People Are Fundamentally Good
After a brief war with a moron on another blog for the better part of this week, God/the universe/karma/serendipity sent me a reminder that people are fundamentally good. Life's lessons come in strange packages, but they are always useful if you pay attention.
Crusing down the street in my trusty Ford Explorer, enjoying Kanye West's "Heard 'Em Say", I approached the intersection on a glorious 90 degree winter day in Los Angeles. The light was green and the post office, my destination, was a block away. As soon as I entered the intersection, however, tranquility came to an end. Out of nowhere, I saw a car in front of me trying to make a left. Although I slammed on my brakes, I knew that I could not avoid the impending collision. At almost full speed, I slammed into the rear passenger side of the car, ricocheted off, slammed into a light pole, bounced off and came to a stop.
It was so surreal, I took a breath and looked around to confirm the reality of what had just happened. But when I turned around to see where the other car was, I saw it driving away. I grabbed my purse and took off running in a futile attempt to chase the guy, but he was too far away. Returning to my car, I found crowds of people who asked if I was okay, offered to call the police and gave me their phone numbers with offers to be witnesses. One guy collected what turned out to be a pile of stuff that fell out of the other car at impact, including some receipts from auto parts. At least I had the year, make and model of the other car.
Having resigned myself to the fact that the other driver was gone and waiting for the police, a middle-aged guy hurriedly walked up to me and flashed his palm. He chased down the other driver and wrote the license plate number on his palm. Even now, I am still touched and impressed and amazed that a perfect stranger would do that for another human being. "It's nice to know there are still good people on this earth", I said to a few of the onlookers, and they nodded in agreement. Here we were - a group of perfect strangers trying to fix the situation. With the disposable camera I keep in my glove compartment for just these contingencies, I photographed my car, the scene, the skid marks, the nasty bruise on the light pole and the glass scattered across the intersection. That is the lawyer in me. Gotta get the evidence.
Going to the scenes of accidents has to be the most boring aspect of policing, so I felt kinda bad for asking the police to come. But such is the requirement for insurance, so I didn't feel too bad. By the time they showed up, most of the witnesses had returned to their lives, but had left their contact information for me. I explained what happened, showed the cop the pile of crap (hopefully evidence) that fell out of the other car, called Dad to find out which of his mechanic clients would handle my car and AAA to take my little tank to the car hospital. The cop asked me if I was okay and he commented that I was really calm for someone who had just been in a crazy accident. "Shit happens", I responded, "and with the guy gone, throwing a temper tantrum isn't going to change a thing." I was just happy that I was in one piece, amazed that my car proved itself to be one hell of a tank and touched by all the kindness of perfect strangers. Everything would be fine.
A few minutes later a tall guy with a heavy accent approached and asked if I was okay. He said he was the passenger in the other car and that the driver was on the way. Apparently, the driver of the other car is a recent immigrant, lived around the corner from the accident and, because he did not know better, he took his damaged car home. When the driver showed up, the cops gave him hell; yelled at him about the illegality of fleeing the scene and I felt sorry for him. When they were done, he approached me and apologized profusely. He could barely speak English, was obviously terrified by the cops and what would happen and felt really bad for causing the accident. It took guts to come back and I respected that.
I smiled, told him not to worry about it and, with half a laugh, asked "you wouldn't happen to have insurance would you?" Unfortunately not.
So, car's at the shop, I am in one piece, insurance claim has been filed, I'm now rolling in Dad's second car, which is great except for the lack of a CD player, and my faith in humanity is restored.
I have to give props to Ford. No more criticizing American cars. With two considerable impacts, the right front panel needs to be replaced and the right side of the hood is banged up. But the car still runs and would have been driveable if the bumper wasn't jammed into the right tire.