Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I avoided a car accident and I'm furious with myself. Why didn't I let them hit me? Whyyyy?

     I narrowly avoided a car accident yesterday and I'm still angry about it. Strike that, I'm furious, enraged, apoplectic; I NEEDED that car accident. I've been WAITING for that accident. And my stupid, irritating reflexes saved me from that accident. Damn them to hell.

     My car isn't really worthy to be called "a car" at this point. Vehicle doesn't work. Auto is too good. Piece of crap works. Moneypit works, too, but has a little bit too much dignity. Nightmare is apt, but again, that word has too much sense of importance, and this car deserves nothing, not even the benefit of a good descriptive word.

     The Piece O'Crap is a Toyota Sienna minivan. My ex bought it, when we were still a couple. I'd told him if I had to have a family type car, I wanted a station wagon. A cute, little, stylish one. The kind that would instantly turn my life from a series of half-reasoned, getting along by the seat of my pants-type moments into one of those beautiful, soft focus Subaru commercials.  The children and I would smile lovingly at each other as we drove to those warm, bug-free, flower-strewn fields that only Subaru owners know about, so we could watch the stars while listening to indie music.  It goes without saying that on the way back from stargazing, I'd glance in the backseat, see my sleeping offspring with their little heads resting on each other, and a soft, Madonna-like (the original M, not the one who's weird about yoga) smile would touch my lips and soften my eyes as I drove home, a happy woman suffused with love of children, stars, weird music and the sheer joy of night driving.

     I'd told the ex I'd rather die than drive a minivan. I've seen some gangs and drug dealers work a minivan to their advantage, but I don't have their sense of style. Naturally, the ex heard "I'd rather die" as "I'll just DIE if I don't get one," and promptly bought one. This listening habit was not THE reason the marriage broke up, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't A reason. I would say "I'm taking our offspring to a movie tonight, would you like to come along with us?" and he would hear "Abc qrstuvwxy 809 AquaVelva fish taco night." It's a lot of fun for the first few years, it really is, but like all good things, the shine does wear off a little after a decade or two. If my brain had been working (my goodness, if I had a penny for every time I've said this, I'd be Bill Gates ex-wife, California is the land of the no-fault divorce, bless their hippy hearts), I would have stated emphatically and repeatedly that I'd rather die than drive a Mercedes, I mean a station wagon. I would have been butt-in-seat in that glowy, hip Subaru wagon like yesterday. But I didn't say that. It's taken years and years to get as duplicitous and manipulative as I am now. I just didn't have the skills to handle it then, so I got stuck with a minivan.

     Yes, the Sienna handles well, in spite of its bulk.  I've gotten the kids to school before the last bell, in spite of leaving for a ten minute destination with less than five minutes to go. I've turned that baby on a dime going fifty miles an hour, Jack. It has a sun roof. Not a specifically Sienna-type feature, but I'm trying to be positive. It also, supposedly, has a stellar safety record and above average repair record.

     Except. The ex, along with his inability to understand things like, you know, words, also has another unique talent. He can walk into a veritable football stadium's worth of automobiles, every last one of them worthy of the cover of Car and Driver, and he'll pick out the one, single Lemon. It's a remarkably consistent skill. He's done it with dvd players, waffle irons, television sets, vacuums (he bought a $350 vacuum that worked once. Once. The appropriate question here isn't "Which brand {it was a Hoover}," it's "Who the hell spends that much money on a vacuum?"). You name it, he'll find the lemon version of it. Every purchase was a Best Buy from Consumer Reports, or had glowing reviews on Amazon, etc, etc, and every last object was a Lemon. It seems like this could be some sort of decent paying career, doesn't it? I mean, if we lived in a world where companies wanted to know this sort of thing (I may be bitter, but I don't believe most of them give a tinker's damn).

     The Sienna was used, bought from the Toyota dealer, and was an expensive problem from day one. The transmission died on the way to the airport for a family vacation. The engine died on the way to the Nutcracker in the city (you haven't lived until you've caused a traffic obstruction in NYC weekend rush hour, let alone on Broadway, natch. City drivers don't get hung up on fiddly traffic laws, but if you slow them down, let alone bring them to a standstill, wella, There Will Be Blood). The muffler literally dropped off and rolled away while I was doing errands. The ex took all the problems to the dealer, because they cover that kind of thing in the first year, especially when you buy the extended warranty, right? Nope. They didn't cover anything. Their excuse? We had non-Toyota standard plugs and points. A valid point, perhaps, except for the fact that they were the ones to put them in, in the first place. They stubbornly refused to work around that convenient loophole, so the ex took the car to the next, most reasonable place: the chopshop.

     Let me gently dissuade anyone from this possible decision. An illegal chopshop may be much cheaper, but seeing as how your car is going to be filled up with stolen parts, it's not good manners. It's not what a Good Citizen should do. Also, and this is the most salient point, when your windshield wipers turn on, every time you take a right turn, you won't be able to take the car back in for a little free repair work. If the car had been reliably problematic before, it was nothing compared to after. The horn honked when I reversed, the wipers did the right turn thing, the automatic side door would open up while driving (the kids were scared at first, but it's amazing how adaptable little ones are. They became quite proficient at tying the door shut with bungee cords while ignoring the speeding ground beside them), the driver's window wouldn't roll back up if rolled more than halfway down, and the 'check engine' light went on and stayed on. It's still on. It was like some comedy where the driver buckles their seatbelt and all the doors fall off. Ha Ha! What fun!  But hey, we got a cheap (stolen) engine and cheap (incompetent) labor.

     I've had the window, the wipers, the door, etc., fixed. They stayed fixed for a month. They're all back to their shenanigans now. I can't afford to 'fix' them again. My plan has been to save up for a grand spree of repairs, and then promptly sell it before anything else major happens (and you can bet the house that it will happen). In the back of my mind, however, I had some unworthy thoughts. How much would insurance pay if it was stolen, I wondered. How much would they cover if it was totaled in an accident?

     Before you judge me, you must drive a mile in my car.  After that, you'll be scheming, too. The car is like my ex; after a certain amount of time, one finds oneself infused with a certain amount of, shall we say, mental illness.

     So I've been leaving the car in dark parking lots, to no avail, until last week. We were at Shakespeare in the Park, and returned to find the front passenger door handle half ripped off. I don't know if we interrupted the would-be thief, but I was more than a little disappointed to find the car still there. Yes, it would have been expensive and tiresome to pack the kids and their friends into a taxi, but still.

     I've had more than a few near misses in the accident department as well. There's a corner by the kid's school where drivers regularly run the stop sign, usually going more than forty miles an hour. I've dodged them many a time, unfortunately.  I had some teen boys mistake their gas for their reverse, barreling into me at a high speed, and I stupidly swerved out of the way. It's hard to change the defensive driving habits of a lifetime, but I knew I could do it if I put my mind to it. It's ON, I said to myself.

     So when man driving a huge Escalade ran through his yield sign and almost demolished the right side of the minivan, what did I do? I breaked, dammit, that's what I did. My brain thought "Perfect. Let's do this." My reflexes, however, worked faster than my brain, and ruined the day. I didn't have kids with me, they were with their dad. It was a Sunday, so no traffic to jam. I didn't have anything to do or anywhere important to be, and I RUINED it. Even worse, not only did I not let a giant douchebag in a giant douchebag car hit me (I'm sorry if you drive an Escalade, I really am. It's the Dude in a Gold Chain of cars. You might want to examine your life choices), I didn't let the exact right person hit me in the exact right side of the car, in the exact right time and day, and, AND, an Escalade is like seventy-thousand dollars and built like a tank, so it could have done the job, and wouldn't have been the same as, say, being in an accident with a poverty-stricken single mother and her only transportation, which she couldn't afford to replace.  Also, the DB didn't just flip me off after running through his yield sign, he flipped me off and then made and even cruder gesture, which his five DB offspring quickly imitated. I've ignored it when my kids occasionally flip someone off, if that person really deserved it. Not great parenting, I'm aware, but I'd never, ever let my kids make the kind of gesture this guy made, let alone make it myself. It's just gross.

     So, to sum up: the perfect situation, and I blew it. The universe aligned for me in a rare moment of perfection, sending me the most guilt free car accident anyone has ever had. He was rich, horrible, and oh-so-deserving. Furthermore, this DB is not only making little DB's to wander the earth and soil it with their douche-bagginess, he's probably driving around as we speak, running red lights, cutting off drivers left and right, secure in his scorn, flipping off beater cars everywhere, and it's MY FAULT. I'm so sorry. I had the chance to infringe upon his worldview, and I blew it. I had a chance for a newer, better car, and I blew that, too. It's going to take a long while to get over this one.

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