The Car Crash

My vehicles have been in two wrecks in my life, and I haven’t been in the car for either of them. The first one happened a little more than six years ago on December 21, 2011. I remember the date because it’s when my last name was officially changed to my birth name, Curtis. I was in downtown Little Rock at the courthouse to pick up the official papers signed by the judge, and so we wouldn’t have to pay for parking, my younger brother was just going to drive around the block while I went in and got the papers and would pick me up back out front in about five minutes. In the span of a few minutes, my brother managed to wreck the car. Luckily nobody was hurt, but my Ford Explorer Sport was never the same again because the drivers side door was smashed in and could open less than a quarter of the way making it difficult to get in. That car is long gone and years have passed without a car accident, but last night, my Honda CRV was in an accident.
 
It was nearing six o’clock and the sun had been down for nearly an hour. The temperature had dropped significantly and what little ice and snow had been melted from the road in the light of day was frozen once again. My wife and I had been at the store doing our grocery shopping. Because of the winter weather and slick roads we had been putting it off for several days, but with nothing left to eat for lunch or breakfast in the apartment, it was time to go to the store, ready or not. We were on the way home, which is only about a five minute drive from the store, when I decided to stop for gas so that I wouldn’t have to leave earlier for work the following morning to allow myself extra time to stop. It was the Shell station, a place I’d visited many times over the year and a half that we lived in Memphis since it’s the closest gas station to where we live, but despite the familiarity, I never could have predicted what would happen when I pulled up to pump nine and exited the vehicle.
 
I popped the gas cap and went into the gas station to get a Peace Tea and pay for the gas, leaving my wife alone in the car. If I could do things differently I would have insisted she come inside with me so she wouldn’t have been in the car when it happened, but at the time I had no idea what was coming without the benefit of hindsight, so I didn’t even think twice about her staying in the car. As I exited the Shell station, drink in hand, I heard the distressed honking of a car followed by a loud thud as one car collided with another, directly in front of pump nine. I looked at my wife who was still sitting in the passengers seat and she held her hands up in disbelief, angry at the stupidity of the driver that just backed into my car. At least she wasn’t hurt. The car pulled away from mine and back into the parking spot in front of the gas station that it had just backed out of. The driver got out of the car, and while laughing, said, “I think I just hit your car.”
 
I didn’t know why she was laughing but it made me kind of mad that someone could react to hitting another person’s car so flippantly. As I walked over to survey the damage, I refrained from using the word idiot at all, and only nodded a silent yea, afraid my words would betray my civility. To be clear, I’m okay with a legitimate car “accident,” but when it’s due to complete negligence, where the other driver just isn’t paying attention, I’m far less understanding, and that’s what this was. There wasn’t any ice on the ground between where the other driver was parked and the gas pump where my CRV sat. My wife said the car just started backing straight up and didn’t turn their wheel at all so that there was nowhere to go but straight into our car. My wife, from the passenger seat reached over and tried to honk a warning, but it was too late. Luckily there wasn’t any noticeable damage on our car so we let the other driver go without calling the police or anything, but it could have been a lot worse. Whatever the weather is, make sure that you pay attention and drive with caution, whether you’re driving down the interstate or just backing out of a parking space.

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People I Don’t Trust

When I see certain people driving, I don’t trust them at all, and either speed up quickly to pass them, or if they’re going fast enough I’ll step on the brakes slightly, allowing them to pull further away from me and put even more space between us, because if there’s one thing I’m trying to avoid at all costs, it’s being near that car for any significant amount of time. I know stereotyping is wrong, but when I see these cars, with the doors dented in, a bumper hanging down, or a smashed out taillight, I immediately jump to conclusions about the kind of driver that’s behind the wheel of the car, because I know without a doubt, that this person was involved in a car accident, and that’s something I want no part of. Today on the way to work I was behind one such car, except this one was far more damaged than any I’d ever seen functioning on the road before. If you would have showed me a picture of the car, my first thought would be that whoever was driving the car was now dead. It was that bad. It looked like it had been crushed by a compactor in the junk yard, both ends of the car smashed in. It was a little gold car, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how somebody was able to drive it because it literally looked like the entire back of the car was going to fall off at any moment, and the front didn’t look much better. Perhaps even more mysterious is how the wreck happened in the first place, to basically destroy the front and back of the car. I guess the little gold car must have rear ended the car in front of it and the driver behind must have rear ended him, thus smashing both ends of the car, but miraculously not killing the driver.
 
Despite the fact that this driver was obviously at least a little bit lucky in that he survived, I wasn’t going to take any chances around him. There was a lot of traffic so it seemed unlikely if not impossible to pass him, so I did the only other thing in my wheelhouse and slowed down to allow someone else to get in front of me, creating a buffer between me and the, in my mind, out of control, maniacal driver, that way if, like I expected, the back half of his car snapped in half and went rocketing back towards pummeling the car directly behind it, most likely killing the driver, so at least for the moment, I was safe, but who knows who I will encounter on the way home from work. It’s just another one of my overreactions, worrying about people whose cars have obviously been in a car accident and are driving near me, regardless of knowing if said driver was responsible for the wreck. I wish it weren’t so, but that’s just the way my mind is programmed to think, maybe because I myself have never been the driver in a car accident and I’m just biased or if it’s because of the defensive driving class I got sent to one summer in high school that terrified me with image after image of irresponsible drivers gruesome pictures after a wreck, but whatever the reason, that’s just a part of me and as much as I wish that dented cars wouldn’t bother me, I unfortunately don’t foresee any changes happening any time soon. The next time you are driving and you see a car that looks to have recently been in a car wreck, think about me and be grateful that you can go about your commute, completely unbothered and unworried by the sight, and then send me a text with your whereabouts so I can go ahead and avoid that area for the rest of my life.

A Long Hot Walk to the Dealership

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You know how when your old car starts showing signs of nearing the end of its life you start considering the idea of getting a new one? You probably start the search online and find out exactly the kind of car you want, and then you hit the dealerships and used car lots in your area in search of the best deals on that perfect car. That’s not how it happened for me. From the time I bought my 1994 Honda Civic it was pretty clear that I was going to need a new car. The front drivers side was dented with the headlight smashed out, not to mention that there was no air conditioning, which might not have been a problem in Antarctica, but I was living in Florida, the sunshine state where even the state flag is drenched in sweat, but hey, it got great gas mileage. That car was a constant source of pain, breaking down every couple of weeks in the parking lot of a grocery store or the office, never letting me forget what a terrible decision I made it making that purchase, but eventually enough was enough and it was time to get a more reliable car, one that we wouldn’t hesitate to take out on the highway for fear of splintering into a million little pieces as soon as the speedometer hit fifty.

I wanted an SUV so soon we had our choices down to a Nissan Rogue or a Honda CR-V. I really liked the rogue, but it was a little more expensive than the Honda, and my wife’s brother, the car guy, continuously recommended the Honda, saying it was the only kind of car he would ever drive. He drives a Subaru now, but we trusted him at the time and decided that the CR-V would be the car for us. We went around to a few of the dealerships in the area, searching for a low mileage model that it was in our price range, and one Tuesday night, we found our car. We had driven to the dealership in my mother in law’s car because my Honda Civic was acting up that month, and given that we didn’t have a driving car, we were pretty thrilled to find the car that we wanted within our price range, so we talked with the sales people for a while, got screwed over a few times, and finally had a deal for us to purchase the car. It was exciting, what I imagine most people feel like when their kids finally move out of the house, but since we wouldn’t have the money until the following day, I was going to come back the next morning to fill out the paperwork and pick up the new car. If only it had been that easy.

The next morning I woke up full of hope and excited to go pick up the new car. The plan was for me to drive my beat up old civic which would be traded in to help cover the cost of sales tax, and I would be driving the CR-V home. We lived just a couple of miles from the dealership, so despite the problems the civic had been having since the time I bough it, I thought surely it would be able to make the short drive to the car lot where it would then become somebody else’s problem. I was wrong. Before I even pulled out onto the main road, smoke started pouring out of both ends of the car, one last kick in the face to remind me what a piece of crap that Honda civic was. There was no way it was going to make it to the dealership, so I drove it back home and I started walking. Walking down the side of a two way highway isn’t always the most fun experience of a lifetime, but sometimes you have no other choice. By the time I arrived at the car dealership I was drenched in sweat and feeling very tired, but at least I hadn’t been ru over on the way to get the new car. I signed the paperwork and was on my way back home in the CR-V before too long, but that experience is one that will stick with me for a very long time.

The New Car

IMG_4114I can’t imagine hell being much worse than a car lot in Little Rock, Arkansas on a hot August day, which is exactly how I found myself spending the majority of my day today. Yesterday when I told someone I was coming to Arkansas today they asked if I was going to Little Rock, and that is when I started to think if I would ever go to Little Rock again, which is strange since it’s where I grew up and spent the majority of my life thus far, but I don’t have family there anymore which has been, since the time I moved, the only thing that has kept me coming back to a city that doesn’t offer much in the way of appeal, and just like that, I was back in my old hometown. It was a spur of the moment trip, brought on because my mom needed to pick something up there, and then afterward, decided it might be prudent whilst in a much bigger city than which she currently lives, to stop at a dealership to look at cars since she is desperately in need of a new one.

The salesman spotted us pulling onto the lot and directed us to an unauthorized spot right in the front of the dealership, royalty among the peasants. My mom knew exactly what she wanted, well sort of, she had it mostly narrowed down to a sensible option and a more luxurious option that she kept bringing up occasionally, debating aloud whether or not it was okay to spend a lot more money for a car that wasn’t all that practical, while I the bad influence egged her on. Reason won out and she decided to pursue, with all of her focus, the Toyota Camry, which the salesman Deshaun was more than happy to show us, especially after he found out that she was paying cash and could smell her desire to buy before we even stepped out of the car. We saw some preowned models, none of which tickled her fancy and then went on to some new models that seemed more in line with what she was looking for. There was one she really liked and after the test drive was just about ready to buy, especially since the salesman “thought he could get the price down” into her range, an old sales tactic, but an effective one, but I convinced my mom that if he was willing to make that deal today, then he would be able to do it a week from now, which the salesman confirmed to my delight, and she decided to talk it over with my grandmother who was waiting inside the dealership.

As we walked through the showroom on our way to go revisit the preowned cars one more time just to make sure that she really didn’t want any of them, we walked past a brand new silver car that she stopped to admire and instantly fell in love with when she discovered it had all of the features she wanted. The salesman looked at the price and regretfully informed her that unfortunately it was too far out of her range and there was no way he could get “permission” to bring the price down enough that she would still want to buy it. We looked at the rejected pre-owned’s once more and once again saw why someone had decided to give them up in the first place. My mom was ready to buy the other car, the one she test drove, but it didn’t have one of the big features that she wanted and didn’t like the interior color of the car. That’s when I had an idea, an idea so simple I couldn’t believe that I didn’t think about it sooner. I asked her if she would be willing to trade in her current car and have the salesman negotiate the price down on the showroom car that she loved to the price that fell within her range, and she, as expected was of course thrilled with my proposal. The salesman agreed to my terms which was great for my mom, and she ended up getting the car that she really wanted, all thanks to my sharp mind and negotiating skills, both of which were unfortunately nowhere to be found a couple years ago when I needed to buy a new car. We drove away from the dealership three and a half hours after we arrived in a silver Toyota Camry and leaving the GMC Acadia behind. The end result was a good one with my mom getting a good deal on her car, but I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready to get out of Little Rock. It was a very long day.

The Amateur Traffic Cop

Sometimes even people with the best of intentions can end up looking like idiots. Take for instance the girl I saw get into a car accident the other day. Okay so I didn’t actually see the accident take place, but I did witness the aftermath, which is really the whole point of the story anyway, so let’s not get caught up in semantics. The wreck happened at a stoplight, and I’m hesitant to use the word “accident” because after seeing the idiocy displayed by the girl, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone was trying to hit her intentionally, just to keep her off the road for at least a little while, because she was clearly a danger to herself and others. I saw her from the drive through of McDonald’s, where my wife and I were waiting on her iced coffee to be ready, and we sat in both fascination and horror as the seen played out before us, this young girl, probably in her early twenties, trying to direct traffic around the wreck while coincidentally not trying all that hard not to get run over. She looked like a severely depressed girl who finally snapped and left her car parked in the middle of traffic, standing behind it just waiting for the right moment to jump into oncoming traffic, but she seemed oblivious to the danger of the situation, the innocence of her young age completely apparent, as was her stupidity.
 
    It was about eight thirty at night, too late for an iced coffee in my opinion, and also too late for someone to be standing in the middle of a dark street, attempting to direct traffic. She was standing behind a van, which wasn’t her car by the way, but the car of the person who had hit her, so I’m still not even completely sure why she was so worried about nobody hitting that van in the first place. Whatever her intentions, they were completely unnecessary because of the bright red emergency lights flashing on the back of the van, signaling to anyone within view that there was a stopped car in the middle of the road. Given the time of day, the girl was barely visible from where we sat about twenty yards away in a lit up parking lot, so I can only imagine how hard she was to see. At first it was unclear to me what she was doing, waving her arms like one of those gigantic inflatable things at car dealerships that seem to be moving of their own accord in the wind, falling forwards and then backwards then sided to side then repeated in a different order, the randomness of it all very entertaining to watch. The girl’s arms were raised, moving them from side to side, crossing over her face as she did so, and that’s when I realized she was attempting to direct people around the car that was clearly stopped in the middle of the road with emergency lights making that abundantly evident to everyone, whereas the amateur traffic director was causing confusion. When they finally saw her, drivers pulled up beside her thinking she was waving down some help, wherein reality she was making a bad situation (the car wreck) even worse by backing up traffic even more than it should have been with her ridiculous, though well intentioned, antics. I don’t know what happened to her, whether the police officer who finally arrived on the scene lectured her on why what she was doing was completely stupid, but I hope she’s okay, that she didn’t get hit by a car, so that maybe she will learn from this mistake, and pass it on to others, so I don’t have to see any more idiots standing in the middle of a dark road at night.

The Problem With My Parking Spot

IMG_3603It’s a common theme throughout the landscape of the working class, that once the work day ends, nothing is better than arriving at home, seen by homeowners and renters alike as a refuge and a place to relax, so imagine arriving home one afternoon to find somebody parked in your driveway or parking space forcing you to park further away, prolonging that wave of peace that consumes you as the door unlocks and you step inside. Now imagine that happening frequently, say a weekly basis, and it’s never a pattern and no warning is given so you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen, thus disallowing your mind to prepare itself for the disappointment it will face to encounter this problem. This has been my life since moving into my apartment complex over a year ago, and unfortunately there are no signs that this unfair practice will stop anytime soon.

At my apartments we are assigned one designated parking space, right down stairs from where we live. My wife and I have two cars so one of us parks in the spot, and the other parks further away in the uncovered areas that are open to anyone, with the person arriving home first generally parking further away so that the other person will have the close space when they get home, a system that has worked well for us, except on the weekly occasion that someone is parked in our assigned spot, forcing us to find one further away, and since the open spaces fill up as the day drags on, that person ends up having to park much further away from the apartment, sometimes even all the way in front of the main office which is about a five minute walk away. This may not seem like a big deal, and I suppose in the big scheme of things that it really is not, but when you just want to get home after a long day of work, it can be rather annoying.

The main culprit I’ve found is one of the maintenance workers, who like to park in our spot because it is directly in front of their tool shed. They do work here and should have easy access to the shed, but why then isn’t there a designated parking space for maintenance workers in order to eliminate the need to park in a resident’s spot? It’s not like our spot is the only one in front of the shed and in fact there is a whole row of spaces directly in front of it, but it seems like every time a maintenance worker is in the shed, their truck is parked in my spot, more often than not with the spaces on either side completely empty. What is so great about my particular space that they seek it out over the others? From my extensive research, hours spent studying each parking spot on either side of mine, I have been unable to find even the slightest difference. I’ve considered purchasing a traffic cone to occupy my parking space when my car is gone, but it just seems like too much of a hassle to have to get out to put the cone in place when I leave, and then again to remove it when I return home, so I guess this is just something I’ll have to continue to deal with until I finally move, and I’m not one bit happy about it.

Car Trouble: A Bad Start to Vacation

You know that feeling you get when you leave work for the last time before your vacation? That is the feeling I had today, but unfortunately it didn’t last long. I walked out of the bank, and it was pouring down rain, but I didn’t care, vacation had started and that’s all that mattered, so I rain carelessly through the rain to my car, hitting the automatic locks as I got closer, ready to jump in as soon as I reached it. When I finally got there, I grabbed the door handle and pulled, but it didn’t open, so I hit the button a couple more times and tried again, still nothing. I thought that perhaps the rain had broken my electronic key, but still I wasn’t upset, because how could I be, with the beach so near in my future? I unlocked the door manually, like a caveman, and slid into the seat, slamming the door behind me, now sheltered from the pouring rain. I put the key in the ignition and turned, ready to leave work and let my body sink into the relaxing vacation mode that it so desperately needed, but the car didn’t start, and all I heard were clicks. My car was dead, which had happened to me on numerous occasions when I owned a crappy 1994 Honda civic that didn’t politely beep to remind me that I’d left the lights on, but had never once happened in the two years that I’ve had my CR-V. Sure, there have been countless times that I left the lights on, but before I could exit the car, I was reminded to turn the lights off, but perhaps today my car was more depressed than usual, because it didn’t beep, allowing itself to die while I worked, completely unaware of the situation.

I know how it happened too. I was sitting in my car on my lunch break, which is the time I typically work on the book I’m writing, and I noticed a car parked in front of me with a front license plate that just said “Jesus” as if that were the person who owned the cadillac. It was parked like a jerk, taking up two parking spaces, so I thought it would be funny and took the picture, captioning it, “I guess the son of God probably deserves two parking spaces”, but it was dark outside and difficult to read the license plate that was really the focal point of the joke, so I switched on my headlights to get a better shot, and unfortunately didn’t turn them off again. I left my car and knocked on the window of my coworkers car who hadn’t left yet and asked her if she had jumper cables. She did not but suggested I check with the building’s security to see if they did, but when I trekked back through the rain and entered the building, the security desk was empty, so I decided to call triple A, who over the years have rescued me from my own stupidity.

While on the phone trying to enter in all of the information, my wife who was aware of my problem put in a service request with Geico road side assistance, which we get through our car insurance, and told me that somebody would be there in an hour to help me out. I was stuck at work, but with little to do, I sat in my hot car, the windows fogging up as the cold rain fell around it, writing the beginning of today’s blog. The tow truck arrived sooner than expected and the mechanic jump started my car, all the while looking at me like I was a complete idiot, which is hard to disagree with. An hour after the bank closed for the day, I finally pulled out of the parking lot, officially starting my vacation. I just hope that my initial problem wasn’t a sign of bad things to come.