I did the right thing, the legal thing, the safety conscious thing, and I’ve felt terrible ever since.
She looked scared, and confused, as I pulled my truck in nose-to-nose with her Outback, and I wasn’t surprised that she waived me over as soon as I stepped out into the parking lot. I noticed she was very close to the car next to her, a Charger, so I went around the back to approach her window.
“I’m sorry, I’ve never done this before, but I’ve somehow locked myself in.”
Her hair was white. Her skin sagged away from fragile arms. She had lived many years. Her voice was small. It didn’t quiver, but it was full of fear and confusion. Her eyes begged for me to solve this mystery for her, so she could get her shopping done and continue with her day. I asked if she had a key fob, and if she had tried to unlock the door using that button, and she quickly produced and tried again.
“Yes, here, I’ve already tried that.” She clicked the button and I heard the locks distinctly disengage. She heard it too and tried to open the door, but it still would not budge.
That was when my attention was drawn to how close she was to the vehicle next to her and I finally saw that her driver-side mirror was flush with the neighboring car’s passenger-side mirror. More than flush, they were touching, and that was likely the culprit in keeping her trapped in her vehicle. “I think you’ve hit this car next to you, why don’t you back up, and straighten out, and let’s see if that will let you open your door?”
So, she put her Outback in reverse and moved back two feet, and her door popped open immediately. There were clearly scrapes grooved into her mirror and I said, “You’ve got some damage on your mirror, why don’t you pull back in and we’ll figure out what to do next.”
“Oh, that’s okay if my mirror is scraped. I’m sure I didn’t damage the other car.”
“Why don’t you pull back in and we can see if there is or not.”
At that point I couldn’t move closer to the Charger to see if the mirror was scraped as well without risking her hitting me as she either pulled in or swung around in backing out. “No… I think it would best if I change changed spaces…”
“Why don’t you just pull back in, and we’ll figure out what to do next,” I repeated myself, calmly trying to get her to park her Subaru so we could properly assess the situation together. But, she would not listen.
“I think I should just change spaces, that would be best.”
And, so, she did.
She moved ten spaces down and parked and went into the grocery store…
I looked over the Charger, saw that there was damage to its mirror and then retrieved a scrap of paper from my truck, walked down the aisle to where the Outback was parked and wrote down her license plate number along with a quick summary of what had happened. Then I went back to the Charger and waited… and waited… and waited. I was hoping the owner would come out so I could tell him what happened and he could make up his mind if the damage was enough that he wanted to call the cops to report the incident. I was hoping the driver of the Outback would come back out so I could try again to convince her to at least leave a note with her contact information.
I waited for an hour, and would have waited a few minutes longer before leaving my note on the Charger’s windshield… but then a cop car rolled through the parking lot. He was there on a separate hit-and-run incident. I flagged him down and told my story. He thanked me for doing the right thing and said he’d handle it from there, and I finally went about my errands, nearly 90 minutes after first pulling into the parking lot.
I know I did the right thing. Legally, it was a hit-and-run and the little-old-lady driving the Subaru Outback should have left a note with contact information so the insurance companies could handle the resultant claims to repair the damage. She left.
Once the cops are involved, it becomes more than a matter of insurance, but a misdemeanor. I know, because I’ve been in that situation myself, but that is a story for a different day.
I know I did the right thing. Safety-wise, I have no idea how long she had been sitting in her vehicle, scared and confused, “locked in.” If she couldn’t figure out that she had hit the car next to her and that’s what was keeping her door from opening, she probably shouldn’t be driving around anymore. Maybe by turning her in I saved some lives.
I know I did the right thing. I know she will probably have her license revoked. I know these things, and I also know the pain, humiliation, and inconveniences she will experience with the resulting court proceedings for the misdemeanor charge.
I know she is likely losing a huge part of her freedom in getting out her house to run errands, see friends, get things done… to live. I know that if someone had turned in my grandma, and completely changed her life for the worse, over the same kind of minor parking lot fender-bender I’d be very angry.
And I am angry.
I’m angry with the Outback driver for not doing the right thing on her own and therefore putting me in the position she put me in. I’m angry at myself for turning her in. I’m angry that I can’t let this go and accept that the “right thing” was the best option.