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The major and the minor

I was in a minor fender-bender type accident in the school parking lot today.

I backed into a car which was painted a shade of invisible until my bumper tapped it’s right front headlight. Shattering happened.

The owner of the car witnessed the entire episode and to say he wasn’t happy would be ten miles under an understatement. He has one headlight tonight, and I pray he and his children are safe on the road.

While sorting things out, he gave his young son a small white plastic bag from Diamond Shamrock, telling him to pick up the glass shards off the ground.

I told him I would do it.

I kneeled to pick the sharp slivers and chunks off the wet asphalt. It had snowed, but melted. It was cold. I cut myself, twice. The small bag was heavy by the time I was done.

He took pictures of my car with his cell phone. I have pictures of his car on my cell phone. There we were, protecting ourselves, suspicious, angry, sorry, dirty, cold. He left with a photocopy of my insurance card.

I left with a bag of glass and bits of silver chrome. I put it in the back of my car and drove home, crying.

“Are you going to be arrested, mom?” Tommy asked.

“No, don’t worry. It was an accident.”


I wrote everything above last night, when it was all about me. The man was mean. It was cold. I had cuts on my hands. I felt stupid and embarrassed. Our insurance rates will go up. Our kids go to the same school. The man had been a stranger I saw nearly every day and it would be awkward for me to see him.

Woe was me.

After a fitful night of sleep which didn’t actually begin until well after 1am, I woke up and thought about Mr. R., the man who must deal with insurance companies and repair shops today. Most likely he has other things he needs to do. Instead, he finds himself dealing with a headache of a day.

And there it is, staring me in the face. He is going to have a bad day.

I don’t often go around being the catalyst for bad days. So now, I am thinking of him.

How have you wrecked someone else’s perfectly fine day? Have you?

20 comments to The major and the minor

  • Have I? Unknowingly, probably often. Tending toward self-centeredness, I’m sure I never even noticed though. Funny the things we can learn about ourselves in accidents. I’m sorry this happened Gretchen. It looks as though you can turn lemons into lemonade, praying today for a man who may need it. Maybe your paths crossed for a reason.

    Heth’s last blog post..Um… Whatever.

  • I’m sorry this happened to you, Gretchen. And I’m sorry the man chose to be mean.

    I love your heart, that you are thinking of him today. Hopefully if the shoe is ever on the other foot, he will be as thoughtful.

    Speaking from a very similar experience, it will be a pain and your rates will probably go up, but you’ll learn from it and move on.

    Robin’s last blog post..9/365

  • Starr

    Hey Gretch – This is going to be weird: I’m glad it was you involved. All could be worse if another parent who didn’t pray afterwards, humbly clean up after herself and model how to live this messy life had been in that situation. I know any lasting effects will be for your good and God’s glory. Another parent-driver might not have that grace. Mostly, I’m amazed there are not more school parking incidents. I am also glad you’re O.K. and sorry this happened to you too.

  • Shayne

    Gretchen, I’m sorry he was mean. It’s called an accident for a reason, and hopefully when he got home, he took time to think and pray about it his behavior as well. I think it’s especially important to behave gracefully, as you did, when children’s eyes are watching.

    I’m certain I caused a terrible day for a man I rear-ended on the highway on my way home a couple of years ago. His Jeep was barely scratched, though there was quite a bit of damage to my Saturn’s front end. He was nice and I was apologetic. I called his house later, offering to pay out of pocket rather than report to insurance. I spoke to his wife (whom he had called from the accident scene), and she was cold and curt with me. I’m sure he got an earful when he got home.

  • amy

    Two things amaze me about this story. One, that this guy, who you see every day, who is a parent of a child who attends the same school your child does was mean to you over something like this. Of course it sucks for him, but how embarrassing for him (I think) that he’s going to have to see you and your kids again every day. Two, that he asked his son to pick up the glass — that just seems like the request of an unreasonable person to me. It’s nice of you to think of him today, and maybe, as some others have suggested, it did all happen for “God’s glory” but I think the guy was just a jerk.

  • Oh yes. I still feel awful about this one…my best friend in high school (a boy) asked me out our junior year. I told him I’d try one date, and we didn’t date after that. His cousin told me I “crushed his butterfly.” For months. But we’re still friends today, even though I’m married with a child. And he’s still single…sometimes I wonder if it’s my fault. Sigh…

    I’m sorry that you went through this experience. But…I’m glad that you have enough maturity and thoughtfulness to also think of others.

    Heidi’s last blog post..Fanfare

  • i’m sure i have made people have a bad day more than once. nothing comes readily to mind right now.

    i’m sorry this happened to you. i know how it feels to feel stupid about an accident.

    chickadee’s last blog post..I Was a Baby, a Long Time Ago

  • Jenny

    I’m trying to imagine my husband watching while a woman picks up glass from the cold, wet ground. Thankfully, it would never happen. I’m sorry that you ran into a jerk. I think you handled it with grace.

  • I’m also so very sorry this happened, Gretchen. It was an accident.

    Mostly I am horrified that the man would ask his child to pick up the glass shards from the parking lot. Seriously?

    Sadly, too, that man might as well have been my own father. Quick temper waiting for just the right circumstances in which to explode. I’m embarrassed for the man in the same way I was so many times embarrassed by and for my father.

    All of it is for a reason, right? For you and for him.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog post..Seven Rooms, Seven Days – The Kitchen

  • Oh, I’m sure that I have…considering I now actually notice how self-centered I have always been, but in the past it was mostly all about ME, all the time. I can only imagine the people that I affected without realizing it. :o(

    Having said that…the guy didn’t have to be so nasty. I’m sorry that it happened!

    Leigh’s last blog post..Perhaps it is the fault of global warming.

  • Rae

    I’ve ruined someone’s day simply by being rear ended… I know it ruined his day as much as it did mine, on both ends accidents are hard. Don’t fret too much- his attitude about the annoying details of an accident is his own responsibility, not yours. It definitely doesn’t sound like he responded with much grace.

    Rae’s last blog post..Whoa, did New Year?s happen already dude?

  • Sister-of-mopsy

    My Neighbor’s have had a few bad days cuz of me… and they still smile and wave.
    1.Backed over neighbors mailbox.
    2.Dog pooped in neighbors front yard… neighbor stepped in poop before I could get back and remove it (doh!)
    3.Called cable company because cable line fell at neighbors during a windy night and I thought I would be nice and report the hazard, cable company discovers neighbor is getting free cable (doh!)
    4. Told daughter to throw the baseball in our yard back over to neighbors yard, daughter has better arm than expected and breaks glass bird feeder.
    5.Tree limb falls and crushes fence between yards, neighbors dog escaps and get impounded.
    6.Called city to investigage water drainage issues and ditch that runs behind our house (and neighbors), while investigating and clean ditch, backhoe bumps neighbors storage building (which was dangerous close to ditch) and building collapses into ditch.

    I’m sure they are thrilled we moved in 2 years ago.

  • I notice it most when I am dealing with nurses. I am an awful patient. I know I have made th day harder for a lot of perfectly ordinary, busy nurses.

    The worst part is – my mom is a nurse, so I already know better.

    Veronica Mitchell’s last blog post..My Favorite Screen Vampires

  • Every time I hand out grades . . .

  • HUGS to you. It’s just horrible when something like that happens. It happened to me when my middle boy was only 2 weeks old. The guy who’s truck I backed into also shouted and was SO upset. However, it is only an accident. HUGS

    Melany’s last blog post..It?s my party and I?ll cry if I want to

  • JoAnn

    I’m so sorry. You know….things happen. Life isn’t all peachy. It’s not like you purposely ran into that guys vehicle. He needs to take a chill pill!

    Seriously, I’ve run into many people, (minor fender benders) and most are very nice, and calm. (thank goodness).

  • Too many times to count.

    But here is the thing, it wasn’t like to rammed into him on purpose, he could have been a bit nicer to you about it. These things happen.

    Sorry HE ruined YOUR day.

    Aimee Greeblemonkey’s last blog post..If You Ever Wondered What My Kitchen Looks Like

  • Yikes, I hate days like that. Very humbling. When I do something embarrassing, or find myself in an awkward situation because of something I did, I can’t quit thinking about it. It settles into my soul, tugs at my heart and tries to attach itself to my identity. Don’t let it happen.

    Joanne’s last blog post..Don’t Mess with PMS

  • Joy

    What a yucky day. Here’s hoping to a better tomorrow.

  • I think you are too hard on yourself! It’s good to have compassion for what he is going through but I think he also needed to go into this that you did not intend to make it happen as well. How you handle things speaks loudly. I think you both spoke loudly. You understood his prospective and I hope he is able to learn how to handle his misfortunes as well.

    Debbie’s last blog post..How to Make a Women Happy

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