I worked 2.5 hours at Staples on Dec. 31, 2008. A snowstorm came in fast, and we were all told to go home, and I left around 11:30am. The roads were bad. Mass Pike wasn’t as bad as that awful 3-hour-or-more commute we all endured a year before, but conditions grew worse the closer I got toward home. I successfully navigated an unusually sparse Newton Circle, which is typically usually insanely packed with cars in a chaotic mess of cars.
I passed the two traffic lights and was on Centre Street in Newton. Ahead of me I saw a car getting ready to come out of the Brigham and Women’s center parking lot. The car’s nose was partly in my lane of traffic. From that position, I determined that I had enough room and could safely pass through as normal.
(View Google Map street view of intersection. The other car was coming out of this parking lot.
I was driving in the same direction as the white car, shown.)
I could see the driver waiting for other cars to pass by; it appeared he was waiting to take a left turn, to go in my opposite direction, or go into the Bertucci’s pizzeria parking lot across the street. He was looking at other cars, away from my direction, and I assumed he would turn to look to the left to see if other cars would come. As soon as other cars cleared his way, he drove into the street. He did not look my way.
I was too close to make a sudden stop. I beeped the horn (he was this way now), and I put on the brakes. Because the roads were snowy, my car swerved as I tried to bypass the other car. The back end of my car swerved to the right. The front right-side bumper of my car hit the front left side of his car.
My car ended up perpendicular to the road, on the other side, where there are two lanes. My car was blocking those lanes. I got out of the car and saw the other car involved pull into the Bertucci’s parking lot opening. I motioned to him as if to say, “What were you thinking?” I heard another driver, who was not involved but trying to be helpful, yell out to me that it was OK for me to drive into the parking lot, so I got back in the car and did so.
I got out, and so did the other driver. A girl, whom he later identified as his daughter, remained in his passenger seat. I was about to ask if everyone was OK, but he was clearly angry and was blaming me. That surprised me, and I said, “You didn’t look!” That made him angrier, and he demanded to get my information. I said I wanted to see his, and continued to blame me, ending with “Suck my dick!” He grew more frustrated and said, “I should call the cops. Actually, I WILL call the cops.” He went back inside his car. Either during the conversation, or shortly after, a woman came and became his witness. “I saw you hit him,” she said to me.
I called 911 and decided to stay outside. The snow was falling hard. I was doing OK. I should have been just as angry as he was, glaring at him as he was glaring at me from inside his heated Mercedes, but I was calm and collected. I was enjoying the snowfall. I slightly smiled as I looked up into the gray sky where hundreds of big flakes were hurtling, yet floating, toward me. I thought of sticking out my tongue to taste the snow, but I decided against it. I imagined the other guy would notice and run over to rip it out. I went inside my car to warm up.
Soon firefighters arrived in a truck, and began questioning the other driver. I got out, and a man on the sidewalk holding two coffee cups asked me if I was the one driving on the road. I said yes, and he said he saw the other car obstructing the line of traffic. A firefighter asked me if I was hurt. I said no. He responded by saying the other driver said he was feeling whoozy. “Of course he did,” I said. The firefighters got another call to attend to, so they left soon after.
I text messaged and then called a colleague who apparently was still at the office. Then my witness gave me his name, address and phone number. A police officer arrived shortly after 12:30pm. I didn’t get the police officer’s name, but he was older with white hair, either buzz-cut or balding. I was first to get out of the car, so the officer approached me. “Before I forget, here is my witness’s information,” I told him.
“It’s OK,” the officer said, looking at the road. “The other driver’s the one at fault.”
Then he asked me what happened. By this time, the other driver was standing near the officer. I told the officer I was driving this way, and “he” was coming out of the parking lot. “How dare you!” the other driver said. The officer held up his hand, telling him to be quiet, that it was my turn. “Exchange information,” the officer said. Neither of us had any paper, so the officer went back to his car and provided us with a motor vehicle crash exchange form. I gave the other driver my registration card and driver’s license and he gave me his. This guy’s smiling photo could not be the same man broiling before me in the snow, but he really was. He was from Weston.
After the officer left, and after the other driver left, I called my insurance company from the parking lot and gave his information to them. The license plate number I was given had been swapped, my insurance rep said, which meant he could have just bought a new car and put new plates on it. “Or the car he was driving wasn’t his car,” I said. The rep laughed and said that was possible, too. She put me on hold while she tried to connect with a local auto body shop. We got disconnected. I waited a few minutes for her to call me back, but I grew impatient and called again. I couldn’t reach her.
After the third try, I decided to drive to the shop myself as it was only a mile away. But the bumper was hanging down and touching the front right wheel. I tried to figure out how to rig it with black rubber bungie cord or rope. I soon was fed up and tried to yank the thing off, and one young guy came along and helped me. I put the broken pieces of the bumper in the back seat, and slowly drove to the body shop in Watertown Square. Being aware of a big gaping hole in one corner of my car felt like I was driving with three wheels.
The auto body shop attendant (owner?) looked at the damage and estimated it would take about a week to do the work. I found out later that my auto insurance policy doesn’t cover getting a rental car, but it’s possible to get the other guy’s insurance to cover it because needing to drive a rental is a result of the accident. I need to call his insurance company Friday morning to see if they’ll do it.
I had planned to go to the ProvidenceTango New Year’s Eve milonga, but didn’t think it wise to drive all that way with my car in that condition. I didn’t feel like bumming a ride. I felt this was the universe’s way of telling me not to go anywhere. (Even in the morning, I woke with a sore throat and feared I was getting another round of tonsilitis, and if that were the case, I didn’t want to infect anyone.) So I decided to stay in. On New Year’s morning, my roommates (after checking their cell phones for any evidence of debauchery from the night before) and I went down the street to Uncommon Grounds for breakfast. I took a nap, and then wrote two blog posts.