M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, March 21, 2012  

Bumper Car

As much as M. Edium likes my new car, it took him some time to get used to some things about it. Like getting in and out.

He may have been annoyed and occasionally even embarrassed by my old Saturn station wagon, especially when I picked him up at his elementary school in a chi-chi suburb, but at least it had smaller doors and a lower drop to the pavement than the new vehicle. Now, getting out of the Equinox, he's in the habit of facing the back, bracing one hand on the edge of his seat and one hand on the door handle, and swinging his feet down to the ground. Naturally, this has the side effect of swinging the car door open as wide as it will go. And one day, probably, even wider. Which can be a problem if I park next to anything, which I find I frequently do.

It's not always convenient to do otherwise, however. Not long ago we went to the grocery store to pick up just a couple of things, and the only spot on the first two levels of the parking ramp was next to a support column on M. Edium's side (he sits behind the shotgun seat). I went ahead and parked just inches from it, since I'd decided that M. Edium wasn't going to get out that way this time anyhow. I told him to wait and get out on my side. There was a bag of stuff on the back seat on the driver's side that I was going to put in the cargo area in back, but then his path out of the back would be clear. I told him to wait while I did that and then I would help him get out so as to protect the car next to us, and I closed the back door again, until I could be there to keep it from swinging wide. Even with the tight fit at the car's right, there wasn't a great deal more space on the left between my car and the one parked next to me. If he did his Cheetah-swing from the back driver's side door it would surely hit that car.

So while I was moving around to the back, he opened the door anyway. A toy of his fell out onto the ground, and with the unthinking reflex of a child, he swung right down after it. Putting half his weight on the partially open car door and causing it to swing open as far as it could before hitting the car I'd parked next to with a blood-freezing thunk.

I was upset. Things happen, especially with kids, but when you warn them not to do something, and you explain why, and they do it anyway, it's a little tough to let them off the hook. "Dents cost hundreds of dollars to fix, do you realize that?" I said to him in the store. "Do you have hundreds of dollars?"

"No," he said plaintively. "I only have thirty."

He was only referring to his cash on hand, but it still made me feel bad for him. Somewhat.

So of course I was tempted to just drive off after we were done shopping. Technically, it wasn't my fault. But that wouldn't have been right. And what kind of message would I be sending my child? I couldn't let him see me do something like that. Maybe I would have given it more serious thought if he hadn't been with me, but then if he hadn't been with me, the dent wouldn't have gotten made in the other car anyway.

I'd also been texting Trash during this time and we were in agreement on doing the right thing. Meanwhile, the other car blossomed in my memory from just the ding on the door to an entire silver Mercedes shining otherwise pristinely around it, a typical vehicle for the suburb we were in. We were screwed.

When we returned to the parking ramp, I was all ready to leave a note, but the car's owner was returning at the same time, with her friend. This was going to be awkward, to be sure, but I saw that her friend was carrying something that told me we might be all right after all.

Her first words to us were, "I'm sorry," meaning she was sorry she'd crowded our space so much. I said, "No, we're sorry." And then, without missing a beat, without anyone prompting him or even looking at him, M. Edium bravely piped up, "I dented your car with my door." I was almost as proud of him as I would have been if he hadn't just caused potentially hundreds of dollars in property damage.

The other car's owner came around to the other side and looked at the ding, which was certainly visible but nowhere near as large as I remembered it. I looked at the thing in her friend's arms, a long, puffy, white bag with a hanger sticking out of it. "Oh, that's no big deal," she shrugged. "It's an old car anyway." Sure enough, as I looked for myself, the sparkling Mercedes I thought we'd ruined was a lightly pre-battered Mazda. "Let me give you our contact information anyway," I said. But no, she didn't want it. It was no big deal. She was impressed with M. Edium telling the truth, and to be honest I think she and her friend were both in a really good mood after buying that wedding dress.

So with more expressions of contrition and gratitude, I let them squeeze into their car and waved as they drove off. M. Edium and I followed. But we'd both learned an important lesson. M. Edium learned to be mindful of the cars next to him when he gets out of mine. Nothing like this has happened since. And I learned to always park in the middle of at least three empty spaces when he's with me.

Unless of course we park outside a bridal shop, but we don't make a lot of runs like that.

posted by M. Giant 8:52 PM 2 comments


Isn't that what the child locks are for? And what would you have done if the other car left before you got out of the store?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 23, 2012 at 8:40 AM  

I have always enjoyed your tales MBig but I have to agree with anonymous number 1.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 28, 2012 at 12:21 AM  

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