My truck has big doors that swing wide when they are opened. At the one-third point, there is a spot that “pauses” the door. The parking spaces in public places are a challenge – do I leave the passenger side threatened by the door of a random parked car or do I leave room on that side and slide out under a 1/3 opened door? I parked in Northgate shopping mall and carefully opened the door to its “pause” spot but as I turned, my elbow pushed it further and the door struck the door of the vehicle beside us. I slid out, wet my finger and leaned over to assess the damage. The dirt on his car clearly marked the strike but under that, there was a nick, through one layer of paint only but an undeniable spot of damaged finish.
A twenty-something man suddenly appeared in front of me demanding to know why I had deliberately thrust my truck door into his car – “what the f**k are you doing?” “I saw you throw your door at my car” – there was figurative smoke coming out of his ears. His nose was turning red and his face was snarly. He went on to describe himself as a leader in a very important organization and in a hurry to get to a meeting. He had two small dogs in the car.
My first reaction was to deny that I had tried to hit his car which of course was a ridiculous accusation but all he did was repeat his impression calling me a “stupid bitch” and deriding my lack of brains. He threatened me with SGI. His tirade gave me a moment to think about what I needed –
What I needed was to get my letter mailed. I didn’t need to waste time on this scratch. I didn’t need to be yelled at in a parking lot. I also didn’t need any more points off my license. How was I going to get my needs met?
Finding a way to calm him down was the first item on the agenda. It would be decidedly useless to engage in a discussion of whether or not I had intended to damage his car door. I realized that I had to calm myself, find that quiet space within myself and view the dilemma from that quietness.
I really didn’t know what he wanted. Did he want to sue me? Did he want money?
I started, “Look, I’m really sorry that this happened…..” He was not interested. “What do I need to do for you to make this right?” He continued ranting. I repeated the question. He was getting off on his poor damaged car and how much I was to blame! I yelled at him, “LISTEN TO ME” That got his attention, “what do I need to do to make this right? Do you want it fixed? What do you want to do?”
He mumbled – he hadn’t thought about what he wanted. “Well, I’ll have to get it fixed and that is going to take money. You should pay for this. How much are you going to give me? I should report it to SGI.”
“How much will it cost?” I asked more specifically.
Since he didn’t seem to have any ready suggestions, I described a ridiculously cheap option. A can of paint and some careful work. That might be $20? On the other hand, I think it would be a $75 job at Blackjack’s. He didn’t have a counter-proposal. So, in the interest of speed, I offered him $100 and told him I’d pay the rest when he submitted a receipt to me for work-done. I had him take pics of my license plate, registration and my email address. I also reminded him that if he had it assessed for more than $200, he should take it to SGI.
He was flabbergasted. He started apologizing. It was clear that he had not expected any solution and certainly not one that put money in his hand. As I walked away, he was still apologizing for flying off the handle. I’ll be surprised if I hear from him.
But I did see him again. He was working a hot dog stand at Victoria Park – I bought a smoky and, by common nonverbal consent, we made no reference to our earlier altercation (his “important-person-going-to-a-meeting” story was blown). I recalled that the passenger side of his car looked as though he slept in it and pitied him.