Just my turn

After my shower this morning and while I was completing preparations to go into the City on business there was a timid knock at the door of our apartment. An elderly woman at the door asked to see me.  She told me that she had just backed into my car in the underground garage while parking her own vehicle and that there was damage to my car.

I just bought this car on August 31st last. This is the fifth time that a new car of mine has been struck by a woman when my car was stationary. The routine which surrounds these minor incidents is as a result unpleasantly familiar to me. The process is outstanding primarily for its inconvenience and general annoyance.  The repetition of the script doesn’t however make it any more tolerable.  To add to the irritation this time the collision centre did not have a rental vehicle available for me. I have to wait until tomorrow to see if one becomes available.  Meanwhile I have had to cancel appointments both today and tomorrow.  As usual I have had to communicate with my insurance broker, my Landlord and others in the building associated with its management.

I began this tiresome undertaking by directing the car to the collision department of the dealership where I bought my car. En route I recalled the very agreeable service I had had in the past when dealing with Devlin’s Collision Centre in Almonte so I turned around and headed there instead.  The owner of the repair shop confirmed that the paint layer had been broken and that a remedial paint job is required.  I arranged to leave my car on the premises – partly in hopes of expedient service, partly to avoid having to park next to the woman who damaged my car. Upon my return home from the collision centre (driven by the owner’s wife), I consulted with people in the building who are privy to most of the building management.  They informed me that the woman who struck me should not have been parked in the space adjoining mine, that her Landlord owns a space one removed from my own parking spot.  Subsequently I requested that the offending woman be asked to remove her car accordingly and I am advised that this has been done.

Admittedly in the scheme of life’s perils this piddling trauma is small potatoes. I confess I didn’t handle receipt of the offending woman’s initial intelligence with magnanimity.  While I didn’t lapse into the vernacular when talking to her or when speaking with my insurance agent in her earshot, I reiterated the blunt facts including her admission to the club of delinquent women whose company I can bear the deprivation. I am at least grateful that the good people at Devlin’s Collision Centre were so utterly accommodating.  Knowing as I do their quality workmanship I have that to comfort me.

Although the offending woman knew enough to caste dispersions upon my notoriety as a lawyer – and though she advanced some thinly veiled aggression about having received “legal advice” from her insurance agent – she is not someone whom it gives me any satisfaction to run into the ground.  When I enquired her age – and she purposively hesitated to tell me until I told her I could find out in any event – she reported that she was 77 years of age, adding “younger than you are”. I acknowledge an inherent level of conceit but I had rather thought I might not be mistaken for someone over 77 years of age. This distortion combined with what I know to be the history of her lack of parking ability (she was never able to park between the yellow lines when she previously parked out-of-doors and there are numerous scars on her vehicle already) led me to conclude that she is not competent to drive (especially a vehicle the size of her GMC) and that her mental acuity is questionable. It would be tantamount to striking a puppy to lower the boom on her.  As a result I am confined for my remedy to the performance by own insurer of its contractual duty.  I mention this because I would dearly prefer to make a claim against the offending woman for the mischief she has caused and the further loss of time, etc. flowing therefrom.  I have of course no hope of recovering any such compensation, not even an apology. For the moment the offending woman seems content to lay the blame on my being a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

I am not anxious to prove the point, but perhaps I deceive myself to imagine that I would be more tolerant of a similar indiscretion of my own.  In fact I have dinged other cars of mine inadvertently. What makes this escapade so aggravating is that I have known from the day of the offending woman’s arrival on the premises that she was bad news in the parking department. I also knew she should not have been parked next to my car but I never mentioned any of this to anyone in a position of authority.  Mockingly the evolution of this drama has been exactly as it should have been in the beginning but without the intervening hazard of her conduct. Regrettably I have every reason to believe her perilous driving will continue unabated and that she is not likely to acknowledge her deficiencies. My only relief is that her removal to the correct parking space no longer threatens me immediately though others are now certainly at risk.

Poignant reminders such as these events serve to diminish the false and ephemeral flavour of perfection and integrity which one adopts upon getting a new car. I have to say I have questioned the utility of renewing my annual purchase mania. Once a new car is damaged it is forever stained and contaminated; its pristine nature is never restored.  It becomes damaged goods and it joins the pile of tainted materiality. I have that offending woman to thank for the administration of this particular poison.

Post Scriptum

At noon today the owner of Devlin’s Collision Centre drove me to Budget Rent-a-Car in Carleton Place to collect my rental transportation. It was a palpable relief to be restored to a vehicle. Sometime later my insurance adjuster called to confirm that he has been in touch with the other party’s insurer.  And finally the collision centre informed me that the estimate to repair the damage to my car is $3,300. As with everything else in the automobile industry, it never gets less expensive. The cost is also evidence that the offending woman was driving her vehicle like a bulldozer, a prospect made all the more spooky given her obvious mental dilapidation.  There is a good chance in my opinion that she’ll broaden her medium into a snowplow with the change of season which fortunately we’re soon able to escape.

Understandably there is emotional fallout from this otherwise trivial affair.  Certainly before I knew the extent of the damage estimate I wasn’t as brazen about my entitlement to capricious complaint.  The blatant materialism of the issue is now at least clothed with some measure of dignity by virtue of the cost (even though it remains true as ever that anything which money can fix is of limited concern). Where however I risk stretching the scope of my anxiety is the unlimited indulgence in gleefully reporting the details, not simply to myself (as in these chronicles) but more importantly to others whom I consider either privy to the conflict or instrumental in the conveyance of my hostility.  Naturally I am alert to the possibility – remote though it may be – that the offending woman may indirectly get wind of these accounts and maliciously seek to redress her own misguided sense of injury. Already she has succeeded to attempt to reverse the characterization of the event by belittling me as a lawyer (a classic case of ad hominem argument gone wrong). I have nonetheless concluded that I am wiser to profit by what I have already learned from this incident; namely, that others should be made aware of the ramifications of ignoring the warning signs.  I stand by my conviction that this woman’s driving is a disaster waiting to happen, that sooner than later someone else will bear the penalty of her incapacity and incompetence. I have however deliberately distanced myself from engaging in direct communication with the offending woman or any member of her family.  First, I have no entitlement to do so (especially when I have delegated the appropriate authority to my insurer to settle the matter); and second, I will only invite personal conflict. I am guessing that the offending woman’s own insurer will broach the subject of her competency or at least highlight the issue indirectly through a discussion of premiums and deductible.

Although I have privately considered a meeting with the offending woman to smooth the waters, I cannot see that it would serve any useful purpose. I am convinced that she is “not all there” and that as a result my words would either be lost on her, forgotten or ignored. Neither do I want to risk exposure to any claim of corrupting the old lady for personal advantage.  In such circumstances there appears to be little value in adopting a diplomatic approach.  The concern is solely the domain of her immediate family (who I feel should be made aware of her limitations).  There persists an inner conflict between what I think and what I say. It is a battle of wit and pragmatism. As with all boiling emotions I shall have to wait for things to cool down. There is however no question that this particular offending woman is different from the other four in that she is unpredictable in her personal behaviour.  She is rank with volatility.  I sense that others in the building have now a heightened appreciation of her brewing threat and that they will react accordingly to protect themselves and others from her ungoverned conduct.  I fully suspect that she will ultimately be removed from the underground parking lot and perhaps even from the building entirely.

The only way in which I succeed to distance myself completely from this singularly unpleasant experience and lingering distaste is to remind myself that it is nothing which cannot ultimately be remedied by another new car. It is equivalent to clerical absolution! There is also the advantage of contemplating being able to close the door abruptly and dismissively on the past.  Alternatively one might adopt a synthetic approach; namely, submit to the patina of life and rise above the fiction of purity and renewal.  It all sounds alarmingly similar to any other religious scam being peddled.  Either way it comes down to belief though I acknowledge the admission of life’s abrasion is the most compelling.