I have been driving since I was 21 years old. Trust me, that's a very long time - four decades, to be exact. Up until last year, the only mishaps have been minor fender-benders, unless you count the almost-collision with a train that was only averted by fast thinking, slamming the Corvair into reverse and running into a beer truck.
True story. Honest. Only back then I was young, fairly attractive and cried for the truck driver and policeman.
My first accident of last year involved my Jeep, a long extension cord and my house. It's really very simple, and a mistake anyone can make. I pulled into our carport, not realizing the young man next door was finishing up the back yard and blowing off leaves and such. When I found I had parked on top of the cord to the blower, I backed up.
But I forgot to close the driver's side door. And with my foot dangling out, I couldn't find the brake. The next sound I heard was the door being pulled off its hinges by the post holding up the carport.
Well, that wasn't really the first sound. That was poor Dustin yelling, "Stop, Miss Pat! Stop!"
I have to say my husband Jay was very calm. He should have been. Up until then, as far as he was concerned, my driving record was good.
The following two weeks were spent listening to harassment from my friends and neighbors - the usual stuff one can expect when such an unfortunate incident occurs. Even the body shop people thought it was funny. Our insurance company was very understanding. No nasty phone calls. No nasty letters. No increases in premiums. Of course not. Everyone is allowed one mistake.
Two weeks later, as I was driving to my doctors for a flu shot, I rear-ended a poor young man trying to get to his job on time. It was as if a spaceship dropped the car in front of me. But we all know that couldnt be, dont we? Obviously, I was off in never-never land and never saw the car. It wouldnt have been so bad, if he hadnt been so sweet about it. I jumped out of my large SUV, which had demolished his small but very attractive vehicle, ran up to him, apologizing all the way and wanting to know if he was all right. The first words out of his mouth? "It's OK, ma'am. It was just an accident."
That was only the beginning. As we stood there ready to exchange information and such, a woman drove up and offered the use of her cell phone. I have a cell phone. We pay the bill every month, even though it stays on top of my dresser most of the time. But Im getting off track again. I called 911 and then handed the phone to the young man.
He called his mother.
Ha! Going to let mom do his dirty work, was he? Ill just prepare myself for the onslaught while trying to figure out how I could have possible missed this car right in front of me. Ten minutes pass. Up drives a car and the mother and grandmother step out. Preparing for the worst when the grandmother walks towards me, I straightened my spine and called up every fiber of courage I could manage. Needless to say, I was caught totally off guard when she put her arms around me and said, Thank heaven, no one was hurt!
OK, so now what am I supposed to do? I was prepared to do battle, and here she was hugging me in the middle of Belair Road. Then, up drives the sheriffs deputy. I was really going to get raked over the coals now. Prepare yourself, Pat. This was all your fault. Take your medicine like a good 60-year-old Granny. The deputy took all our information, asked questions and then did something quite unexpected. He put his arm around my shoulder and told me everything was going to be all right.
Well, that was the last straw. I burst out crying and asked, why was everyone being so nice to me when I had smashed a poor kid's car he'd probably waited all his life to buy?
Yes, everyone was being kind. Everyone but the insurance company. They tacked $300 extra on our policy every six months for heaven knows how long.
But that's not when I got angry. When did I get angry? It was when, for the second time in a month, I went to pick up my poor vehicle from the body shop. This shop is on Broad Street. My husband and the owner of the shop, and one of his golfing buddies stood out in the middle of the street yelling for everyone to get out of the way because I was behind the wheel again.
No class. No class at all. Everybody makes mistakes now and again. Only thing is, everybodys also telling me they come in threes.
What can I say? If you see me coming, watch out!
(Pat Fickle is a Martinez resident.)
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