Only in America
The loud, metal-tearing screech, and jolt to the side took him by complete surprise. This was instantly followed by the horrible sight of the car in front of him backing so fast that he couldn’t react. He was violently pushed forward and then back again by a stiff, billowing white surface. In a sudden, dead silence Papa realized that something really bad had just happened to him. It took another few seconds to recognize that the harsh and somewhat painful surface his head was resting on was the airbag that had popped out of the center of his car’s steering wheel and had just as quickly deflated.
Still dazed, he put his head back and, feeling a sharp pain, raised his hand to his face to find that his sunglasses were askew. When he took them off he noticed blood on his hand and gingerly felt his nose. Yep, that’s what was hurting. He had a bloody nose. Now he looked around and was finally able to make out what had happened.
He had parked in the last parallel spot still open at the end of the strip mall. Although he’d carefully checked his side mirror and not seen anything coming, when he started to pull out a car had come from his left and hit him in the side, sliding along his car’s body as it pushed him forward. With his car already moving plus the extra push from the car hitting him he had forcefully been driven forward into the back of the car parked a few feet to his front.
After making sure his ignition was turned of, and grunting with the effort, he maneuvered free of the deflated air bag, slid across to the passenger side and opened the door. Stepping on to the walk fronting the mall he got his first good look at the three, now entangled cars. Just for a second he had the visualization of Stan saying, “A fine mess you’ve gotten us into Ollie!”
And a pretty good mess it was. His car had pretty well ruined the bumper of the car in front, while the car from the left, a bright red pickup, had scraped along the left side of his car and come to a stop partially embedded in his left front fender and the front car’s left rear fender. “Whoee!” he thought, “This is going to cost big bucks.” And, with that came the disturbing thought that he might very well have been the cause.
While contemplating this he saw a man and a woman extricate themselves from the driver’s side of the pickup and move toward him on the sidewalk. They appeared to be a middle-aged couple, possibly Middle Eastern. The woman was yelling at the man and then, when she saw Papa, started shouting at him too. Papa guessed they were married and the husband was trying to quiet her down without success. At the same time an elderly woman came out of the establishment Papa had been parked in front of. She too started shouting at everybody as they all met Papa on the sidewalk.
Both women were now shouting at each other and at Papa. They were so loud and the couple spoke such broken English that Papa couldn’t understand what they were saying. When the man started in too Papa had enough. In his best parade ground style he roared, “Everybody SHUT UP!” That brought instant silence as they all looked at him in shock.
“I know you’re all upset,” continued Papa in a low but firm voice. “But there’s no need for all the screaming and shouting. We WILL remain calm and talk this thing out.”
As the others started up again he gave them a glare that had left even hardened master sergeants cowed and, in his no nonsense commanding way said, “Let’s go into the restaurant here, call the police as we’re supposed to and sit down and exchange insurance information. There’s no need for anyone to get excited. There’s been an accident and we can let the insurance companies straighten things out. So come on, let’s go inside.”
With that he opened the door and held it for the others as they entered the restaurant, still mumbling and grousing but at least more quietly. Mr. Trang, the owner of the establishment, had been standing at the door looking out. Papa had eaten there a number of times and had gotten to know him. “Mr. Trang.” he said, “could we all sit at one of your tables and work things out?
“Yes, yes, of course” answered Trang and then, noticing Papa’s bloody nose, “Are you alright Mr. Logan?”
“I’m just fine,” Papa replied. “We’ll just sit around this table here and would you please bring us some tea but before you do so also please call the police and have someone stop by here so we can all report this accident.”
In the next few minutes Papa had everybody introduce themselves, a waitress brought teacups and small plates for each person and Mr. Trang brought a pot of tea and a platter of cookies. The couple in the pickup who seemed to be in their early forties were husband and wife and were named Ahmed and Soya Souhadi while the lady who had come out of the restaurant and who owned the car parked in front of Papa’s was a Mrs. Mankowitz
“OK”, Papa then opened the conversation. “When the police officer comes we’ll each give him our version of what happened so he can make his report. After that we’ll go back out and see if we can move the cars. If they are drivable we can go on our way. If one or more of our cars are in no condition to be driven we will have to call tow trucks to have them taken to whatever garage you think is best. As soon as you get home you should call your insurance company and tell them what happened. An adjuster may come out to look at your car and will tell you what they will do from there on. In the meantime maybe Mr. Trang could give us some paper and a few pencils and we can exchange information.”
Just as he was finishing they saw a sheriff’s squad car pull up in front of the restaurant and double park in front of the pickup. The black deputy on getting out of the squad first took a look at the three cars and then came into the restaurant. As he entered Papa stood up and waved him to come over.
“Hi, Corporal Mason,” greeted Papa. “As you can see, we’ve got ourselves a little mess out there.”
“Yeah. You sure do,” was Mason’s observation. “Were you involved Capt’n? What happened?”
With that everybody at the table started speaking again with the decibels increasing by the second. They all seemed upset that Papa appeared to know the sheriff’s deputy.
“Hold it. Hold it,” yelled Mason, his voice over riding all of the others. “I’m going to have each of you describe what happened and the rest of you will keep quiet as I do so.” Then, turning to Papa, “How’d you manage to get them to all sit down together?”
“Just my charm,” answered Papa with a grin. “And the tea and cookies helped too,” as he gave a nod to Mr. Trang who had been standing by the table enjoying all the goings on.
With things again under control the deputy sat down at the table and helped himself to a cookie while one of the waitresses brought him a cup. In the next few minutes he interviewed everybody and made notes for his report.
“First of all,” he remarked. “Mrs. Mankowitz was a totally innocent victim here. She was legally parked and had absolutely nothing to do with what happened. According to Mr. Souhi and corroborated by his wife, they were just driving past the restaurant when you, Papa, - er - Mr. Logan, suddenly pulled out in front of them and they had no time to stop and avoid hitting you. Mr. Logan contends he looked to see if anyone was coming before pulling away from the curb and never saw the pickup, which leads him to conclude they were moving very fast, possible too fast and were in his blind spot. Not being a witness myself I can’t say which is the case. So, that leaves Mr. Souhi and Mr. Logan, either one or the other could be held at fault or possibly sharing the fault. The insurance companies will have to make that decision. I’m not going to charge anyone because I can’t determine with certainty that there were any violations. Does anyone have any questions?”
Mrs. Mankowitz was still upset because she would be inconvenienced while her car was being repaired and the Souhis did some additional grumbling but they all accepted the deputy’s conclusions and after some further conversation and the creation of additional cookie crumbs, they left to check the cars and go on their way. Papa and Deputy Mason stayed behind for a few more minutes while Papa tried to pay Mr. Trang for the tea and cookies, which the restaurant owner refused to accept.
“How are you with this?” asked the deputy.
“Oh, fine,” answered Papa. “I don’t have a problem with how this turned out. If it comes down to it, I was probably more at fault than anyone else. You know, when you get my age and you have arthritis all over it hurts to turn your head too far and maybe I just didn’t look far enough back over my shoulder to see if the road was clear. The worst of it is that Rose and Roger will never let me hear the end of this. I’m kind of pleased that we were able to work things out as well as we did. At first it looked like we might have a small war on our hands but then things quieted down nicely.
Suddenly Deputy Mason chuckled and said, “You know, it’s rather amazing. I looked around the table and thought to myself – will you just look at this, here’s a Jew, two Arabs, a Chinese and you, a white German/Irish mix, and me, a black guy, involved in a messy problem and it worked out just fine.
“Yeah,” said Papa, “Only in America!”