Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A car accident, a moment of trust, and someone who seemed nice

A version of this column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on Please check out the site.

When the truck began backing toward my car, I should’ve hit the horn. If I were a more aggressive honker, one of those quick-boilers always ready to palm-smash an alert, I might have avoided the whole mess.

Shockingly, there were no injuries in the extremely
low-speed collision.
But it happened too quickly. I was in a left-turn lane, stopped at a red light, and, wait a second, is he backing up? Does he not … oh no … and then wham. I uttered some sort of expletive, but it was under my breath because parenting three kids is a fantastic censoring program.

My 9-year old, Cooper, was in the back seat. He told me later that the whole smash-up was boring and that he hoped the airbags would inflate next time. I hope there won’t be a next time for anyone in my family, but I have three sons who will eventually be driving. Prepare you horns.

There were no injuries, which is great. But also no witnesses. It was 8:30 in the evening, and the only car nearby sped off when the light turned green.


* * *
I like to have faith in my fellow man (and woman), and this fellow man was very apologetic. He was backing up to get room to maneuver out of the left-turn lane and didn’t see me. He would contact his insurance agent immediately, he said. Don’t worry about anything.

Don’t worry about anything?

I think heard that when I was shopping for a used car. And I think I read that in an email from a Nigerian prince who offered to pay me $100,000 if I helped him get some funds transferred.

As we exchanged insurance information, I worried, but I also felt awkward. I even felt a little guilty as the nice guy – seemingly nice, because I had known him for 10 minutes – waited for me to take photos of the damage. I took a lot because, when combining the darkness and my photography ineptness, it was hard to get a sharp focus. I have some tremendous, artistically blurred shots of a dinged-up bumper and my feet.

Should I have called the police?

 “I tell all of my friends, go ahead and call,” said David Tilley, the Plano police department’s public information officer.  Some departments won’t respond to an accident in which there are no injuries and the cars are driveable, he said, but it’s still worth calling. An accident report isn’t required, but the officer can make sure the correct information is exchanged and not fraudulent.

* * *
When I got home that night, I thought about it. The nice guy could come back with a not-so-nice story about how I ran into him. That would make more sense than someone backing up in a left-turn lane. He could claim he was not at fault.

My only witness would be Cooper, who wasn’t paying attention when the crash occurred because he was busy pondering what position he should play for the Rangers. His only clear memory of the incident was that Dad muttered something, and he’d like to know what it was.

I could’ve been in trouble. For years I had sidestepped identity theft, telemarketing fraud, phishing scams and emails informing me that I would receive a fund in “U.S. cash dollers.” Now I was set to be the victim of the nice-guy crash scam.

Thankfully, he really was, and is, a nice guy.

His insurance agent called the following morning. I was provided a rental car much nicer than my own car and the $1,200 repair was billed to his insurance company. Now I’ve got a new bumper and a grill so shiny that it looks out of place as it smiles from the front of my car. It’s like someone who goes a little heavy on the teeth whiteners.
But my car looks good. And although I'll probably call the police if I have another accident, I feel good about how this one turned out. In a world filled with scams, schemes and reasons to feel pessimistic, it's nice when something positive crashes in.

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