So on the last day of school, I got in a bit of a verbal kerfluffle with an old man. Three days later, the exchange is still sticking with me. In a nutshell, I came back to my car at the end of the school day, arms loaded with a year’s worth of pre-school crap, and two little boys excited to celebrate their last day with a play date.
When I got to my car, I noticed that the car behind me was all up in my bumper business. Like ALL up in my bumper bizness, to the extent that the screws from his front license plate were embedded in my rear bumper. Dammit. I texted Mary Tyler Dad, not certain what to do. Evidence of me living in the 21st century, I photographed the bumpers almost immediately. I moved my car forward a few inches to survey any damage. Yep, sure enough, there was some. Not a lot, but definite evidence of damage. I grabbed a piece of paper and started writing a note to the driver.
Before I finished, an older couple and two kids from my boy’s school approached the offending car behind me. Hooray, I thought! I honestly have no idea why seeing them made me happy. My naivete, I think. I popped out of my car and approached the driver, an older man, most certainly the kids’ grandfather. I smiled and said, “I think you hit my back bumper a little harder than you thought when you parked.”
Well, the man immediately grimaced at me and said, “What are you talking about?” I told him again, calmly, that he had hit my back bumper with his car. He denied it, strongly, and suggested I was the one who had hit him. What the what? I explained that there was no possible way I could have hit him, as I had not parallel parked, but pulled into the slot after making a three point turn at the intersection 50 feet away. There were no cars behind me when I left the car.
Again, the man totally denied hitting my car. I told him I had a photo and could prove it. He looked at the photo, eyes squinting through bifocals, and still suggested it was me who had hit his car, that the photo proved nothing. Not. A. Thing.
To his credit, he was right. All the photo showed was two bumpers intertwined in a way bumpers should not be intertwined. I knew the truth, but, yeah, I could not prove it. I just shook my head in disbelief. I asked if we could exchange insurance info. He refused. He suggested calling the police. I asked why we would call the police and waste their resources. He again refused to exchange insurance info and accused me of being upset because I wasn’t getting my way.
Hmmmmm. Yes, I was upset. Increasingly so, actually, but not because I wasn’t “getting my way.” I was upset that someone could so blatantly not accept responsibility for an accident, a mistake. Truth be told, living in the city, your bumper gets dinged. I get that. Ours has a few dings, along with the embedded screw imprints from this guy’s license plate. But was I acting like a spoiled brat requesting that we exchange insurance info? No, not at all.
When the man referenced the other dings and scrapes on the bumper, he accused me of trying to get a free ride to fix the entire bumper. Again, I just shook my head. I think I just asked for insurance info as I didn’t know what else to do. I haven’t ever been in a situation like that. Was it a dumb thing to suggest? Probably.
Full disclosure, we won’t get the bumper fixed and we won’t submit any insurance claim. It was a minor thing, you know. I get that. But still, three days later, I am bothered that the man could not or would not apologize. These days, an apology equals evidence of liability or some such nonsense. Saying, “I am sorry” costs money. That sucks.
What made me most sad is that while the two boys in my charge were in the car with the A/C cranked up, safely unable to hear our cross words, the two little boys with the older couple heard everything. I never raised my voice, I never referred to the man as anything but, “Sir,” I never used the swears that I wanted to. But these boys did see two adults arguing, neither accepting responsibility, clearly angry and upset.
I wish it weren’t so hard to say, “I’m sorry.” For such a simple word, the act is very complex.