Fessing Up

Featured Image: “Head in Hands,” © Alex Proimos (own work), Dec 2009. CC BY-NC 2.0. (license)

Yesterday, I did something really stupid and careless.

I hit a parked car.

The story itself is rather unremarkable… in retrospect. It is not an experience I am eager to repeat, but at the same time, I am bizarrely grateful that it happened.

It was 10 minutes to 4 o’clock, and I was scooting out of work a bit early. The parking lot was still full of neatly aligned vehicles, and I was a bit pleased as punch that I was going to beat the mad rush of traffic that would soon be backing up on the little, two-lane road. My car was at the end of a row that faced uphill, so when I started backing out of my spot, I allowed gravity to do the work for me. I slowly rolled backward, lazily turning the steering wheel while gazing absent-mindedly in my side-view mirror.

There was no jolt, no thump, no shudder. The tiny collision almost escaped my notice entirely. But, it was a beautiful autumn day, and my windows were rolled all the way down. At the same time that my foot pressed the break to shift into drive, the faint sound of metal scraping metal assailed my ears. “Did I just hit that car?” I wondered, scrutinizing the ancient, long Cadillac that jutted into the aisle behind me. The Caddy looked like it was from 1970 and was probably built like a tank. I was more worried about damage to my car if I did, indeed, bump it. “What do I do?” flashed through my mind. For a fraction of an instant, I considered driving away and feigning complete ignorance of what just occurred, but my anxiety and my need-to-know seized me. I jumped out to hastily glance at my bumper. “Looks good!” I quickly concluded. For another nanosecond, I told myself that I ought to walk over to examine the other car, but then I rationalized, “That car is way sturdier than mine, and if mine’s ok, the other car must be ok, too. Anyway, looks good from here!” I shot a brief squint over my shoulder as I climbed back behind the wheel.

1970-cadillac-convertible
1970 Cadillac Convertible,” © George Pankewytch (own work), Jul 2013. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. (license)

As I zoomed away, I was wracked with doubt. “It’s fine,” I tried to tell myself. “This stuff happens all the time.” I recollected the time someone doored my car in the very same parking lot, putting a giant dent in my side panel that cost $200 to repair. Maybe little dings and scrapes did happen all the time, but that didn’t make it right. “I should have left a note.” I considered trying to track down the owner of the car when I returned to work the next day. As I continued along my route, I started mentally composing the note I should have written. “Well, if I am ever in a similar situation again, I will act differently,” I decided.

When I arrived home, I inspected my rear bumper more closely. There was no dent, but the paint was most definitely cracked. So… I hit with enough force to crack the paint. “Did I just commit a crime?” I wondered. “Was that a hit and run?” My wild imagination began concocting scenarios involving parking lot security cameras, police investigations, and serious consequences. My anxiety skyrocketed. “Well, this isn’t the afternoon that I planned,” I assented. I didn’t know what would happen next, if my victim was even still at work, but I knew that I needed to go back. I needed to at least try to set it right.

Fortunately, the drive lasted all of twelve minutes, even despite the traffic. Double fortunately, the Caddy was precisely where I left it. There was no sign of scratch, scrape, dent, nor ding. I fished a blank index card out of my work bag and scribbled a slightly hedging but very apologetic note. “I think I bumped the front of your car as I was backing out of my parking spot today. It cracked the paint on my rear bumper, but I didn’t see any damage to your front bumper. If you notice anything, though, please call me. I am so sorry!!” I neatly printed my phone number at the bottom and signed my name. Still shaken, I walked back into the office. Most of my co-workers were gone, but my friend Patrick was still there. “I thought you went home,” he declared, surprised to see me.

“I did,” I stated bluntly. “I came back.”

“Ohhh,” he nodded in a knowing way, indicating he could tell that something was clearly out of sorts. I unfolded the whole story of my little accident, my flight from the scene, and my ultimate return to take responsibility for my mistake. He nodded again.

“I’ve written notes like that before,” he admitted.

I was astounded. “You have?!” I asked, my voice peaking. Then, he shared his story with me. Bad weather, icy roads, and a hurry to get to a class, followed by the comically slow slide into a stranger’s car, the definitive “dink” of metal tapping metal, and the dawning realization of what just transpired.

“The owner never called,” he told me. “Maybe this person will never call you either.”

“Maybe he will call and say, ‘My car is ok, but thank you so much for your very nice and honest note,’” I suggested, wishfully. It felt good to know that I did the right thing, in the end. It also felt good to know that I wasn’t alone in perpetrating careless blunders.

Why am I grateful that I hit a parked car? I believe that God is at work in all the moments of our lives. As I reflect on this accident, I am contemplating how it is helpful for me to let go of my expectations in order to recognize and accept the graces that God wants to give me. God’s gifts to me may not fit into my limited construct and narrow definition of a blessing.

Maybe I needed a little reminder of my human limitations and my great capacity to err. Maybe it was time for a little exercise in humility. Maybe I was in want of a fear-inducing challenge to my values so that I could face down that fear to grow in the courage of owning up to my mistakes and accepting the consequences of my actions. Of all the dumb, careless, or misguided things I could do, backing into a parked car at 2mph was a relatively harmless gaffe upon which to build my humble mistake-owning.

In the end, yesterday afternoon was a reminder that we are all vulnerable to chance snafus. It happens to me, it happens to Patrick, and it happens to everyone else. When I make mistakes, I face a choice. I can either keep all of my slip-ups and faults to myself, attempting to portray a perfect image to the outside world, keeping everyone else at arm’s length… or I can admit the truth about who I am – all the silly, crazy, weird, flawed, and dysfunctional parts of me – and be my authentic self.

P.S. As I am pressing “Publish,” I am feeling the melting sensations of shame and the gripping of fear, mainly stemming from the fact that I ran away at first. I am still imagining police officers knocking on my door. There’s absolutely no excuse for my initial reaction. However, hopefully others can summon some compassion in their hearts for my genuine remorse, with the recognition that we all do idiotic things from time to time. Especially when we are afraid.

facepalm
Even adorable, furry animals have those days. “#facepalm,” © Victor Gumayunov (own work), Feb 2011. CC BY 2.0. (license)

“The antidote to fear is gratitude. The antidote to anger is gratitude. You can’t feel fear or anger while feeling gratitude at the same time.”

~ Tony Robbins

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19 thoughts on “Fessing Up

  1. Sorry this happened, Lulu! You did the right thing. No need to worry, I’m sure the person won’t even call, as no damage to their car. It was honorable of you to leave the note. It’s such a bad feeling when we do something like that… and we all do… I know that feeling, like your heart drops down to your stomach, and in the moment you’re frantic and unsure what to do. No need to be ashamed, things happen. And you dealt with it the right way 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much for such a supportive comment, Jenny! Every time I tell the story, I am able to laugh a little bit more at myself. Like I said in the post, I think it’s very good practice for when more serious things happen, which I am sure they will! Thank you so much for reading and leaving your kind words, as always. I hope that you have a lovely weekend! 😊

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  2. This is a great human interest story, and I am glad you shared it with us. We are all flawed. You did the right thing. I witnessed this very thing last week. A man backed into (bumped) a four door car belonging to an elderly woman, but, he didn’t move forward. He just stayed there. He got out to assess the damage and then left (or so I thought). When the lady came into the coffee shop I was sitting in to find out who owned the van that boxed her in, we were ready for her. He must have seen her come back because he showed up and moved his van shortly after. Yeah, you left as did this man, but you both came back. We have all seen how powerful fear can be. Be good to yourself. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for sharing this story with me, Karen! It is funny how everyone seems to have had a similar experience, or witnessed something similar, or known someone who did the same thing. It’s a good reminder of why sharing my stories of my mistakes and gaffes can be such a positive, even when it seems so negative! It is hard to do, because I am often afraid of the consequences, but it feels so good in the end!

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    1. Thanks, Anne! You are right about it being hard to know what to do sometimes… I suffer from a lot of “analysis paralysis.” Lol. It helps to remember that life is complicated for *everyone*!

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  3. Fear can make us do all sorts of things but you should be feeling absolutely no shame here Lulu. We all have our moments of weakness and human frailty and anxieties. But you did the right thing and most probably you’ll never hear from the driver of the car again. When mum was in hospital I had to park my car on the top of a multi level car park and one day after I left her and went back to my car I found a note left on my windscreen. Someone had hit my car, apologised and left their number. It was a nurse at the hospital. I was so grateful for the honesty and called her to thank her for leaving it. But I took it no further.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

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    1. Hi, Miriam! Thanks for your comment. It’s really reassuring to hear someone share the other perspective – as the person whose car was hit. I haven’t heard anything else from the owner of the Cadillac, and I am finding a lot more empathy for myself (and for others, too, I think!) after this little event. I am also reminding myself every day, “Don’t be afraid!” Thanks again for reading and for commenting. Wishing you a lovely end to your week. xoxo

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  4. Hi Lulu, just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed reading your answers on your recognition post for the Liebster Award! For some reason, I couldn’t leave a comment on that post, maybe comments are disabled? I love your owl mug, by the way! Hope you’re having a great day, Jenny 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jenny! Thanks so much for reading and for your comment! And thanks again for nominating me all those many months ago! I tried to figure out what was going on with the comments section of that post, but couldn’t fix it. Hmmmm. Maybe it was one of those fluke things. Hope you have a lovely week!

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