Tuesday Talk*: Twisted Fenders and Priorities

In all fairness, I expected the opening to lead to an old joke.

My husband had just been wheeled away for a routine hip replacement operation when I found a note under my windshield wiper in the surgery center’s parking lot.

You remember the old joke, right, where someone returned to find their car damaged with a note on the windshield that read, “I hit your car and people think I’m leaving you a note with my name and address, but I’m not.” I got it very wrong.

“The woman hit your car when trying to park in the space next to you,” it read. “She pulled off and parked on other side.” The note included a description of the other driver’s car — an older vehicle, bright yellow — along with its license plate number and the time of the collision. My car’s fender was smashed, the bumper crumpled, and across it all was a smear of bright yellow paint.

What would be your reaction? Anger at someone damaging your car? Appreciation at someone leaving you a note informing you what happened and who did it? Maybe your spouse’s surgery? Or would it be the identity of the person who hit and ran?

I called my insurance company and went back inside to wait for the police to come and write up the incident. I couldn’t stop thinking about the other driver. What kind of person does that much damage to someone else’s car and then simply moves to the other side of the parking lot? A panicky teenager? An employee late for work? An irresponsible jerk? Then it dawned on me that the driver might be undocumented, someone for whom a simple fender-bender would cost everything. What if giving my insurance company her tag number would make me complicit in a deportation?

What kind of person, indeed?

There was absolutely nothing in the note that indicated an undocumented driver, but the notepaper was decorated with an image of the Statue of Liberty, and maybe that’s all it took to skitter my mind in a direction that logic would not have taken it.

The irrational leap to assume that the “irresponsible jerk” might be an undocumented immigrant is compounded by the assumption that anyone with note paper decorated with the Statue of Liberty is possibly some right-wing MAGA-loving immigrant-hating neo-Nazi. Then again, the person who left the note was someone who was empathetic enough for the victim of the car accident to take a moment from her day to get involved and do the right thing.

But the story wasn’t over, even after Margaret Renki’s conscience was absolved of complicity for the potential of taking the person who hit and ran to task.

As it turns out, she is white, a professional with advanced degrees, and fully insured. I could stop fretting about my own moral culpability, at least where my car’s mangled fender was concerned.

There’s a missing line here, as the “irresponsible jerk” turned out to be a white woman, a professional, with advanced degrees. What kind of person would do such a thing? That kind, apparently. Renki glosses over that detail.

But it all came back to me again at the body shop the following week. The service agent shook his head when I told him the circumstances of the accident. “We’re seeing a lot more hit-and-runs these days,” he said. “A lot more. I think it’s probably all these illegal aliens we’ve got now.”

This raises the conflicted problems of undocumented immigrants, some of whom drive without licenses in uninsured cars, some who get insurance long enough to register a car, then stop paying immediately as they can’t afford insurance and fail to see much point in it, as they’re judgment proof. In places where driving is necessary to work, to survive, the options become limited, untenable. At the same time, accidents happen, and are we better off being struck by an uninsured car driven by an unlicensed (and, perhaps, less than competent) immigrant?

Most do their best to drive carefully, even annoyingly slowly (in the left lane), as the risks associated with a ticket or crash are extreme, but accidents still happen, and sometimes their best isn’t very good. Do you suck up the streak of yellow paint across your fender in avoidance of complicity?

*Tuesday Talk rules apply.

17 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Twisted Fenders and Priorities

  1. Steve Brecher

    “What would be your reaction?”
    Of the following four possible answers, the last two are not reactions but rather answers to some different question such as “What would be your primary concern?”

    1. SHG Post author

      This may be a distinction of sufficient importance for you to raise it in your comment, but is it a material difference? Why is it different? Why does it matter?

      1. Steve Brecher

        Oops, my comment was made with my proofreading hat on and I didn’t intend it to be posted. Like this one!

        As a proofreader: it matters as a mental speed bump — a virtual head scratch — for the reader. But it’s true that my comment is more in the class of editing than proofreading.

  2. Patrick Maupin

    At least in Texas, basic no-doc liability insurance is quite cheap, relative to the economic utility of having a car, and in most places, the cops aren’t going to do anything for a fender-bender except to cough up the registration info, so no, even if I were to feel the weight of the world’s moral culpability on my shoulders, I’d report it. At least if the damage was bad enough, on a vehicle that was good enough, to warrant repair.

    But not necessarily to the cops. My own insurance company could probably figure it out much more quickly and easily.

  3. Charles

    “but the notepaper was decorated with an image of the Statue of Liberty, and maybe that’s all it took to skitter my mind in a direction that logic would not have taken it.”

    Might have been the blank page with the grey lady’s masthead at the top that did the trick.

  4. L. Phillips

    “I could stop fretting about my own moral culpability, at least where my car’s mangled fender was concerned.”

    She could also find a hobby that didn’t involve obsessing about the actions of others over whom she has no responsibility or control.

    1. Guitardave

      If she did that she wouldn’t have a job….but at least her time might be spent doing something constructive.

  5. Noxx

    I too can play the what if game.

    What if I didn’t turn in information on a hit and run because I feared being party to a deportation, but the yellow paint was from Ted Bundy’s Volkswagen, and now I’ve made myself party to four more murders by the same broken logic?

    Somebody hits your car, you do the requisite legwork on your end. Unforeseen, tangentially related outcomes of other peoples behavior are none of your business.

  6. B. McLeod

    Had the experience of finding my car in similar condition a couple of summers ago. Thousands of dollars to repair, and the $500 deductible came out of my pocket. A person who drives so utterly crappily as to do this to a car parked in a parking lot should not be driving in the first place. Had it ever come to my attention who the perp was, I would have had no second thought turning them in. If they are also undocumented, that comes under the heading of “their problem.”

  7. Chris Halkides

    Someone is behind the times. At least since 2013 The Statue of Liberty has become an icon of pro-immigrant guitar-strumming lefties.

  8. Elpey P.

    She should put herself in the shoes of the person who observes the hit and run. “I saw the vehicle that hit your Ford pickup, but they might be undocumented and I don’t trust you so I’m not telling you anything.”

    Up next: Burglaries – before you file that police report, think of the children.

  9. Mark Myers

    It must be nice to be so woke. Personally, I cannot modify my behavior to avoid every possible wound a snowflake might imagine. Same is true in this context. If I were the victim of a crime, I would do as Noxx said. I would do my part. That is all anyone can do. I have enough to be concerned with managing myself.

  10. Matthew Scott Wideman

    The white guilt of this person is so dabilitating it is sad. Thinking all illegal immigrants are saints is just as dumb as thinking all illegal immigrants are criminals.

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