Sunday, July 08, 2001

Let me take you back to 1984. I was living in San Luis Obispo, California (of course). Twenty-three years old, but acting much younger. I had only been living in SLO (as we locals called it) for a few months, and was still sort of exploring the city. One day, after work, I decided to take a different way home, through a nice residential neighborhood.

I'm peacefully going down the street, not too fast, but not too slow probably just about at the thirty-mile per hour speed limit - when from a driveway comes shooting out a 1963 Lincoln Continental, beige, rear end first.

He flies out of the driveway, backwards, doesn't pause for the sidewalk or street, and lands directly in the passenger side door of my little black Datsun (before Nissan) 310.

I get out of the car and start shouting at him, because I'm twenty-three, and I'm a hot-head, "What's your f***ing problem? Don't you look, or at least use your damn mirrors when you back up?" (Please read at top volume).

The driver looks to be about eighty. He calmly gets out of his car, pauses, looks me up and down, and slowly drawls, "I've lived on this street for nine years, and I've never seen you drive down it before."

That really stopped me cold. I couldn't reply. Because, you know, he was right: I'd never driven down that street before.

Dealing with his insurance company was one of the only pleasant insurance experiences I've ever had. Once I mentioned who hit me, there were no further questions. They just said, "Mr. X?" (slight chuckle), "Just bring us all the bills, no problem." Apparently they were used to the damage his Continental could do.

I often think of that old man and wonder. If I were to drive down that street today, would he hit me, and if he did, would he have the same excuse? I'd love for him to say to me today, "I've lived on this street for twenty-six years, and I've never seen you drive down it before."

Then I could say, "Excuse me, sir. But do you remember a particularly sunny day in the late summer of 1984?" and just stop him cold.

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