Do we need any more catastrophes? Pandemics, economic free-falls, California wildfires and toxic air? How about getting smashed by a 16-wheeler?
It is the final indignity.
Metal being ripped and torn, car parts scraping the concrete roadway, the harshest sound accompanied by the ugliest of sights and smells, this is just not a good way to start your day. But some days just seem to choose their own paths. Mine was chosen not by me but by the giant 16-wheeler truck that decided to turn right from the center lane precisely as I was turning right from the proper right-turn lane. You would think he might have noticed that little car directly in his path (doing exactly everything legal and proper, it should be noted.) But no.
The first life lesson here is, in any encounter between small cars and16-wheelers, the big guy wins. The second is, sturdy small cars are good.
Eventually the crashing and shattering slowed, and I crunched my way to the curb. The big guy pulled to the curb in front of me – unscathed, I might mention. It was reassuring to find I could open the door and get out of my car; we should be grateful for small favors.
The thing about early morning catastrophe – this is probably true of catastrophes any time – is that the rest of one’s life is simply tossed aside while the catastrophe takes over. For thirty minutes or so I waited for the police. We are trained – aren’t we? – to remain at the scene of the crime, and after all, that giant truck had just killed my beloved 2000 Volvo S40. Its name was the LilyPad. I don’t know about other urban centers, but if you’re in San Francisco waiting for someone to come to an accident scene, forget that. I have since learned that the thing to do, in San Francisco at least, is mention blood or difficulty breathing and the police will come. I called the tow truck for the LilyPad.
All one really wants in these circumstances is affirmation. At least, that was all I wanted: someone, anyone other than the driver of the giant truck – who was unlikely to fill this role – to confirm how utterly blameless I was. And how cleverly I had steered myself out of mortal harm. I mean, seven decades on the road and not one moving traffic violation. Am I going to let a poorly driven 16-wheeler mess up my record? Mr. Quoc, the driver, was single-mindedly interested in repeating the only three words of English I know him to speak: “Wide right turn! Wide right turn!” In Mr. Quoc’s defense, he simply didn’t see me way down there. My understanding of his position, however, stops short of excusing him for not noticing the LilyPad in her proper lane.
The indignity of losing control of one’s day grows exponentially with the insurance experience.
Early on, my friend Naomi of the giant truck’s insurance company evidenced more concern with my health and wellbeing than I thought necessary. Nice of her, but still.
“You didn’t go get checked out?! You should go get checked out!”
It’s possible Naomi – who had at least graciously said they were “accepting responsibility” – was thinking Personal Injury Claims. So she wanted to send my octogenarian self to a hospital in the midst of a pandemic? I thought better of that.
But the final indignity is the bottom line. Not only is no one going to compliment me on my driving skills, Naomi is going to pay me about $1,300 for my beloved 2000 Volvo S40 – something about book value. OK. – and absolutely zero for anything else – something about the way insurance works. Days lost? Angst and agonies of buying a new car (at least I found a 2001 Volvo S40)? No dice, I should’ve thought to break a bone or something.
(This essay appeared earlier on Medium.com, a good site for information and ideas that I’m enjoying writing for. Check it out.)