23 July 2008

Tis Merely a Flesh Wound

I tend to make a lot of personal calls while driving. I'm sure it's an annoyance to friends, especially in dodgy coverage areas. It's always hard to interrupt a friend in mid-story (and a juicy one at that) to tell them that they had gone into the tin can and I only heard two of every three words, or less if they were of the highly syllabic variety. But, when I'm home, I am also at the office, and personal calls just aren't something I can easily manage. In the car, it's chat time. In goes the earbud and out pours conversation.

Driving home last night, I checked in on a few friends. It was about eight peeyem when I started my journey back from the hills of Hollywood. About half-past, I was in a deep discussion with one mate when I realized that I was hungry, and cooking wasn't going to happen. I decided to make a pit-stop to grab a burrito after a long, undernourished day (don't judge). We were still in the heart of the conversation, so I remained in my parked car in the crowded, ill-designed lot of the Westwood adjacent strip mall that holds a Starbucks, Poquito Mas, Baskin-Robbins, a credit union and Hollywood Video. I wanted to complete the convo (or get it to a lull) before walking into the Mas to make my order. The lot sports mostly "compact" spaces in a neighborhood known for SUVs. Parking is always a bit of an issue there. A few of the larger cars attempted to fit into the empty space next to mine, then left for wider pastures. As I was continuing my chat, I saw headlights coming toward me, then felt my car get a nudge.

"Oh, my God," I interrupted my friend. "She hit my car."

Now, you have to remember that over a year ago, I was in a series of accidents, and recently went out to find my sideview mirror smashed (for the second time; effing street parking with double parked construction crews), so my car is still a little tender. I got out of the Ghetta immediately with my earbud still attached, BlackBerry in hand, made wide-eye contact with the driver and delivered my friend a play-by-play including a quick inspection of the damage. The woman who hit me with her silver Ford truck pulled forward to the end of the lot and sat there. It wasn't a proper spot, but a place she could leave her car while she got out and talked to me only a few meters away. Instead, she put the truck in reverse. Perhaps she spotted a space? I don't like to block people either, so I followed her as she drove back to the other dead end of the lot. No parking there either. As she was driving backward, I read off the license plate number to my friend, who took note of it and emailed it over to me.

The woman looked at me, a tad nervous. First you ding a car, then you can't find a space to park and exchange info. Some night, eh? I get it. She started to pull forward to the end of the lot where our initial "meeting" occured, and so I start walking back there myself. But, before she got to the end, she made a quick left and flew out the exit.

"She's fleeing the scene!" I alerted my friend as I started after the truck in hot flip-flop-footed pursuit. The optimist in me thought for a second that she might have gone out and down to the adjacent underground lot and would be up shortly to address the matter with me. After all, a gray-haired lady in her 50-60s wouldn't really leave the scene of a fender bender, would she? Knowing how long it takes to make one's way up from there, and always one to make the most of my time, I quickly ordered my to-go dinner, earbud still in ear, friend still along for the play-by-play. I paced the crime scene keeping a hawk-eye out for the suspect as I waited for my number to be called. I even followed one woman with similar coloring (gray hair cut in a bob) who appeared to be somewhat sketchy in an in-a-hurry kind of way. I dashed after her, only to find her getting into a silver sedan.

My number was called, and I took my dinner home as I continued to chat with my friend all the way back to my house (about 15 mins away). I ate my dinner (it was getting a little late for that amount of carbage), then called my insurance company to make the claim. It was only 45 minutes after the accident occurred. Normally, I would call right from the scene, but the damage was minimal, and I was hungry, and the conversation -- once we got back on topic -- was still good. My insurance company told me that I had to make a police report. Hit and run is a serious matter. "Even for a small scratch and a ding in the door?" Yes, I was told. Very serious. And the sooner I file the report the better.

I had to call three different police departments (one recording, one computer hang up, one finally answered) only to find that I had to file the complaint in person. "Really? I can't do this online?" No. In person. The officer gave me the address of the traffic division, and now I had to take precious time out of my morning to make a claim that would have been so easily handled in that parking lot with a couple of laughs, a handshake and a comforting pat on the woman's shoulder. In spite of my Aries nature, I'm not the kind to go out for blood. Accidents happen, after all. It's really no biggie, it could have been handled sweetly. But, since she fled the scene, this was now a felonious act.

This is also when a BlackBerry with a camera would have come in handy. I need to upgrade or start carrying around my damn Flip. That reminds me: batteries.

Nothing irritates me more than having to skip the gym for no good reason, especially when I just got religious about going again. I was proudly two-for-two on a week when I can only get there four out of six (on the seventh day, I rest...and do laundry). I hate it when newfound motivation gets sidetracked. Especially after a burrito is ingested at nine peeyem. Especially for something as stupid as this.

One should never judge a book by its cover (though, a good cover will get me to buy it). The truck that hit me was new and shiny and appeared recently cleaned. I would assume that the driver would have been concerned about her own damage. After all, the truck appeared so cared for. My Ghetta hasn't seen the inside of a car wash in ages (I'm on a moritorium until this damn contruction is over and its dust is gone...which is anyday now), but, in spite of her exterior grime, I love that car as if she were a human...or at least a pet. I consider her a friend (one of my more reliable ones at that), and don't like that someone would give her a slap and then make a break for it. So, off to the police station I went.

In all honesty, I didn't bother to take a look at the damage in the light of day. Didn't have the time or want to relive the trauma before I finished my green tea. What I saw and felt in the dark was enough for me. The officer was nice enough to come out and view the wound before we started the paperwork. "That's it?" he asked. "I think it broke the paint, though." Like we were talking about a bite from a rabid dog. But, after a spittle-dipped thumb rub, I realized it was more of a wrinkling of dirt and transfer of paint than a proper dent or scratch. "If you want, I'm happy to fill out the report for you," the officer offered. I shrugged. "As long as the paint's intact and the body's not creased, I'll let it go," I replied. "But, she did flee the scene." He gave me an understanding nod.

When I went to shake his hand, he offered me his left. It was then I noticed that his right hand was resting on his gun.

Charming. That's carma for you.

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