A few weeks ago I pulled into a car park at Aldi. All of a sudden I heard the heartstopping sound of metal on metal.
One of the drawbacks of driving a minivan is that the steering is shocking. Car parking is such a trial these days, and normally I go slowly and carefully, take my time and avoid mishaps. I'm sorry if this means you have been one of the poor innocents who is caught behind me in a shopping centre carpark while I do a 50 point turn to get out of an awkward angle. On this particular day, it wasn't even a difficult park, but for some reason I just completely misjudged the turning circle of the van until I heard it scraping the other car. Such a sickening sound.
I got out and assessed the damage. There was a scrape mark. I desperately hoped it was only paint from my own car that would rub off. I hunted in the van for something to rub the car with. I found a bib (charming, huh?) and rubbed away, and was relieved to see the paint disappear, but as I kept rubbing, there was unmistakably removed paint. And of course, this had to be on two panels of the car. I knew it was going to cost money to get it fixed, and I rummaged in my bag for a piece of paper to write my contact details on. As I was putting it under her windscreen wiper. My stomach sunk again as I noticed a pensioners card on the dashboard. I proceeded to do my shopping, but every old lady or man I saw inside I felt extremely guilty and wondered who owned the little red car I had just bumped into.
I continued doing my errands until I got the dreaded phone call I was expecting. Sure enough I heard a little old ladies wobbly voice on the other end. She was a very direct old bird, even if she got easily confused. Her opening line was, "Are you the person who crashed into my car?" I accepted responsibility refusing to allow myself to justify that really, it was just an impressive scrape rather than a full on "crash". She then bluntly asked, "Do you have insurance?" I assented that I did and then on the other end of the phone, there was some shuffling. Then a man started talking to me, he was very warm and compassionate. I assumed her son, and asked as much to which I'm quite sure he quickly agreed to before asking me about insurance and telling me that they would get a quote and get back to me. 15 minutes later I received a phone call back from him telling me that it would cost $792. I thought it was extraordinarily quick timing for a quote, but anyway, the elderly often want these things dealt with immediately, so I just accepted it. I didn't have my insurance details on me since I was still out of the house, so I said I would ring her back when I got home.
Once home and after talking to The Accountant, who was surprised there was someone else involved, I thought he had taken the news very well when I had rung him earlier in the day, (he thought I had scraped it on a wall). The Accountant said to get the name of her repair shop so we could ring them up and see if we could get the damage fixed for a cash job and avoid using insurance, since this was a bit over our $600 excess. When I rang the number the old lady had given, it was a number which was no longer connected, (she had seemed confused and unsure when giving the number...). I rang the number she had previously contacted me via my mobile. The man I had been talking to answered it. As I started to explain my suggestion, it suddenly was revealed to me that he was a panel beater. It explained the quick quote. He said that the old lady was a good friend of his. He was happy to receive cash, and said he would do it for the same price as my excess, but I said there was a scratch on my bumper as well, so I may as well claim insurance and have this fixed also. He then said to bring the van into his shop and he would see what we could do. The next day Alex and I went in with the kids, and what do you know? Next thing he is saying he will repair the two cars for $500 cash! He was a lovely man to talk to, but I must say, I was astonished and a little suspicious that there would be such a large difference in price. However, I was grateful that it was going to be less then expected.
He must have forgotten to contact the old lady, like he said he would, because she rang me in her abrupt style one Sunday while I was at church, and of course had forgotten to turn my phone on silent. (Oh the shame) In her directness, she said, "Hello. You crashed into my car and said you would ring me back and you didn't." Bless her. She didn't mince words. I explained the situation to her, and she was astonished to hear she was good friends with the repairman, according to her she and her sister and just used his services before. (We will not make assumptions here. Although, admittedly, The Accountant has.) She was happy with the arrangement, and has since had her car fixed. Mine will be touched up today.
Yesterday, I received this lovely card in the mail.
To be honest, the thought did cross my mind when the incident happened, that it would be very easy to drive away and pretend it never happened. It wasn't an option for me. My children were not in the car at the time, but even still, what type of mother would I be if I didn't admit responsibility and make reparations to my own mistakes. How could I truly teach my children important life principles that I was not prepared to follow through personally. The next day when we were driving in, we were honest and explained what had happened to the boys. Even though it is embarrassing to admit that Mummy is really not so wonderful at driving (particularly minivans, worst luck), I hope they learn a great lesson through my mistake about honesty and virtue. I hope one day they will also do the 'nice' thing to someone else one day, even if it costs them personally. Because the old lady is right - not many people do it these days. In fact our van already has multiplied in scratches since we have owned it, not caused by me, thankfully. But not once have we ever received a note. Writing a note is just being a decent human really. It shouldn't be exceptional. It is such a shame that not enough people are considerate enough to consider how their actions can effect others.
Have you been in similar circumstances before? Have you had someone leave a note confessing to damaging your property, or have you been the note writer? Have you encountered large disparities between cash jobs and insurance quotes before?
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