Lunch Crunch Fender Bender

It was Monday, lunchtime, and I was sitting in my blue Honda hybrid, about to move it out of its convenient two-hour-limit downtown Santa Cruz parking meter space into a different convenient time-limit space, listening to Cokie Roberts talk on NPR about mixed-religion families and looking down at my iPhone app, where I inform the parking gods I am finishing here and moving elsewhere, when --  


I looked up to see the white Ford pickup truck that had been parked in the space ahead of me now sitting slightly on the hood of my car.  It had backed into my car and was attempting to scrape itself off my car and pull into traffic.  To drive away. The blinker was on as if the driver hadn't seen what he crunched into, as if it hadn't happened.

HONK! I notified him, throwing my hands up in a WTF? gesture for him to see in his rearview mirror.

We both got out.

I saw his cowboy hat, level with my head, and his neatly tucked-in shirt, white jeans and shiny, new, white, reptile-skin cowboy boots. I took in the mortified look on his face and his "Lo siento, lo siento," and I scaled back my initial reaction.

"¿Que paso?" I said.  He shook his head and began using his hands to wipe at the paint scuffs and deep scratches on the front of my hood and bumper. He didn't look at me, just kept shaking his head, rubbing at the paint, saying, "Comes off, comes off," and I kept pointing and saying, "Oh, pero, mira, y mira," and sadly shaking my head too.

Finally, it had to be asked.

"¿Tiene insurance?" I said. He met my eyes.

"I ha' forty dollar," he said hopefully. "Help you buff?"  He fished two twenties out of a wallet that held two twenties and five ones.

I looked at my 7-year-old Honda, in which I had taught my sons how to drive a stick-shift because if you know how to drive a stick you will never be stuck for a ride no matter how messed up your friends are, and swiftly inventoried the learn-to-drive nicks and dents and scuffs, cataloguing like my-life-flashing-before-my-eyes every minor crunch and scratch of the past seven years and the discussions that followed about how it's just a car, is everybody OK?, what's important is that you're safe, that security guard who gave you a hard time was a jerk, and if you're going to steal it for the night at least leave a little gas in the tank.

It would cost at least $1,500 and weeks of auto-repair appointments to replace a creased hood and grooved bumper, and if I file a claim my insurance rates will go up. What's a few more scratches?


"Deal," I said.

He almost peeled out.


  1. Afterward, I was still in my car listening to the rest of Cokie Roberts' story, when a fellow on foot approached the open window on the passenger side of my car.

    "I feel terrible," he said. "I saw the whole thing, and I should have come over right away to see if you were all right."

    He'd been sitting at a nearby bus stop. I said I was just fine, no real harm to the car and none at all to me.

    "Oh, that's good. I just, you know, wasn't in a good space to do that," he said. "But then I felt bad, and so here I am, and I just, like, wanted to put that out there. OK?"

    OK. :)

  2. Good decision. A car, over time, is meant to collect dents and scratches. Gives character to a vehicle.

  3. I love the bus stop guy. So Santa Cruz. I just want to put that out there, OK?

  4. Thanks, Steve and Missy. He was funny.

    Frank, I agree. Dings and dents on a car are like the smile lines on a face -- evidence that you've been around the block a time or two. :)

  5. We could all stand for a little more of this kind of interpersonal calculus in our lives--thanks for sharing it.

  6. Interpersonal calculus - I love it.

  7. Look at it this way, this is great material for Steve's next novel.

  8. This kind of stuff is why I like you. You could have made the guy's life miserable, but your car would still be all gouged up and his life would still have been miserable.

    Instead, you made the right choice. Proud of you.

  9. I swear, I wasn't fishing for compliments! Thanks. :)