Yeah?” I asked, peaking around my privacy wall (actually it is just a cabinet I commandeered, but it works very well as a privacy wall).
“Someone hit your car!’ he yelled with a little too much glee. Seriously. I appreciate you letting me know, but you don’t have to sound so excited about it.
“Oooohhhh” says the entire office at the same time.
I sighed. I slowly rose (my coworker said I looked like Mount Vesuvius just before it lost its shit and exploded). I walked outside into the dark. A girl is standing by my car, shining the light from her cell phone onto my front left panel.
“There’s no damage!”
“Ummm… OK, what is going on here?”
Then the driver shows up.
“I don’t know what happened!” she screeched at me.
“Ok, what’s your insurance information?” I asked
“Oh well, I will give you my phone number but I really don’t think there is any damage.”
“Well it is dark right now and we can’t see anything, I will look tomorrow in the daylight, what is your insurance info?”
“Ok, here is my number, if there is any damage call me.”
It was cold, raining, and dark so I took her contact info and went inside.
I am sure she was embarrassed and frustrated and probably a little nervous. A crowd of people saw her drive into my car and they stood around to watch the rest of the scene. If I were in her shoes I would be freaking out about what this was going to do to my insurance premiums because here Italy we are essentially being price gouged by our insurance companies. But when you drive your car into someone else’s you have to give up your insurance information, its the law, its also what decent people do.
The next day I sent her pictures of the damage and asked for her insurance information. The damage is all cosmetic and can probably be patched up pretty quickly. Easy-peasy, right?
Of course not.
She didnt give me her insurance information, instead she wanted to meet after work (in the dark) so she could inspect the damage (in the dark) because her car didnt show any damage.
While I am over-the-moon-happy for her that she managed to hit a parked car and not get a scratch on her own car, she did scratch up mine and I was not thrilled that she was trying to play coy with me. I was also not thrilled that she was implying I was somehow trying to scam her.
I really, really do understand her desire to sweep this under the rug, or ignore it and hope it goes away. I have ignored lots of issues, hoping they would give up and go away. Obviously they didn’t, they got bigger and uglier and I was always left wishing I would have just done the right thing from the get-go.
I would like to say that I grew out of that impulse as I matured but the truth is that I simply learned (the hard way) to resist that urge and take responsibility for the stupid stuff I do. It’s not fun, and it’s usually expensive, but it’s what grown folks do and so I will do it too.
She finally gave me the name of her insurance company but not her policy number. Luckily, we both use the same insurance so I called them and explained that she was playing coy. The agent told me I was going to have to get a police report with witness statements in order to establish that she was the one at fault since she was not cooperating or I would have to use my own insurance and pay the deductible myself. I have a high deductible. What I don’t have is bags of money to throw around, so off to the police station I went.
The cops were baffled. They didnt want to fill out a report for a simple traffic accident. They asked why we couldn’t have just exchanged insurance information. They explained that their office doesn’t have to be involved in what they call a “friendly agreement” which is when one person hits another’s car and then takes responsibility with the insurance companies.
This lady stood in the police station and screeched through the double paned glass that she had no idea what happened, she was just driving along and then out of nowhere she heard a noise. She didn’t know what that noise was, but it didnt sound like metal scrapping (in her expert opinion). When she got out of the car people were yelling that she’d hit a car (so hard, they said it rocked back and forth). And yet, she maintained that she couldn’t have been the cause of the damage to my car.
At this point the two lead cops (I am sure they have more official titles but I am civilian, I have no idea what those titles are) called me into the back and asked me what the hell was going on. I explained the situation and then they started talking about opening a case and rattling off numbers and other cop jargon.
All of a sudden this minor traffic accident blew up. Now she was going to be investigated for fleeing the scene of an accident and other offenses I didnt understand.
In the end I got the information I needed to get my car fixed and she got a plate load of problems.
I’m not going to lie, I definitely gloated a little bit. Justice had been served! She wasn’t going to get away with her shenanigans! Hooray!
But now that I have had time to think about it I feel mostly empathy with her. She probably also has a sky-high deductible or is worried that if her insurance rates go any higher she is going to have to make even more cuts to an already lean budget. I am sure like the rest of us, she just doesn’t have the time or energy to deal with this crap. This whole situation sucks.
What I learned from her is that the outcome of any situation is so dependent on your attitude. She came out of that car ready to steam roll me into agreeing with her that this was no big deal. The next day she was ready to play hardball about the insurance. At the police station she was ready to cause a scene. She wanted this situation to go away and she was ready to fight for it.
What if she had come out of the car ready to apologize for hitting another car?
What if she had asked how we could work together to get the damage fixed without breaking the bank?
What if instead of relying on anger and defensiveness she let the softer, more vulnerable emotions have a say in this interaction?
Things probably would have gone differently, more smoothly. At least the cops wouldn’t have been involved.
I am a lot like her. When I am under pressure I rely heavily on my fight instincts. I get angry and defensive. I see other people as the enemy.
You know what happens when you see other people as the enemy? You make a lot of enemies.
I believe that there are times when you need to put on your armor and go to battle, but probably not every time. Probably not every fight.
In the spirit of this recent adventure I am going to try (I said try!) to be more aware of the times I am relying on my fight instincts and ask myself if there are more appropriate emotions I could be accessing. Wish me luck.