I slowly crawled my car down the row of cars, creeping at a mere two miles per hour because Spring Break traffic crowded the parking lot. Carefully, I eyed the stop-and-go movement of the vehicles in front of me, not paying any attention at all to the parked cars to my left.
The unexpected “thump” and accompanying sway of the station wagon took me totally by surprise.
“What the—,” I shot the car into park and looked at my son.
“We’ve been hit!” He pointed out my window, and I turned my head in time to see a minivan’s bumper smashed into the doors of my car. The minivan shifted back into its parking slot.
With haste, I opened my door and stood in dismay looking at the damage done. A huge dent started by the back passenger side door and ended on the driver’s side door—the exact size of the minivan’s back bumper.
A glance at the occupants in the other car revealed two children peaking over the back seat, a flustered mother emerging from the passenger side, and a bewildered father moving quickly to examine the my car doors.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized quickly. “I don’t know how I didn’t see you behind me.”
I thought sarcastically, “Because you didn’t look!” But I said, “I was going pretty slowly. I don’t know how you could have missed seeing me coming,”
We did the usually exchange of information—our names, phone numbers, driver’s licenses, and insurance companies. Paul reminded me to take pictures, and all of us whipped out our phones to document the damage.
When I got home, I called my agent with the news that the old Ford Taurus station wagon (the last car my parents purchased), had suffered minor damage in a small accident. It broke my heart to know that their car received an "injury" while in my care. Although I've driven the station wagon for the last three years, I still think of it as my parents' car. Anyway, I gave my agent the details and let her handle calling the other company. Within an hour, I received the case number. Before the end of the day, the other company’s agent had called, suggested a place to take the car for an estimate, and even scheduled an appointment for me. I ended the day thinking that this little mishap with the car would only cause a mild ripple to the rest of my vacation.
Little did I know.
I almost decided not to take the car in for the repair. I mean, you had to really look to see the dents in the doors, and the slight scraping of the paint wouldn’t bother me. Then I decided that if I ever want to sell the car, the damaged doors, no matter how slight, would result in less trade-in value. Also, it wasn’t my dollar paying for the repairs since the accident wasn’t my fault. I decided to get the car fixed using our usual paint and body shop once I had the estimate.
The first hiccup occurred when David and I took the car in for the estimate. The “little dents” in both doors tallied quickly into over $900.00 in repairs. I felt relief that someone else’s insurance company would pick up the tab. The company had a few stipulations, though. If I took the car into my usual repair shop, the insurance would only cover five days of car rental. The adjustor explained that sometimes older cars had other things break during repairs that could extend the timeline. If I scheduled an appointment with their recommended garage, they would cover my car rental as many days as necessary. I decided to go with the business that the insurance company suggested, and hoped to leave my car with them that day. However, they couldn’t schedule me for repairs until the next Wednesday.
On the Monday before my appointment, I received a call from the insurance agent. Could I postpone taking my car in until the following Monday? The paint and body shop estimated four or five days for the repairs because of the paint, and if I took the car in on a Wednesday, it would mean I’d have a rental car more than five days. I didn’t see any harm in waiting a few more days as long as they could schedule a new appointment for after work.
The following Monday, I zipped across town to the repair shop. Once I pulled into the parking lot, I remembered that I would need my proof of insurance for the rental company. I took out my new wallet and withdrew the insurance form. A glance at the date spun me into instant anxiety. When I had changed to my new billfold, I’d accidentally put the expired form into the slot and thrown away the new one! I quickly opened the glove compartment since we usually leave the extra forms in the cars, but dismay hit me when I realized that the other new form still sat on the countertop in the kitchen.
When I arrived at Enterprise, about a million customers stood in line while only two employees handled the paperwork and the phone. I sat with my fingers crossed as I watched one worker grab insurance forms and driver’s licenses, slap them onto the copy machine, and not even look at anything before handing everything back.
Of course, right when my turn came up, a second employee stepped up to handle my paperwork. She got flustered, though, when she could find no record of my name on the computer. She called the insurance company and spoke to someone about the error. While she was waiting for an answer, the other clerk stepped up and said he’d take over. He asked me if she’d copied my stuff. I told him she hadn’t and handed him the insurance form all folded up with my license on top. He didn’t even look at them as he made his copies.
I drove straight home in the little red Hyundai and immediately put the correct insurance form into my wallet. At that point, I hoped to drive the rental only until the end of the week.
However, one little thing after another went wrong. First, the shop called to say they didn’t get to my car during the first two days. Then they called to say that one of the doors had to be replaced, and they were in the process of tracking down another door. After the fifth day, they called to say they’d installed the door, but wouldn’t get around to painting anything for another two days. After ten days, I finally received the call to pick up my car.
A close inspection at the shop made me smile because the car looked as good as before the accident. Because of the glitches, the repair bill pushed over $1, 600.00. I definitely felt relieved that I had decided on the fixes. With light heart, I drove home and parked the car in front of the house with no plans of using it over the weekend.
The first morning I used the car, I couldn’t get the driver’s side door to unlock without several tries. Then the next morning it would only open with the key. By the third day, I found myself crawling from the passenger side of the car into the driver’s seat because the locks wouldn’t release at all.
The repair shop told me to bring the car in at my convenience, and they would put me at the front of the line. It still meant another trip to the airport area, another long waiting room visit, another irritation to my day.
All minor blips, though.
I’ve come to realize over the last few years that little “fender benders” may disrupt my routine or annoy me, but my perspective has changed over how to handle these small bumps and bruises. All of the small stuff that used to infuriate me now appears insignificant to me.
Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman