Accidents refuse to happen when needed

I clipped another deer along J Drive South the other night, just two months after getting my car back from the body shop. I’d just slowed down to avoid two others, so I was only back up to 35-40 mph when my bumper grazed the tail end of her tail end. All it did was chip the new paint.

Shoot. If I were someone who cared about the appearance of my car, that might have bugged me. Instead, it was just another bug on windshield. Annoying. More annoying was the absence of damage.

Coming off a recent comp claim, a second round of similar damage to my 130,000-mile car might lead to “totaling.” That formerly dreaded word is now a welcome possibility since learning my credit union loan insurance pays off totaled vehicles in full, plus supplies $1,000 toward my next vehicle down payment. Yee haw!

I’m considering mounting some deer repellent whistles backward on the bumper of my car in hope of attracting another deer. But accidents refuse to happen when you most need them.

As sure as a backseat umbrella guarantees it won’t rain, my car needing a major brake job on Monday guarantees nothing bad will happen to it beforehand. However, shelling out substantial repair bucks greatly increases the odds I will hit a buck afterward, perhaps on the way home from Tuffy.

My father purchased but one new vehicle his entire life: A shiny Ford he babied and parked in his parents’ barn at night. Apparently the upstairs floor of the building had been monitoring his actions and weakening over time for just that occasion (reference my previous column about buildings, vehicles and appliances conspiring against their owners), for the floor fell and flattened his car beneath tons of corn, crushing his pride along with it.

My 1999 Saturn, likely the only new vehicle I will ever own, suffered a similar fate. An oil change shop in Portage put the wrong filter on at its first oil change. All the oil leaked out overnight and the engine blew 15 minutes into my drive the next day. Although they replaced the engine for free, I was left wondering why this had happened at 3,000 miles and not 103,000 miles?! It just wasn’t fair.

Friends were aghast when I continued to patronize that oil change place. How could I not when they treated me like royalty afterward and gave me a boatload of free oil changes? When’s the last time a service manager shined your shoes? Felt darned good.

Years ago, when my high mileage Geo Prism was nearing its twilight years but still fully insured, the alternator went out along US-131, at the entrance ramp to 28th Street during rush hour. You couldn’t construct a better set-up for an aging vehicle you wanted to get creamed. I happily hiked for a wrecker, visualizing the twisted wreckage we’d return to.

Nope, just a hefty repair bill and several days’ inconvenience. You can’t buy an accident when you desperately need one.

That’s not altogether true. When we lived in Kalamazoo, someone anonymously bashed the passenger side door of our leased truck with one of those large, flat carts at a home improvement store. We were sick about it, knowing we would get bashed, too, at lease end.

Next time I had the truck in at the dealership for routine maintenance, the service manager came rushing into the customer lounge. “Mrs. Smith,” he said in a surgeon’s dramatic tone. “I’m afraid we have some bad news.”

He breathlessly related that the passenger door of our truck had been smashed. They had dropped the truck off the hoist as they were lowering it, which had so unnerved the young service technician he had driven into a cement post while backing it out. “Don’t worry,” the service manager reassured, “Our body shop will fix everything.”

I kept a straight face while silently rejoicing. “It’s okay, really. No problem,” I intoned, Zenlike. “Sometimes these things happen.”  The rest of the customers marveled at my calm and generous spirit. Little did they know a dangerous precedent had been set that would someday have me whistling Dixie backward for deer.

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