LS: Bruce Cameron Column November 23, 2008
Some relationships are no accident
I am not a mechanic, but I do know that if your automobile suddenly shudders and bucks, you may have a problem, especially if these symptoms are accompanied by the unexpected appearance of a Cadillac bumper in your back seat. When this happened to me a few days ago, I quickly realized I’d been rear-ended in the rear end.
I’m a pretty good driver, but I find a car crash to be something of a distraction. Deciding not to proceed through the intersection with a Cadillac in tow, I put my vehicle in park and turned on my emergency flashers to let other drivers know I knew how to turn on my emergency flashers. Within seconds, traffic virtually halted, drivers gawking because there is nothing more fascinating than a Dodge with an Eldorado in its trunk.
The car that struck me was built pre-OPEC, a brontosaurus of a machine with a front hood large enough to land a small plane on. It was meticulously maintained and polished, its gleaming metal scratch-free with the exception of the part that was now residing inside the Dodge.
The woman sitting behind the wheel of this monster appeared to be in shock, staring at me with round, amazed eyes — she’d apparently never seen a professional humorist before. She looked to be in her 60s, a birdlike woman so tiny it was hard to believe she could possibly control her gigantic automobile. (And, if you think about it, she couldn’t.) I opened the Cadillac’s enormous driver’s-side door, blocking two lanes of traffic with the huge thing.
Her skin was so pale I immediately worried that she might be injured. I tried to recall my first-aid training, but unfortunately all I could remember at that moment was how to deliver a baby. Somehow I didn’t think that particular skill was going to be needed here.
“Hi, I’m Bruce; I’ll be your accident victim today,” I joked.
The expression on her face indicated she felt she still hadn’t met a professional humorist. “Are you OK?” I asked in a medically diagnostic tone, feeling it was a more appropriate question than, “How far apart are your contractions?”
“I’m dead,” she responded dully.
“Well, no, you’re not,” I responded, feeling fairly confident on this issue. “Breathe,” I advised her, still stuck in my first-aid training.
She shook her head. “This car is his pride and joy. My husband’s going to kill me when he finds out I ruined it.”
I tried to explain that she didn’t so much ruin it as give it a Dodge hood ornament, but she was unconvinced.
Soon we had police on the scene, proving endlessly mesmerizing to the gawkers.
“Look at that,” I could imagine them saying to each other, “parked police cars! It’s the most exciting day of my life!”
The woman was named Audrey, and she readily admitted the accident was her fault. I suggested if she was going to drive a car that big there should be someone riding lookout on the front.
“Failure to stop,” the officer explained to Audrey as he wrote out a ticket. This was hardly accurate — she had stopped, after all, just a bit later than circumstances warranted.
“My husband’s going to kill me,” Audrey lamented.
I found myself growing angry. Who was this bully, this jerk who would get mad at his wife for having an accident, who valued his battleship-sized automobile so much he’d yell at a tiny person like Audrey, a woman who probably weighed less than the Cadillac’s antenna?
Audrey’s husband soon arrived — a scowling, jowly fellow who looked like what you’d get if you crossed Winston Churchill with a bulldog. She began weeping.
“Oh, honey,” she wailed. “Your car!”
His cold eyes surveyed the damage. I drew myself up, ready to defend Audrey against this monster.
He turned to his wife, his face softening. “Forget the car, darling,” he murmured. “Are you OK? That’s all I care about.” He wrapped her in his arms.
I realized I’d misjudged him as much as his wife had misjudged her stopping distance. The gawkers might be interested in sheet metal, but as far as he was concerned, only one thing mattered.
To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Website at http://www.wbrucecameron.com.