Over the Hill

Collision was minor, but it woke me up

One evening last summer, while driving in the parking lot of a Paso Robles restaurant, I suddenly heard metal screech against metal. I’d had a collision.

It shocked me. My many years of uneventful driving had lulled me into feeling invulnerable. Now I was loudly reminded I wasn’t really immune.

Fortunately it was a minor collision. No one was hurt. The damage to both vehicles seemed mainly cosmetic. It wasn’t even a fender bender.

But it did shatter my fantasy of being as calm in emergencies as Mr. Spock on the starship Enterprise. Instead, I buzzed with nervousness. I did get the name of the other driver’s insurance company and his policy number and his driver’s license number. But I forgot to get his name.

Of course, my insurance company could get his name. I called them the next day, and my collision became their problem. Thank goodness for the state law that requires all of us California car owners to have insurance.

The adjuster for my insurance said I definitely wasn’t at fault. Of course, the other driver’s adjuster said I was. I’ll let them straighten that out.

But if you must have a collision, a parking lot seems like the best location. Speeds are generally slow. I was probably going 2 mph. My accident couldn’t have been more minor unless the other vehicle had been a shopping cart.

I’ve never seen a car hit a shopping cart, even though we shoppers leave them all over. Once I empty my cart, I wash my hands of it.

Whatever we had between us is all over. I usually abandon it beside one of those little trees.

But I draw the line at leaving it in an empty parking space. I’ll walk mine to the shopping cart corral rather block a parking space.

Speaking of parking spaces, I hardly ever notice “compact” spaces anymore. I wonder if younger people even know what a “compact” is.

The term goes back to the 1950s and early ’60s. It’s a higher-tone label for a small car. The first compact was the Nash Rambler, soon followed by the Chevy Corvair, Chrysler Valiant and Ford Falcon.

I bought a Falcon, new, in 1961. I got rid of it in 1964 when its clutch flew apart. That was about the same time “compact” parking spaces came into general use. So I hardly ever got to park my Falcon in a compact space.

But later on I often parked bigger cars in compact spaces. I figured they owed me for my Falcon’s unused entitlement.