Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Honesty is the Best Policy

I mentioned briefly the other day that I'd had a minor run-in with another car in a parking lot.  Mine ended up with the worst of the damage, one big smile-shaped scratch (ironic) and a few screw head-shaped scratches, all on the bumper.  From what we could tell at the time, the only damage to the other car was a broken license plate frame and some easily removable black marks on the paint from the plastic rubbing against it.  It was minor, but annoying nonetheless.  I still need to find someone who can do touch-up paint well, because I'd really like to make my scratches less noticeable.  Anyway...

When it happened I was totally freaking out internally, but decided I had to do the right thing.  I walked around the restaurant until I found the person whose car it was.  That was awkward.  But, I felt like it was probably the best thing to do for my mental state, because worrying about later repercussions wasn't really something I wanted, either.  I honestly didn't even think of leaving a note, and I'm glad I didn't because it would have been an easy cop-out.  The girl whose car it was was very understanding.  And she was really relieved I came to find her.  Her car was a lease so she was obviously a bit concerned about making sure it would be in perfect condition when the time came to turn it in.  She praised me for doing it and was really nice about the whole thing, all things considered.  Heck, she felt bad for me because she could tell I was a little shaky when we were exchanging information!  She really wanted to avoid insurance at all costs, because she'd had an accident last year.  I did, too, of course, since I'm probably getting close to having my accident drop off my record. 

I emailed her that day just to give her any other contact info I hadn't in the parking lot, and emphasized that I'd be willing to pay for the license plate thing, at the very least, and to keep me posted.  Earlier this week she emailed me and said her husband was concerned so they were taking it into the dealer to get checked.  Ugh.  I was really concerned that they'd try to milk this for all it was worth, that even if the damage was minimal, they might try to eek a few bucks out of me, if only for perceived pain and suffering (or at least inconvenience and annoyance), you know?

Last night I accidentally left my phone in my car, and when I came out this morning there was a voicemail notification.  I didn't recognize the number but I listened to it as I strapped Jacob into the car, and it was from her.  And, hallelujah, it was good news.  The dealer found no problems with the car.  She said the license plate piece cost a just a few bucks, and said we could "just call it a wash."  She then went on for a while (again) about how great it was that I tracked her down, how she's not sure she would have done the same thing, and that it taught her a great lesson in honesty. 

Huh, who knew?

I don't feel like I did anything extra special, but I guess society has changed.  I'm glad she appreciated the effort.  It softens the blow of my stupidity a bit, and in the end I'm just relieved that mine got it worse than hers and happy that hers was pretty much fine.  Whew.

If there are any lessons to take from this experience (besides being obsessively aware of every angle of your car), they're a) if ever in doubt, err on the side of honesty; and b) if you're going to get in a car accident, make sure you hit a really nice person.  The woman I hit last time (four years ago) was also the sweetest, most understanding person.  She worked in the insurance industry, so she was well aware how much fender benders happen, and she was very concerned when she saw I was pregnant.  Both experiences have been relatively minor incidents, all things considered.  Yes, last time my car was totaled, but it was an eight year old Neon so it wouldn't have taken much.  Most importantly, no one got hurt.  The people have been easy to deal with and they both happened on lovely, warm days, so I guess I'm pretty lucky.  Still feeling pretty stupid, but lucky nonetheless.

I hope the honesty thing really did impact the woman whose car I hit, and perhaps her nice message will serve as a reminder for myself in the future that it pays to be honest, even if it's just the peace of mind of knowing you did the right thing.

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