Shit happens. As if moving a ton of stuff from one store to another weren’t enough, yesterday someone smashed into the side of my car which was parked on Cherry Street.
Elizabeth Jones had stopped by with several cartons of awesome, colorful Mexican vintage toys, and we were admiring them as she pulled them out of the wrapping paper. Suddenly Cathy from Dark City Deli rushed in crying, “Stephanie, someone just hit your car and they are running away!
I dashed outside and ran down the street and was relieved to see the huge church bus that had creamed my car had pulled into the Take a Hike parking lot. “You hit my car!” I yelled at the guy with the pompadour who had emerged from the bus.
Another similarly coiffed man followed him and said, “I thought we’d a-hit something.”
My first thought: “I hope you guys have insurance!”
They apologized profusely as we walked back to the corner where I was hit, and we both snapped a series of shots of the car, the damage, and the way the car was situated on the street. I assured them that I was okay, and that the insurance company would pay for the damage. I called USAA and got the calming reassurance I needed. The USAA guy told me that the police had to be called to make a report, and that was done, but he stayed on the line while he gathered forms and some information he needed. Then the church men and I stood there making polite small talk while we waited for the police. Some people walked up to us and said, “It was Belden Baptist Church who did it!”
The pompadour said, “Yes, I am the head pastor. We are taking care of it.” All was calm and friendly
Once the police showed up, however, things shifted. A tall cop with mirror sunglasses on his head said belligerently without preamble, “You are illegally parked here, and you must realize you are responsible for this accident. My police report will explain that this is Your fault.”
The ground opened up beneath me and I felt myself falling. “First of all,” I explained with as assertive a tone as I could muster, “I am not parked illegally.”
“Oh yes you are! And I have warned you about this repeatedly, and now all your warnings are finished. You WILL receive a summons this time.”
“What??” I burst out. “You have never warned me about anything, and I have never even left my car here before. Furthermore, I have never laid eyes on you before And where does it say this is not a parking space? It is clearly delineated as a space and there are no signs. I am just now moving into this store right here and…”
He cut me off. “Ma’am, I may have to call for back up if you continue like this.”
“Call who you want! This is my store and I and the victim here, not the perpetrator.”
“I can see that you are mad at me, but that doesn’t change anything. You are guilty.”
At that moment, I had a flash of what it must feel like to be a Black person who has been pulled over by a cop. I had been minding my own business and suddenly I am the perp. The two church leaders smirked conspiratorially as they and the cop strolled off together to write the accident report.
Meanwhile the USAA guy was still on the phone and he heard everything. “Did they say you were responsible for your car, parked against the curb by the side of the road, being hit by a moving vehicle? That’s like accusing a tree for getting hit by a car.
I told this story to two friends, and they had far worse tales to tell. Susie Miles was pulled over in Rye, NY, where she owned a shop. She had parked in a no parking space while she ran in to return a video, and was ticketed. She attempted to move her car, and the cop thought she was fleeing, so he cuffed her, threw her into a cruiser, and put her in a holding cell. Ruth had a cute mermaid decal on her sedan and was pulled over and accused of being a drug runner because she had a “red bear” on her car. She explained that it was a mermaid and not a bear, but the policeman argued that it was a bear. and that was that. At least she wasn’t thrown in jail.
I am a person who was raised to respect and obey the police. My brother in law and nephew are both in law enforcement, and my former student Morgan is now a police officer, but there are some power-hungry bad seeds out there. They demand your respect, but need to learn to give respect to the public as well. The feelings of helplessness and fear they engender are terrifying.