Pump the brakes

By Kris Ferrazza | Jun 07, 2014

A few weeks back, I had a little fender bender with my car.

The police and insurance company determined I was zero percent at fault. While that came as a huge relief, it really was no surprise. The car was parked when it was hit.

Without a doubt, it was not the best way to start our school vacation. We had gone to swimming lessons at the YMCA, then parked on Main Street in Camden to grab a bite to eat and browse in a few stores.

As the three of us returned, my 7-year-old cheerfully called out, “There’s our car!” and pointed at a black Toyota RAV4. Ours is dark blue.

“No, silly,” I corrected, then pointed at my car a few spaces away. “THAT’S our...Oh, my God!”

The left front fender was curled back like a sardine can. My car, my car, my beautiful car.

I was sick. I felt violated. There wasn’t a person in sight on the sidewalk anywhere. Had anyone seen what had happened?

My husband cut in front of me and examined the fender, grill, hood and headlight. He looked disgusted as he kicked some broken debris out of the street toward the curb, and took out his phone.

Then I saw it. Tucked into the driver’s side window of my door was a small, white business card. Camden PD to the rescue.

The crash happened when a delivery truck driver attempted to pull up alongside my car and accidentally hooked into the fender. Fortunately he reported it. Then the fun began. Police reports, insurance companies, estimates, a rental car and finally, the unexpected: judgement from other drivers.

Yup, I was sitting in a drugstore parking lot when a car pulled up to park next to me. It idled there a minute. I looked at the driver, wondering what the issue was, and caught the guy eying my fender and then me. My jaw dropped as he put his car in reverse and moved to a free space on the other side of the lot.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I wanted to get out and set the record straight. Defend myself. Shout, “I wasn’t even driving! It was parked!” Then I got mad. Who was he to judge me? How dare he?

A minute later I was laughing. (Yes, this is my life now.) I had to laugh at the hypocrisy of it all. I realized I am the first to judge others when I see a big dent on a car. I have been known to say snarky things like, “Gee, let me guess how that happened?” or “What are you trying to do? Get a matching dent for the other side now?”

Never once did it ever occur to me that perhaps the car was parked, or maybe the current driver wasn’t even the one involved in the accident.

Everywhere I went I could feel other people’s eyes on that crushed fender. And I knew what they were thinking: “Way to go, lady. Nice work.”

Maybe it was just my imagination, a simple case of paranoia, or a guilty conscience. After all, there were a few accidents in my past, mostly when I was in college, where I was at fault. But I was not always to blame.

My worst accident happened when I fell asleep at the wheel. I totalled my VW Rabbit, and got a concussion and amnesia. There really is no way to blame anyone but myself for that one. On second thought, since I can’t remember anything about it, maybe I wasn’t even there and am completely blame-free.

No, that was definitely my fault.

Another wreck that technically could be blamed on me happened in a mall parking lot when the brakes in my AMC Hornet failed. (I know, you’re jealous of my sweet ride.)

I was cutting through a huge section of empty parking spaces, headed toward the exit. An older woman in a Cadillac was doing the same. Despite the fact that there was half an acre of empty parking on either side of us, our cars were on a strange collision course. As we drew closer, I couldn’t believe it, yet I seemed powerless to stop it. Was it fate?

When we got within a few short yards of one another, I decided to end this crazy game of chicken, and let her go wherever she was headed. But when I braked, my foot went straight to the floor and my car rammed right into that Caddy.

We both jumped out, and looked for damage.

“My car! My car!” she cried, apparently uninjured and not at all concerned about my physical well-being.

Fortunately there was no damage, and we both were fine. She left me there, brakeless. I phoned my boyfriend, who allowed me to follow behind his pickup, crashing into the back bumper as necessary. (We were young and foolish.)

All of that was definitely my fault.

Not long after, I was driving on Route 1 at 55 mph when an approaching van crossed in front of me. The collision destroyed my car, and could have killed me and my three passengers. Turns out the driver was high as a kite, and had no insurance. His poor parents, who allowed him to live in their basement, had to pay to replace my VW Jetta.

That one was definitely not my fault.

My most recent near-wreck was a few years back when I was driving my husband’s truck. I braked for a stop sign and slid right into the intersection. His brakes were either gone, or going. Luckily, no one else was on the road.

Since there were only two more turns to my front door, I just cruised slowly toward home. As I approached our street, I pumped the brakes and carefully turned the corner. Success!

Our driveway was just up the hill so I slowly rolled up to it then turned in, again pumping the brakes and gently pulling the emergency brake as I approached our barn. I stopped with plenty of space, and ran inside the house to break the brake news. (And brag about my stunt driving.)

My husband expressed disbelief, and questioned why I wouldn’t have called him or a wrecker. I again assured him that he had no brakes, and needed to call his mechanic and possibly AAA for a tow.

Suddenly, I heard a loud bang. Running to our front porch I found my husband looking at the front bumper of his truck, which was nestled into our now-broken barn door.

“What happened?!” I asked, incredulous.

“No brakes,” he said.

“Now do you believe me?” I asked.

Apparently he had to see it to believe it.

That one, definitely, was not my fault.

And the beat goes on.

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