It’s a new car, a tricky parking spot at The Purity, Gary is babbling, I’m grousing, and it’s raining. An 80’s era pickup painted with white chalk is parked in my PPPP (Preferred Purity Parking Place)—the one next to the sidewalk, facing south, the one that offers a panoramic view of Franklin street action. While I wait for Gary to pick up a few groceries, I’ll have no entertainment. Bitterness knocks and I invite it in.
The pickup hogs the space, sitting on the white line. I pull in next to it, compensating for the room he should have left. I really do not want this to be the day my new car gets its first blemish.
After Gary goes into the store, I realize in trying to keep my car safe from the antique pickup, I’ve parked too close to the left line. What if someone pulls into the parking space on the left and slams my car with a passenger door? I’ve got to resituate my vehicle.
As I back out, I feel a tad resistance. I stop, craning my neck over my right shoulder. I strain to look out the fogged back window and see nothing. I put the car in drive and prepare to more efficiently pull into the parking space. Something catches my left peripheral vision. I turn my head to see a very angry man.
He looks to be in his thirties, his brown hair not too disheveled (despite the rain). He’s wearing clean clothes—a black zip-up sweatshirt and dark jeans. He doesn’t look crazy. He looks barely this side of bursting his carotid artery.
I’ve never hit anyone before. I start to shake. Was I using proper surveillance techniques when I backed out? I didn’t see him behind my car. I must apologize. But where is the button to roll down the window? It’s a new car. I don’t know!
I crack open the door and say, “I’m so sorry.”
“THIS IS WHAT LAW SUITS ARE MADE OF!”
“I’m so, so sorry.”
“YOU HIT ME ON PURPOSE!” His face borders on purple.
“No, really, I didn’t. I didn’t see you. I’m so sorry.”
“YOU NEED TO WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!”
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
He walks towards the post office. I shut the door, pull into the parking space, shut off the engine and tremble. He’s not limping so I don’t think I’ve done litigious damage.
Oh my God, is this the beginning of the end where I lose my competence behind the wheel? What will I do when my children confiscate my keys? I hit someone—a human being—and I didn’t even see it happen.
It’s my bad karma for being in a hurry and grousing at Gary. I vow to be a kinder, gentler person.
Gary gets in the car.
“I hit someone.”
“Did you scratch the car?”
“I hit a person.”
“What?” He speaks through a burst of laughter.
As I relate the story, Gary calms me down by stating the obvious. “The man walked away. You didn’t hurt him. Good thing it’s a new car—there’s no license plates yet. The cops will never find you.”
“Are you kidding? It’s a red Honda Civic with no license plates. After being in Fort Bragg a week, every cop knows this car.”
“Hurry, get home and park in the garage.”
Our friend Laurie comes to dinner that evening. I mention I hit a person in The Purity parking lot.
“I did that last week,” she says. She was backing up to pull out of a parallel parking spot in front of the post office. (I’m jealous that she can still parallel park.) “I looked at my backup camera” (I’m jealous that she has a car with a backup camera) “and saw nothing. I felt a bump, like someone had slammed their fist on the trunk, and this guy started yelling that I’d hit him.”
Ah-ha! The You-Hit-Me-On-Purpose-Guy!
Guilt and self-doubt are replaced by anger. What a jerk! He hit my car and then made me feel bad. Next time I see him, I’ll hit him for real.
I hope so.