Bob Avey’s 2nd Quarter 2018
It all started when a driverless car ran a traffic light and turned in front of me.
Okay, there was actually a person behind the wheel, but since he didn’t have a driver license and he lacked insurance, for all practical purposes the vehicle might as well have been unattended. And I’m either very good at picking these people, or there’s a lot of them out there. I lean toward the latter.
Those of you who’ve had the unfortunate experience of having a deer run in front of your car at night will understand what it was like. The rest of you will just have to use your imagination. Sure, you ultimately see the deer, but by that time it’s too late and… Well you get the picture.
Kathi and I sat there in the middle of the intersection, dazed into the Twilight Zone, until I came to my senses and figured we’d better try to get the car started and move to a safer location before we got struck by another vehicle. Luckily, the car started. Maybe it’s not too bad, I thought, when the car fired up, but the loud, scraping sound that ensued upon driving the busted Nissan put a damper on that idea.
When I coaxed the car into a nearby parking lot and got out to survey the damage, a man walked over and joined me. He didn’t identify himself and I was too dazed to ask. Together we frowned and shook our heads, not only in response to the sight of the car, but to the act of two police cars, speeding by with sirens on and lights flashing. “I don’t think the other car made it very far,” the guy said. “His car was smoking like crazy.”
At that point, I gathered that the other vehicle had left the scene of the accident, which, indeed, he had. I sure know how to pick them. Before I could ask any more questions, the unidentified good-Samaritan walked away then got back into his car and drove off. It Turned out, he’d witnessed the whole incident and called the police and informed them that it wasn’t my fault.
Kathi was still in the Nissan. The passenger door wouldn’t open. I climbed back in and called our insurance company while Kathi dialed 911. She was informed by them that at least four other people had called the local police about the accident. A few hours later, the police, who were professional and courteous, finally arrived. After asking a few questions, one of the officers handed us a couple of clipboards with paperwork attached and asked us to fill out the accident reports. He only gave us one pen, so I asked Kathi if she had another one so we could fill out the reports at the same time. She dug around in her purse and when she finally produced the needed writing instrument we commenced putting to paper what we thought had happened.
Upon finishing the reports, Kathi tossed her pen back into her purse and we handed back the clipboards and the other pen.
“That was us driving by earlier,” the officer said. “If it’s any consolation, we caught and arrested the suspect, the other driver. Excuse me,” the officer continued, “but I’ll need my pen back.”
“I gave it to you,” I said.
He shook his head. “This isn’t the correct pen. They are officially issued and I must have the correct one back.”
Officially issued by whom, I thought, Bic? “You threw the wrong pen in your purse,” I said, “Try to find it.”
A mini nightmare unfolded as Kathi dug around in her purse. I can’t decide if Kathi’s purse is more like a blackhole, or a magician’s hat, but what goes in doesn’t always necessarily come back out. I began to panic. I thought we were going to be arrested for stealing the official equipment. Finally, Kathi pulled out a handful of pens and handed them to the officer. He rummaged through them and found one he liked.
A few hours later, the wrecker showed up. “Where do you want to take the car?” He asked.
I’d talked with the insurance company earlier and they’d given me a name and address of a body shop, so I relayed the info to the driver.
“That’s quite a distance from here,” he said. “And anyway, they’d probably be closed by now. Do you really want to leave your car somewhere without first talking to them?’
“I guess not,” I said. “What should we do?”
“I can take the car to your house then in the morning you can call and have it towed to the shop.”
“That sounds good,” I said. “Do we ride in the wrecker with you?”
He took off his hat and scratched his head. “We don’t usually do that.”
Oh really? How was he going to get the car to my house? Was I to walk along the road in front and show him the way? “Can you make an exception this time?”
“Yeah, I guess I could do that. Nobody’s going to know anyway.”
They would have if you’d have said, no, I thought.
We were quite the spectacle of the night as the hissing brakes and flashing lights of the wrecker roused half the neighborhood out into the streets to watch the smashed Nissan dumped onto my driveway.
The next morning, I got the bright idea of calling the Nissan dealership. I’d had some time to think and it seemed the dealership would be the proper place to get the car done right. That is, if they’d had a body shop, which they did not. So I asked for a recommendation. They told me to take it to Blank’s Paint and Body. It turned out to be a small, hard to find place, which should have clued me, but, hey, it was recommended.
About a month later, after numerous phone calls and having to take the rental car back because my insurance had reached the limit, I made a final call.
“Well, Mr. Avey, while fixing the car, we found this and that and the check we got from your insurance company wasn’t enough to cover because the additional cost wasn’t included in the estimate. You can pick up your car, but you will have to pay us the difference.”
I came unglued. It wouldn’t be proper to repeat what I said. But less than a minute after I disconnected, I got a call from the owner of the shop. “This is Bleep,” he said. “I own Blank’s Paint and Body.”
“Why’s the shop called Blank, if your name’s Bleep?” I asked.
He tried to explain. “Forget what my shop foreman told you. You can pick up your car and you don’t have to pay anything.”
Thinking the whole seedy incident was behind us, Kathi and I tried to carry on. Then we got a subpoena to appear in court, for a hearing related to the accident, at so-and-so date at so-and-so time. We arranged for time off at our jobs and left early to make sure we got there on time. After finding the courthouse, parking, and going through guards and metal detectors, we rushed up the stairs where we found all of the offices locked and the hallways empty. In a state of panic and frustration – the letter that had come with the subpoena had made it clear to be on time – we sat on a bench in the hallway and searched for a phone number to the court clerk so we could explain that we were there but they were not.
As Kathi was calling, the elevator hummed and the doors opened and a very casually dressed lady, accompanied by two boys around the age of nine, got out and walked our way.
The lady gave us a cursory glance and asked, “Do you have a subpoena?”
“Why yes,” we answered, “Do you know…?”
“Follow me,” she said, and commenced walking down the hallway with children and us in tow.
The lady unlocked an office door and led us and the children into an office beside the courtroom. The doorway to the dark and empty courtroom gaped open like the entrance to an abandoned mine shaft.
“Have a seat,” she said. Then she left us alone with the children, who slipped off their shoes before plopping down into the chairs opposite ours and switching on a television that displayed a rather loud cartoon program.
Finally, another casually dressed lady came in and said, “Are you here with a subpoena?”
I glanced at the clock on the wall, which indicated we were one hour late, except we weren’t because we were there, right? “That’s right,” I said, quickly handing her the subpoena.
“Okay. I’ll let them know you are here.”
About an hour and a half later, the lady came back into the room and said, “Okay, you’re free to go. There will be no need for the hearing.”
Kathi and I glanced at each other then got up and left. A cold draft of air belched out of the open courtroom as we passed by, and when I glanced into the dark chasm, I thought I saw a man sitting inside. I wondered if it was Rod Serling.
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This article was written by Bob Avey, author of Twisted Perception, Beneath a Buried House, and Footprints of a Dancer. http://www.bobavey.com