April 16, 2014
On Standing Up For Yourself (and The Questionable Goodness of Others)
Posted by Steph
Before I even begin, I need to ask this of you: please don't tell me that I'm stupid, that I was wrong, and then proceed to list all of the things I should have done differently.
In the past 2 hours, I have done this a thousand times in my head.
And believe me, my inner Steph voice is quite loud.
Until about 6pm, I was having a really great day. We had a Spring Break playdate with one of our favorite families, I went for a run with one of my favorite running buddies, and we even got to see Hubby before he went off to his 7pm grad class.
After, as I was headed home with the girls, I was stopped at a four-way intersection. For those turning right, there was a merging lane instead of a light. I'm at the front of this mini-merging lane and see what seems to be a slight break in traffic. I ease off the break about to go, but saw the cars were coming from the opposite direction much faster than I originally thought, so I put my breaks on again. Moments later, there is a crunch and simultaneous push forward.
I'd been rear-ended.
I've never in my life encountered this before. I'd been in an accident once before, but it was in high school and I wasn't driving. And despite being the ripe ol' age of 32, I wasn't quite sure what to do in this situation. The person behind me, a woman, motioned for me to head to the shoulder of the busy road, and I made my way over. In my brain, I knew we were supposed to swap insurance and assess the damage. I considered calling my brother-in-law, a police officer, but the woman was already getting out of her car and I didn't have a chance.
In these moments, we have a choice how we will handle things. Will we handle with vengeance or with grace? As I opened my car door, I tried to think of how I would feel if I had been the rear-ender. I know I'd feel awful, sick and remorseful. So I wanted to show the offender as much as grace as I hoped someone would show me, and waited to see how she responded.
Immediately, the woman asked if I was okay. She apologized. Profusely. She looked at my car, and together we looked at the damage. Which was minimal. Most of it wiped off with her sleeve. Remaining were barely visible scratches. She seemed frazzled, and putting her hands to her face she said, almost to herself, "I'm literally trading this car in for a new car tomorrow!" She apologized again and said she was totally at fault.
I suggested we exchange insurance info, and she agreed. I went to my car, she to hers. I quickly grabbed my insurance packet, and saw she was still rummaging through her car. So I texted Hubby, who immediately called. I explained what happened and he instructed me to get insurance and call the police.
When the woman finally came back, she said she didn't have her insurance card. My stomach knotted, as this was not something I was prepared to encounter. I didn't even know what to do in this situation. The data on my phone wouldn't work, so I couldn't look up the number for police. She gave me all of her information: name, address, phone number, and said she would call with the information I handed her. She wanted to take care of this. It was her fault.
I felt frozen. Hubby had said to call the police. I couldn't bring myself to do it (nor look up the number on my phone anyway). I knew taking her word that she'd call later tonight was a gamble, but what other choice did I have?
We got back into our cars and drove away. I almost immediately burst into tears, knowing that I could have just completely been swindled. I knew this was a possibility, not only because we see it all the time in our world, but I'd encountered a similar situation as a thirteen year old that imprinted on me forever that there were people in this world who could not be trusted.
Rewind about 20 years, give or take. I'm home recovering from getting my wisdom teeth removed and had to accompany my mom on a cleaning job. We were on our way home and decided to stop for lunch (well, lunch for her, a milkshake for me). We were in the McDonald's parking lot, and my mom was scanning for spots. As she is looking at a spot to her left, a woman walks out in front of us holding a bag of groceries. I quickly alert my mom, who immediately puts on the breaks.
We're roughly four feet away from the woman, and she is staring daggers at us. She didn't give us the respected response. Instead, she comes over, and says, "I can't believe this happened! I feel so shaken! I work at the bank next door, we should exchange numbers."
It didn't make sense, but just as I couldn't hone in on the right response in my fender-bender, my mom didn't think quickly on her feet, and obliged this woman. Over a non-accident, they exchanged insurance information.
And a few days later, a sheriff served a court order that my mom was being sued.
What we didn't know at the time was that this woman had a brother-in-law who was a doctor. Who had examined and treated her for "the extensive injuries" that she incurred from being "hit and under" our car. This woman saw an opportunity and intended on taking my mother for all she was worth.
Over the course of several months, we talked to lawyers, negotiated, and finally went to court. I was a key witness. I remember sitting in court that day, watching this woman. I watched her sit up straight and confident, I watched her lie. Then there was my mother, who had done nothing wrong, prepare herself to lose a lot of money over something that never really happened.
That day, though, the judge ruled in our favor.
So, I know what it being swindled feels like.
As I drove away from my present-day accident, I felt sickness creep into my stomach. Tears ran down my cheeks and my face felt hot. I was so angry with myself. Hindsight is 20/20, and I thought back on all the things I could have done and should have done.
Yet I didn't.
Because I was being a coward, which comes in direct contrast to my post from earlier this week on being brave. I was afraid to stand up for myself. I should have told the woman we were going to file a report with the police. But I didn't. I was afraid of making too big of a deal out of the situation. I was afraid of making her feel worse. I was afraid, especially, of coming off like a bitch. Because I hate being a bitch. Heck, I hate saying the word bitch.
Digging deeper, though, there is another source of frustration, more so than at my refusal to be my own advocate. I wanted to believe this woman meant what she said. That she was truly sorry. That she would call. That she would take care of this. I wanted to believe that sometimes, people are good. That people are worth trusting. But as I remember my own experience from years ago, I fear that I was once again swindled into believing that someone I wanted to believe was good was actually not.
I'm not sure which I am more upset at myself with: my cowardice or my naivety.
So I sit here tonight, writing this post, mainly as a way to process all of the feelings coursing through me right now. I flinch as every new course of action I should have taken pops into my brain. I walk through all of the couldhaveshouldhavewouldhaves, and scold myself for hold back when I should have been standing up.
And nearby, my phone sits silent. Every once in a while I glance over, hoping it will ring, resorting my faith in humanity.