The Blame Game

My Honda’s rear bumper represents a dilemma.  Who should pay for its jagged, smashed in damage?

Surely someone is to blame.

The fella at the Honda repair shop asked me, “Who was at fault?”  And the owner of Bird Auto repairs wanted to know what happened and who caused it.  “You should call that guy and ask him to pay for this!”

I shouldn’t have to pay for my new bumper.  I liked the sound of that, zero for me, $700 for the other driver, who, by the way, drove away without a scratch — unless he bent a tire rim or had to replace his two front tires when his right front tire failed as a result of slamming into my car’s rear bumper.

Except…it’s complicated.

On the way to Saturday market, I reminded myself not to park near the entrance to the lot because drivers had been entering it carelessly.  I chose a slot away from the entrance and away from any other vehicles.  No cars were adjacent to my car when I walked off to my favorite vegetable vendor.

When I returned to my car, it was dwarfed by an adjacent extended cab, long bed truck.  Apparently the pickup’s driver also wanted to avoid parking near the market’s entrance.

I’m well rehearsed on how to back out of a parking space. However,  I do not know how to see through a truck.  I now realize that asking someone to watch for me as I backed out would have been advisable.  But hindsight doesn’t come first;  it comes when?  You got it– afterwards!

After you slip out of the space, after you crane your head as if you really do have x-ray vision, after you hear the thud and feel the surprising punch of another vehicle hitting yours.  

Where did HE come from?  But of course, HE came from the entrance you had carefully avoided.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, ma’am,” he said.  “Are you okay?”  He looked dumbfounded.  And he was sincerely sorry. “I just wasn’t watching.  I was looking toward the other lane.”

I thought, “%^*#%!”

“This has been the worst morning.”  And he did look frazzled, this man on the way to buy vegetables for his wife, this man with the unperturbed family dog in the backseat.

“It’s just a bumper,” I said.

“I was hurrying.  My mother is in a nursing home.  My dad fell off the roof and is in the hospital.  I have to get to Indiana today.  And now this!”

After we traded essential information and asked things like “What’s your dog’s name?”  And “What church do you go to?” I drove off.

Okay, so he wasn’t watching.  He was in a hurry and was distracted.  But… I chose the parking space.  Besides,  I could have asked a friend to watch for an oncoming car.

Why make problems for this fella?  Because he was more to blame than I?  Or maybe he wasn’t.  Maybe circumstances simply complicated our Saturday-to-market choices.

I could have called him and asked him to split the cost with me.  I think he would have been glad to do that.  I went so far as to rehearse my request.  But I just couldn’t do it.  It was only a bumper.  I would eventually have enough money to pay for its repairs.

Don’t get the wrong idea here.  I can be self-righteous.  Just ask my husband.  Once I get on my high horse, it would take a crane to pull me from my saddle.

I just couldn’t find any steam for blaming the other guy.  And without that steam, I couldn’t ask for recompense.

So for now, I’m driving around with a jagged hole in my car’s bumper.  I’m even getting used to it.  It’s an image thing:  I’m the kind of person who can wait to have a bumper fixed, which kind of surprised me, the notorious perfectionist and consummate editor of life.

Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos. — Doug Coupland, author of All Families are Psychotic.

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