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Archive for Sunday, January 15, 2006

Car accidents happen, and it’s OK to hate ‘em

January 15, 2006

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Don't you just hate it when you have a wreck? I'm experienced enough to know that any auto accident you walk away from is a good one, and I also know that sheet metal and plastic can be repaired. Still, there's no denying it's a hassle. Frankly, I'd rather avoid wrecks altogether.

A recent wreck I couldn't avoid occurred during the first bad snowstorm of the season, when a car slid down an inclined drive and struck me in the passenger side of my car. God knows the driver of the other vehicle was trying to stop and, even with the icy asphalt, he likely would have pulled it off had the drive not been sloping. I saw it coming but was powerless to do anything but wait for the crunch.

That accident brought back memories of a similar accident a couple of decades ago when a driver slid on ice through a red light and centerpunched our silver Buick Wildcat, spinning us 180 degrees in the middle of a busy intersection. That was a much more serious wreck, although neither husband Ray nor I was injured. Once I shakily combed the glass out of my hair, I was good as new.

We later learned that we were fortunate the officer investigating that accident didn't check Ray's driver's license for violations, presumably because he clearly wasn't at fault. It was during a period when we were changing insurance companies, and a couple of weeks after the wreck I received a call from the new company saying they couldn't insure us because of Ray's driving record.

"SAY WHAT?"

"He had a wreck," the voice on the phone explained.

"But it wasn't his fault."

I was instructed to call the state's motor vehicle department, and that's where the situation took a really weird turn. The lady at MVD was the hostile sort of bureaucrat you rarely run into. (Once is clearly enough). But judge for yourself by the conversation that ensued after I explained the reason for my call. Turned out, it wasn't the recent wreck, but one that she said had occurred a couple of years before.

"But he didn't have a wreck then," I said, "and he has a very good driving record."

"He wrecked a Chevrolet you owned," she insisted.

"We didn't own a Chevrolet two years ago."

"Well," she said haughtily, "we've had a hold on his driver's license for two years."

"And that ought to tell you he's a good driver or he'd have been ticketed by now."

My father always said that the fact he was a lawyer didn't make me one by osmosis. Still, a few things I picked up from him helped me come up with an argument I thought would be successful: "How could you put a hold on his license without notifying him?"

"We DID notify him," she said. "We sent it to your Eudora address."

"We don't live in Eudora."

"You DID live in Eudora," she said in a case-closed tone of voice.

"Trust me on this," I said. "I'd remember if we ever lived in Eudora."

The issue wasn't resolved until we made a trip to Topeka and met with the woman who brought out a file with Ray's name containing returned mail - marked "addressee unknown" - sent to a Eudora address. The file also contained a wreck report, filed by the other driver involved, naming Ray and giving his driver's license number ... but not quite. The penmanship was so bad the name might as easily have been read as Roy Cobb or Kay Copp and, while Ray's license number began with an R, I immediately noticed the driver's license number on the report began with a Q.

When I pointed out that fact, the woman took a closer look and said, "Doesn't the tail on that Q make it LOOK like an R?"

It didn't help that the woman's boss came to her rescue and excused her by saying, "Everyone makes mistakes."

"But she didn't believe me when I tried to explain," I said in frustration. "She acted like I was lying."

I didn't go ballistic until he replied, "You have to understand that most of the people we deal with ARE liars."

By that time, the woman was trembling and Ray was feeling sorry for her. "Hey," I exclaimed to Ray. "She didn't call YOU a LIAR!"

That situation was resolved in our favor, and I'm not anticipating that a similar problem will follow my recent wreck, but I say once again - with feeling - don't you just hate it when you have a wreck?

Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence. Information about purchasing her book, "Life Is More Fun When You Live It Jest for Grins," is available by calling 843-2577 or e-mailing mhgink@netscape.net.

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