Last Saturday, as my poor, defenseless automobile waited patiently in line for an oil change, my plans and my perspective were substantially altered. A fellow customer backed into my car leaving me with $1400 in damage. Fortunately, the employees at the garage witnessed the accident, took down (most of) the offender's information in my stead, and called me to inform me of what happened. Over the past week, I have worked with the other driver and his wife to get the money, or the insurance information, to fix my car. What began as a relatively friendly interaction turned sour, and complicated, when they were given the estimate of the damages. Suddenly, in their eyes, I was at fault for parking my car too far away from the building as well as a contributor to our nation's economic woes having purchased a "German" (actually I drive a Volvo and it took all my might not to respond, "It's Swedish, thank you!") automobile. Furthermore, I was informed that their sister was in the hospital, their insurance company was almost bankrupt, and their landlord was "getting her leg fixed". Thus, they aren't sure if they can pay for the damages - yet mysteriously they refuse to give me their insurance information.
My situation reminded me of a piece Nick Paumgarten wrote for The New Yorker back in January. Noticing a recent trend across the country, Paumgarten astutely observes, "You learn, at an early age, to own up to your mistakes and misdeeds; and then, apparently, at some later age, you learn to disown them." If nothing else, this whole situation is a fresh reminder that I need to be vigilant to take responsibility for my own mistakes. It's hard enough when others don't take responsibility for theirs.
Read Paumgarten's article here.