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©September 2000

Carol Jane Remsburg



A Crime in the Night



It was about a month ago it happened.  It was so unexpected that the shock of it stayed with me for several days.  It's nearly twelve years now I've had my old car, from showroom fresh until then, there had never been a mar, a dent, or a real scratch other than one door bump the car got in a parking garage during a horror trip into Baltimore five years ago.  Nope, not a nothing—until last month . . .


Now it isn't that I've never been in an automobile accident before for I have.  Let's see, I've been the 'target' for other autos like a magnet when I drove my little Plymouth Arrow hatchback, it was bright yellow with black striping.  It was a rolling hazard sign, but did anyone ever pay attention to it?  No!  That car suffered two accidents totally for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


My first auto crunching foray was an awakening.  I was a senior in high school driving my grandma's cast off car, a 1969 Chrysler 300.  Boy they sure did build them well back then.  Yep, got rear-ended while waiting at a stop sign with that.  My car only needed the wrinkles smoothed out of the back quarter-panels and a new bumper.  The trailer hitch on the back of my car drilled right into the motor of the van that hit me—totaling it.  Sigh . . .


The above three accidents weren't my fault.  However there was one car between the old Chrysler and the snazzy little Plymouth, it was my dad's AMC hornet wagon.  He let me use it.  Well, I used it and pulled out in front of a tractor-trailer with it.  The car was no more.  Luckily, I was.  I was eighteen then and learned a whole lot but not as much as I ought to have.


The first new car I owned was bought after I married.  It was a great little car and never gave me a problem and I never had an accident with her all the six years I had her.  This was back in the days when I still tailgated heavily.  I was young and knew little in the way of fear even after all those accidents.


Then it was March 1989 when the decision was made to purchase a new car.  This would be the biggest investment we'd ever made rivaling even our home in purchase price.  We'd planned it for months and done all the research.  Still, if it were to be averaged out, the cost would average about $5,000 every five years covering the next twenty.  The logistics and stats seemed firm, but would the car hold up?  What to buy?  Okay, so we bought a "Yuppy" car and we aren't Yuppies.  It's an old term by today's standards, but look it up if you have to.


With this car I finally learned that you must stop tailgating sometime in life or the odds will catch you.  I've had a few too many near-misses where all the fault could be laid at my door and many more that weren't.  I grew up I guess.  Still after all this time nothing bad had ever happened while driving this car.  Oh, the blinker when on the blink for a few years, the brakes need replacing every two, the electric windows give me a fit, and the air conditioning gave up the ghost about four years ago.  The cost is simply too astronomical to fix.  So what happened?


One sweltering evening in early August, it was a weeknight; I was sitting quietly at my computer after my child aged nine had bathed and was supposedly off to slumber land at a little after 9 PM, I hear something outside my window.  It's a noise but I can't peg exactly what it is.  I wasn't too concerned and didn't investigate it right away.


A few moments pass and I go outside.  I encounter the supposedly sleeping child on the porch.  She's crying, no strike that, she's now howling and screeching.  The shock of the impact must have worn off.


Apparently my little one had sneaked out after dark to ride her bike.  As she circled the house, she didn't realize how close to my car she'd come until she struck it and flipped off the bike. 


The automatic light sensor was still on.  I saw the bike lying beside the car and didn't see anything else.  With my child screaming like a banshee over her sorrow for having hurt "The Duchess" I kept trying to calm her.  I saw no hurt or damage to either one.  At this hour of the night, my little darling one was tired.  Erin couldn't be forestalled as she took me around to the back of the car and there, the left taillight assembly was pretty well smashed.  It was a shock, but I was more worried about my kid because it's rare that she gets into such a state and she loves that car.  It was just about then that I saw the blood on her hand.  She hadn't even noticed it yet, nor did she care later (this from a kid who will scream bloody murder over a hangnail).  For once in her life, this kid was more concerned over the damage she'd done rather that the damage she'd done to herself.




























Many things went through my mind just then.  I don't know the how or the why of it, yet they all did.  Call me pragmatic, anal, or whatever, but they did.  My initial thought was of the commercial sort.  Correcting this ill was going to cost me, and cost me big.  Repairs on foreign cars always are.  That lasted all of about three seconds.  Being a mom you can't stay in that accountant mode for very long with a distraught child.


Into the bathroom we went and I inspected her wounds.  One nail she would lose for sure.  Her afflicted parts were washed and sprayed and ointmented and bandaged.  At this point I couldn't be mad at her, she was simply too furious with herself.  I hugged her and tried to reassure her that all could be fixed.  I told her how much I loved her and how important she was in our lives, but that she would be paying the penalty for her actions later—just not now.  I think at that moment she was worried that I wouldn't love her any more. 


The kid never gave me a chance to get mad at her.  I couldn't.  In all her nearly ten years I've never seen her less concerned about herself while worried about another—even if it was the car.  She thinks that "The Duchess" is somehow alive and ferries us about with special care.  Hmm, I don't know just where she got that from.  Well, even if I do, I'm not going to admit it—okay?


So now I've another ill to fix.  Luckier for me was the Internet.  Just for some $20 worth of lens covers, I had the honor of picking the low bid of $108 rather than the $160 for the taillight assembly.  Lens covers it seems are hard to come by indeed and very dear.  I've got it and now must persuade hubby to install it for me before much more time passes.


When I look back upon the incident, it seems so much like a crime in the night catching all of us unawares.  Hubby learned that tears can come at any hour, Erin learned not to sneak out of bed and into the darkness for a late evening ride, The Duchess learned that certain repairs can take a while, and I have learned that there is never a dull moment around this seemingly quiet abode. 

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