Lunch Story

I spent my lunch break at the local fabric store scouting out supplies for an upcoming book project and ended up stuck in line at the cutting counter, needing half a yard of fabric, while the lady in front of me got varying lengths of a dozen different bolts. I stood there, watching my “go through a drive through for a bite of food” time get snipped into smaller and smaller pieces, and wondering What. On. Earth. this woman could possibly be making. She wasn’t just buying a lot of fabric – she was buying the ugliest fabrics in the entire store. Maybe it was a mission of mercy? She was taking the fabric away to be burned, never again to horrify people with taste?

Anyway, I finally got checked out, and was waiting to turn right onto Federal behind – you guessed it – Ugly Fabric Woman in her fancy SUV. Who was, of course, waiting to turn left. And while I sat there in my car, she did turn left – at what really had to be the most utterly impossible time.

The teenage girl in the Sunfire tried valiantly to stop and ended up leaving a lot of rubber on the road in the process, but there was no avoiding the inevitable collision between poorly-driven SUV and tiny sportscar. It was pretty clear that no one was injured, thank goodness, but I was saddened to watch all the cars around them just keep on driving as if nothing had happened. I mean, sure, probably everyone was hurrying to get back to work – but the people right behind the Sunfire couldn’t have known that everyone was okay, couldn’t have known that both drivers were seatbelted and neither was juggling butterfly knives or holding a steaming mocha at the time.

So, with a cross between resignation and “whoo hoo, I don’t have to go back to work yet,” I backed up into the parking lot and got out of my car.

Sunfire Girl restarted her car and pulled into the parking lot, leaving Pontiac confetti all over the road. Ugly Fabric Woman sat in the suicide lane. I approached Sunfire Girl and asked if she was okay, and she tried to get out of the car. Unfortunately, the way she’d hit the SUV, the frame had crumpled over the door hinge and the door wouldn’t open. She climbed out the passenger seat and asked me what she was supposed to do – it was her first accident. I told her that she ought to call the police because of the extent of the damage (her car was likely totalled unless she had awfully good insurance, and the SUV was looking at thousands in body work); she asked me if it was okay that she came into the parking lot, and whether I had a cell phone.

After a bit, Ugly Fabric Woman pulled into the parking lot as well. I asked if she was all right, and she said that she barely even felt a jolt. Sunfire Girl got her mom on the phone and started telling her – in front of Ugly Fabric Woman – that she’d been in an accident, that she’d “hit a woman on Federal” and that both cars “had dents.” (Her mom was going to get an unpleasant surprise when she saw those “dents”!)

I sat down in my car to do some reading while I waited for the police to arrive, and after a moment Sunfire Girl came over and thanked me for waiting. Ugly Fabric Woman was on the phone with someone on the other side of the parking lot, so I took the opportunity to advise Sunfire Girl not to acknowledge blame – even to her mom – in front of the other driver or the police. I didn’t come out and tell her that it hadn’t been her fault, but I told her that it was the cop’s job to figure out whose fault it was and that you could end up getting blamed even when it wasn’t your fault if you said the wrong thing.

The policeman arrived – what is it with cops being really short, anyway? – and asked me who had been involved. I pointed him toward Sunfire and Fabric, and told him I’d witnessed the whole thing. He said he’d be with me and a moment and walked over to Sunfire Girl, who told him what happened (not very clearly – she was obviously rattled). Meanwhile, Ugly Fabric Woman was still on the phone.

He got done with Sunfire and came over to me, took my name and number, and asked me what happened. I told him where I’d been and that from my perspective, Fabric had pulled out into traffic when she clearly shouldn’t have, Sunfire had thrown on her brakes and squealed to an almost-stop, but didn’t have room to avoid the crash. He wanted to know what traffic had looked like, and I told him that it had been pretty solid – she couldn’t have veered into another lane, and they were both lucky that more cars weren’t involved. He thanked me, I told Sunfire and Fabric that I hoped the rest of their day got better, and I went back to work.

I told my boss the story, and she told me how proud she was of me. So that’s where I come to my point (other than telling a somewhat diverting little story): didn’t I just do what I was supposed to do? I’ve always thought if you witnessed a crash, you were supposed to stick around in case the police needed to talk to you. Kind of like if you see someone get hurt and you’re a doctor, you’re obligated to help. Right?

Sigh. Who am I kidding – people don’t even pull over for emergency vehicles anymore.

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