Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Out of Nowhere

I was rear-ended today driving home from work.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, barely a cloud in the sky. I was cruising down I-95 with top down, the Ray-Bans on, the Beach Boys on the radio, when WHAM, a Ford Explorer caught the right rear corner of the Mustang, taking out the taillight lens, scattering pieces of red plastic across the traffic lane, and wrinkling the bumper bad enough to leave a trail of paint chips all the way to the shoulder and all over the bumper of the Explorer.

We pulled over. The other driver, a woman in her early forties (I saw her driver’s license info), got out and apologized profusely, saying she wasn’t used to driving such a big car. It was her husband’s, she said, but I think she was on a cell phone when she hit me – she had it in her hand when she got out of the car. She offered to pay for all the damage if we didn’t call the cops. Well, while her intentions were good, I know enough people in the police and insurance business who say when you hear that, call the cops. I declined her offer, dialed *FHP, and waited.

And waited. Granted, a fender-bender in the middle of rush hour in Miami is not an emergency, but I was not going to get stuck with a damaged car and run the risk of having to scrap with her later over the cost of repairs. And when I am determined to do something, I can be very tenacious. (Some would say stubborn. A friend once told me that I am so stubborn that if I fell unconscious into a river, I’d float upstream.) So I was going to wait. I must admit, about two hours and fifteen minutes into it I nearly said, “Oh, the hell with it, gimme your information,” but I held firm, and that was when the Florida Highway Patrol showed up.

Officer J. Nadal was patient, polite, and even joking a little as he took our information. I expressed my gratitude for taking care of such a minor thing. “Hey, it’s your car,” he said. He wrote up the report, cited the other driver for careless driving, and I left after thanking the officer again for his time.

I called her insurance company, filed the claim, and within a half-hour I had authorization to take it to A Auto Tech, the repair shop of choice for my car club and the place that will be restoring my 1988 Pontiac 6000 LE Safari wagon next year.

It could have been so much worse. Someone could have been hurt, the other driver might not have had insurance, she might have copped an attitude, she might even have tried to take off. But patience and keeping cool made it work out.

And I should get the Mustang back in time for the big show at Homestead on January 31. All’s well that ends well.