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“I worry when I see people fling open doors without looking. I worry about what kind of drivers they are, if they’re so unobservant when they’re sitting still.” – Lorraine Sommerfeld. (Darren McGee/The Globe and Mail)
“I worry when I see people fling open doors without looking. I worry about what kind of drivers they are, if they’re so unobservant when they’re sitting still.” – Lorraine Sommerfeld. (Darren McGee/The Globe and Mail)

Drive, She Said

Kids, parking lots and dinged car doors Add to ...

Your kid is a brat.

I’ve got a nice new ding on the door of my car. It’s small, but I watched your kid do it, and I wasn’t pleased. Your seven-year-old booted open a car door next to mine, and there it bloomed.

My car is not precious, nor is it without some existing scars. The rear has a couple of vertical scrapes where one of those machines you snake out your clogged sewers with proved to be heavier than we anticipated. This tells you a couple of things about my family: when our sewer line gets clogged with tree roots (we hope), we rent a machine and clear it ourselves. When the car gets accidentally scratched at Home Depot while we’re wrestling the thing in and out of it, I sigh, and remind myself every second wasted could mean something nasty rising on the high tide in my basement.

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Sliding doors on minivans were an answered prayer to parents everywhere, effectively solving that moment when kids spring out of vehicles like microwave popcorn. You could finally park beside anything and not have to scream, “Wait until I get around to you!” before exiting the car. I remember a stint in a Cordoba when I was younger, with each of its two doors so long you were basically pinned in narrow parking spots.

Still, door dings do not please me. I had a word with The Brat’s parent, but it fell on deaf ears and a defensive mouth. I’m not sure when controlling the behaviour of children became such an onerous task; I’m more lenient than my parents were, but we’ve always had rules and respecting other people’s property is right up there with clear your dishes, brush your teeth and don’t kill anyone.

I regard parking lots as pretty dangerous places, especially for little people who dart around without looking. If The Brat’s parent didn’t care about property damage, maybe they could give some consideration to the fact that a free-range child is more likely to be struck by a car – one no doubt driven by someone as equally oblivious. I can deal with scraped paint, but regardless of fault, I’d never want to see your child harmed because you couldn’t be bothered to rein him in.

I worry when I see people fling open doors without looking. I worry about what kind of drivers they are, if they’re so unobservant when they’re sitting still. A friend recently had someone back into him; he was sitting at a red light, when the Mini ahead of him, trapped in the intersection on the fading yellow, decided to back up. Without looking. In a split-second, the Mini belted into him, damaging his new car. His 500-kilometres-on-the-speedo new car. It bent the licence plate, they sorted it out, but all I could think was, “You backed up out of an intersection? You had two choices, neither perfect, but you chose the worst one and did it blindly?”

The solution to driver error isn’t more driver error. The solution to your kid marking someone’s car isn’t to blame someone. I like kids. I give them the benefit of the doubt when they screw up, because I know I’m usually seeing dismal parenting or a lapse in judgment, not an evil child. I’ve made errors raising my own, but if the way you handled your kid schmucking my door is the way you handle his poor behaviour in other regards, I feel desperately sorry for his teachers, his babysitters, and any place he gets away with this.

Your children are watching you when you drive. Learning how to drive doesn’t begin at age 16; it begins when they’re facing forward in their car seat. If you have careless habits, they will note this.

I spent the day yesterday with a young friend who has been blind since birth. We pulled into the parking lot of a busy restaurant. He was in the front seat, and hesitated.

“How much space do I have? I don’t want to hit anything,” he told me, his hand pausing on the door handle. Here is a young man with a valid excuse for making a mistake, but he’s obviously been raised to be careful. If he refuses to play the blind card, please don’t try to tell me you can’t teach a seven-year-old to exercise more caution.

As for the ding, I’m sure I can get it suction-cupped out next time I’m at a body shop. I can probably do it with the toilet plunger. It’s handy.

lorraineonline.ca

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