Husband's note: Since I only received two sympathy comments to my post yesterday, I'll take another stab at posting today. Not that I am developing a complex (because most of my posts on this blog only get one or two comments) or anything, but it has become somewhat of a joke at our house when I say, "I think I'm going to post on your blog."
My wife seems to be so much more popular than me, and rightfully so. SHE IS AMAZING!!!! But since going to see Wicked last week, she's been singing to me, "I'm going to make you popular." I guess this is the toughest case she's ever faced. I hope she is determined to succeed.
This was originally posted on my old blog on Mon., June 26, 2006 after a minor fender bender in the days when I still drove an old silver Ford Focus before I learned the benefits of driving a Smart Car.
As I was driving down the road on my way to work this morning, the car three-or-four ahead of me had a tire blow out. Not a fun event, one that I also experienced in my nearly 18 mile, 1 hour commute earlier this year.
As a result of the tire blow out, the driver slowed down considerably and steered his car off the road. All of traffic slowed down to about 40 MPH. As the injured car pulled to the side of the freeway, the car behind him slowed down drastically as a result, and the car in front of me slowed down as well - but a bit more swiftly. I, too, slowed down quickly and stopped, but the two cars behind me apparently did not see what was happening and slammed on their brakes.
Knowing I was going to be hit, I released the brakes, steered into the least busy lane and was propelled forward by the impact. The car behind me appeared to be hit as he veered into this lane.
Being a safety-conscious driver - and one who hates stopped traffic blocking lanes - my instinct was to pull off the road to exchange information. I decided that it would be best to pull off at the same location as the man who would soon be fixing his tire. He could serve as a witness, if needed. I guess I should have thought that I may be able to help him, but at this moment, I must have been consumed with the condition of my own car.
The car who hit me pulled off with us. The car that seemed to hit him did not, nor did any of those who saw what happened. It was a nice seemingly new car (or at least a new "used" car). The man shook my hand and said he had a "dealer's car" or had purchased a "dealer's car" or something like that, and it had unreadable dealer tags and no license plate (Red flag #1), and said he was disappointed that the one who hit him didn't stop. His female companion stayed in the car, looking extremely worried. (Red flag #2)
We spoke briefly to the man who was now fixing his tire, a pleasant fellow with his wife, to determine what had happened. Our stories were consistent. We then assessed damage.
His car's bumper was damaged. It was crushed in. It definitely looked worse than mine. My car was not very damaged and my intent was to take to a mechanic to ensure nothing was wrong with the car, leave the scratched and partially-dented bumper and fix the hanging muffler myself (or at least with my father-in-law's help).
I asked the man who hit me for his insurance card and contact information. He said he didn't have it with him, as it was a new car (Red flag #3). I said that I would still like his contact information. He offered to fix the car (Red flag #4)- and that it wasn't a big deal (it probably wasn't, but I of course, wanted to make sure with a mechanic). I declined, saying I'd likely do most of the work myself. But persisted on his asking for his insurance information. He again declined, but said he'd give me his contact details, which he simply wrote and underlined on a piece of paper "my name" as if he'd eventually write his name under it, (Red flag #5) so I said I'd check with my insurance company if a simple exchange of info would suffice. He again tied to re-enforced that he'd "take care of everything." Of course, I already know that my insurance requires a police report. I called my father-in-law to get his opinion on what he would do. He re-enforced that I should file a police report.
So, feeling educated and buoyed up to do what was right, I told this man I wanted to file a report as he didn't have his insurance card. He became belligerent (Red flag #6), and then tried the reasoning of the damned to escape punishment. In a seemingly last-ditch effort to sway me, he asked if I had ever been in an accident before (I had) and why I was being difficult (I said I was only obeying the rules), and that none of us had the time to wait for the police. (Red flag #7, 8 and 9, respectively)
He then said something that will stick with me for a long time:
"DON'T YOU TRUST ME?"
(Big red flag at this point).
I told the man it had nothing to do with trust. I had never met him before, and therefore could not trust or distrust him. Trust is something earned. It is not something that exists inherently until proven otherwise. I thought he was going to hit me, but I simply said, "This is what my insurance requires, and that's how we are going to do it."
I walked back to my car, past the man who was changing his tire, who watched our exchange. I should have stopped to help him. I didn't. I regret that.
Getting back into my car, I called my wife to let her know what had happened (As I should have done earlier). As my wife and I were talking, the man who hit me, got into his car and drove off.
I wonder, did he violate my trust? Was he worthy of my trust? Should I have trusted him? What is trust? Did I now trust him to do the wrong thing? Should I now feel that I have enough information to judge that I cannot trust him?
The police came, received a description from the pleasant man and me of the events and filled out a report. Since it was a hit and run, he suggested that since the damage to my car was minimal, not to file a claim. The pleasant man whose tire started this entire episode gave me his number and left. I need to call and thank him for his kindness to stay after his tire was fixed.
For the man who hit me: Was it worth stopping for? Why did you stop only to lose your own integrity? What was the point? Cars can be fixed. Injuries heal. Time is lost in other pursuits. And overall, the damage was not physical - is was about what is right and wrong. About taking responsibility and being accountable. Reputations are much harder to mend. But the damage to one's self, and the guilt, lasts internally for much longer. Luckily, I have no hard feelings toward this man. It was a simple accident. No damage to my car, nor my feelings, just a nice lesson taught about integrity.
However, for introspection, I would love to ask this man in response:
DO YOU TRUST YOURSELF?
I think I'll ask myself that question frequently as well.