I had been dreading it for almost a year; from the moment we drove our brand-new car off the lot. I knew the day would come eventually, as any car owner does.
Then, last week, the news came in the form of a text message from my wife, one that will be familiar to many a spouse, be they male or female. It began with the word “Honey.” That was the first sign things were not well. There was truth to be sweetened.
“Honey, sorry but I bumped car into a pillar in parking lot when leaving for home. Wheel well has much paint from pillar and small dent/scratches. Probably can be mostly buffed out but feel crap for having practically same crash I had last time.
My initial reaction was disbelief. What? Did the pillar leap up and hit you? Was the stress of driving 10 km/h in a parking garage too much? Bumped? Don’t you mean, “I ground our car against a stationary column like it was a piece of fine Parmigiano-Reggiano on a cheese grater?” And what was a “dent/scratch?” Was that like a “wound/gash” or a “bomb/explosion?”
Was most of the damage going to be “buffed out?” By who? Hercules? By the happy lucky car elves? Would ex-Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Hall of Fame running Franco Harris (he of the Immaculate Reception) come and buff it out for us? Would I be able to pay for the “buffing out” with Monopoly money? Was the pillar made of gold? Had we made a profit from the grazing?
And, yes, the same accident had occurred only a few years ago when our last Dodge Grand Caravan was just two months old. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to stick a Post-it on the dashboard that read “Note to Self: Avoid pillars.”
There was no way this wasn’t going to hurt financially. A dent? Has there ever been a dent that didn’t cost at least a grand to fix? Most mechanics handle “dent/scratches” like this, “We have $350 parts and $400 labour. We’ll round it off to a thousand.”
The truth was that my car was basically ruined. It’s a Dodge Grand Caravan, also known as a Dodge “Withdrawal-Method-Not-So-Effective.” It costs barely 25K, so a dent is 1/25th of the price.
Sure, I could have felt all those terrible emotions. But, you know what? You know what I felt when hit by that terrible swift text? When the news broke that a renegade stationary concrete pole had jumped violently out and struck our vehicle as it made its innocent way through a dog-eat-dog parking garage?
Relief because I wasn’t responsible. I could sit in self-satisfied calm and bask in my innocence.
For months I had lived in a state of suspended agitation. From the moment we bought the car I wondered when my number would be up. Would today be the day that I ruined my brand-new ride? I was cautious, oh so cautious. I went to great lengths. Is there anything more ridiculous than a man parking a Grand Caravan at the far end of the parking lot to avoid door-ding? But I did it.
It was doomed to fail. Who among us can avoid the dent forever? It is a byproduct of modern life. According to researcher Ward’s Auto, there are now one billion cars on the planet. How do you avoid dinging one against a pillar or getting dinged by one?
When I got home and saw the damage it was a little more than advertised. A rainbow of paint sheer was carved into my right back wheel. The scrapes were around a foot long. The dent above the wheel was far from negligible. This was not going to “buff out.” It was either fix it or forget it.
Until I made a trip to the body shop, I would be a marked motorist, wearing my red badge of wreckage, the kind of car given wide berth by nervous Porsche owners, who, seeing my damaged exterior believe I will risk all on the roads.
I was one of the dinged.
So I did what any self-respecting spouse would do. I was gracious and understanding and then I ordered the NFL Big Ticket package that allows you to watch every single game.
Dents happen. The truth is that any accident you can walk away from is a good accident. I’ve driven by enough real tragedies to know you don’t sweat the dings and dents of outrageous fortune. There are only two kinds of drivers, the saying goes, those who have hit the wall and those who are going to hit the wall.
And besides, it wasn’t my fault.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy