Tuesday, December 21, 2004

hyperbolic vulnerability and its other

The other day I was driving home on an unfamiliar highway, and came to a tollbooth, a relatively rare thing in Florida, when I discovered I was in the wrong lane. I needed exact change, and was sure I didn't have it (though in fact I did), so I quickly glanced in the rearview mirror, saw nothing, and proceeded to back up in order to switch lanes.

A not so gentle crunch.

I hopped out, fearing I've given some nonagenarian a heart attack - I am, admittedly, Section Chief of Pessimism at the Bureau of Less than Vital Statistics. I was relieved to see two just-out-of-college type guys in a not very new small car, without any injuries or engine damage, and a couple of mathematically precise indentations in the front bumper.

I figured, they're young, they take life as it comes, we can settle this amicably. We went through the toll and pulled over to discuss. My offer: I'd willingly pay a fair repair bill. At first the driver seemed ok with that. We chatted, exchanged contact info, and I got back in to my car, ready to go. But no-o. The driver's friend was just getting to the peroration in his four-part dissertation on the risks and liabilities of USian fender benders; by the time he'd finished part Quartus, Liber III. cod.iv a sec. xiv, the driver was on his cell calling the police.

The resultant police investigation took well over an hour. I think the cop got out of his car for all of three minutes, took our stories, which did not conflict, got on his laptop and, I suppose, drilled down into the datamine of the Office of Homeland Insecurity to make sure no one on the scene was a dead terrorist kamakazi pilot, an escapee from Guantanamo, a liberal talk show host, scrub jay hugger, etc. His efforts must have compiled every shred of personal history on myself and the other driver known to Homeland Protectors and their extensive network of crack protection agents.

In the end I was found to be the one who backed up, key information which I had provided 74 minutes earlier, and was issued a moving violation to the tune of, I think, $120. I asked the officer what I should do the next time this happens. "Honk your horn and wait until an attendant comes over," he said with a hasty finality that indicated he'd certainly had enough of my wasting his time. I should mention that while this officer was Investigating the Case, another patrol car had pulled up parallel to the first, and the two officers enlivened the tedium of research by chatting interminably.

The cost to the public of the officers' time, gas (their cars were running the whole time), bandwidth, the loss of police presence where it might actually be needed, far outweighed the cost to my time, or that of the kids whose car I struck. More time will be consumed as two insurance companies evaluate claims, get hyperbolic estimates from body shops, boost premiums, and all those good things insurance companies love to do.

Some time later, I was listening to WMNF out of Tampa, the best little radio station. Some discussion of acupuncture, I think. A woman said (paraphrasing) in the US, we give Pain too much power over us. We go to doctors for minor ailments which people in other lands wouldn't even notice. We take vitamins and drugs for conditions that merit nothing more than fresh air.

We are the tenderest vessels among nations, even as we lay waste to cities and peoples, killing and being killed.

Delicate white sheath, dead to havoc played by the wraith it houses.


Blogger Juke said...

A completely bitchin phrase and how

12/21/2004 10:26 PM  
Blogger Jon Husband said...

Will the police investigation having been completed save you from being sued, should the two fellows have decide to go for a boodle after driving off ? Is this kind of situation what was meant during the recent elections by "tort reform for dealing with vexatious litigation" ? Just kidding ... but yeah, your point is a good one ... amazing what we have, use, expect, want, grab .... and enact in the name of all-important American lifestyle and values.

12/22/2004 4:27 AM  
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10/03/2005 3:43 PM  

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