Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Change of Perspective

I got rear ended the other night.

I was driving home, through DC, and stopped at a red light.  The car behind me was also stopped.  Only, then it WASN’T stopped, and it bonked (quite hard) right into me. 

I was startled.  I jumped out to see what had happened, who had hit me.  The guy was still sitting in his car, so I walked up to his window, which he opened.  “What?”, was his response.  “What???  Umm, you just HIT ME, that’s what!”.  What followed was an exchange where he insisted it was “nothing” and I insisted that he had HIT MY CAR.  He got more and more irate, and I got more and more ticked off.  He said, “Yeah, I looked at my phone”. 

Look, I am no angel.  I look at my phone at red lights, too.  And I do not know why he decided to step on the gas, just because he was looking at his phone, but for some reason he must have (or perhaps taken his foot off the brake, but he hit me pretty hard so it felt like gas…). 

So there I stood, at 10:30 PM, in the dark, at the intersection of 18th and New Hampshire NW, staring at a guy who ran into me and was basically yelling at me from inside his vehicle.  When he saw I was not backing down he ordered me to, “Pull over there!!!  Pull over there!”.  But before I did that, I returned to my car, got my phone, and took a photo of his license plate.  “What are you doing?  I said PULL OVER THERE!” he man-hollered at me.  I looked him in the eye and said, in my meanest voice, “I AM GOING TO PULL OVER THERE.  BUT I AM NOT SURE IF YOU ARE GOING TO PULL OVER THERE.  AND SO I AM TAKING A PHOTO OF YOUR LICENSE PLATE…”. 

A car with 2 young guys pulled around us at that point with their windows open.  They heard me talk loudly to the man and saw me take the photo.  Part of me thought I should say to them, “Excuse me!  This man does not seem all that nice…  Do you mind pulling over and staying with me a minute or two while I get his insurance information, just in case he decides to beat me up or something???”.   But I didn’t say anything to them, and they kept driving.

So, I followed the guy’s instructions, I “pulled over there”.  He finally exited his vehicle and repeated his claims about it being “nothing”.  I asked for his insurance information, and this ticked him off more.  “IT IS NOTHING!!  What are you doing?  You are trying to take ADVANTAGE, aren’t you??  Aren’t you????” he quizzed me. 

I was nervous.  It was dark.  My car had been hit.  A stranger was yelling at me.  He had admitted it was his fault.  I was tired.  I took his insurance card that he handed me from his wallet and took a photo of it.  His name was Aldo.  His license plate was from Maryland.  He drove a 2015 Hyundai.  And then, as we both stood on the street, his demeanor got a little nicer.  He kept repeating it was no big deal, I was exaggerating, and asked to see my insurance card, too, but his tone changed.  He was less defensive, a bit more desperate.  Sure, he accused me of trying to blame him for old scratched on my bumper (I wasn’t – I was blaming him for the NEW SCRATCHES…).  But something about him seemed a bit different at this point of the interaction.

After we exchanged information we each got in our cars and pulled away. 

But I kept thinking about him… 

And in the end, I think I could kind of see things from his eyes.  Maybe they are not even HIS EYES, I mean, I totally made “these eyes” up.  But maybe, just maybe, he is an immigrant.  He had a heavy accent.  He had a name (first and last) that sounded foreign.  And maybe, just maybe, if he was not a citizen or does not hold a green card, then something like innocently rear ending a lady on a DC street and getting the cops called on you could mean something very dire… 

Look, I would never have even thought of this scenario 6 months ago.  But with the whole travel ban and immigration mess our country is in right now, I really stopped to think it through. 

This fender bender, which resulted only in new scratches on my 13 year old Prius that has over 175,000 miles on it, was certainly not worth the risk of some old man getting deported.   Yes, it was his fault.  And yes, he was rude to me.  But maybe he had reason to be rude…  Maybe he thought if he was angry enough, yelled loud enough, I would scamper back to my vehicle and give up.

I didn’t scamper, and I am sort of proud of that.  And I didn’t give up.  But what I also didn’t do is call his insurance company.  Heck, it is only more scratches, right?

As much as I despise the current political climate, I am glad that it made me stop and think and see this man, or who this man might be, in a different light. 

This is the United States of America.  All are welcome here.  (Just keep your foot on the brake at red lights, please.)

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