We pulled back in the space and I hopped out, as did the passenger in the other car, a college-aged girl. She was not happy. I, being the veteran of many, MANY accidents in my younger days as my parents can attest, took it all in stride and started gathering our information out while The Engineer apologized to her boyfriend. His girlfriend however started furiously snapping photos of our car tag as if we were about to blow out of the joint. Because when you see a family of four traveling home during the holidays with a SUV loaded down with luggage and toys, the first thing you think is: Hit and Run.
Her attitude set my teeth on edge but I tried to keep a cool head. I walked around to the front of their car (which was a rental) and looked at the bumper. There might have been some scratches but it was black and I was not for certain. I said, "Well, it looks like there's only some minor scratches." To which she declared, "Scratches are the most expensive to repair!" Oh honey. Flipping your car twice and then skidding down the highway on your roof is the most expensive to repair.
As we were only traveling about five miles an hour at the time of impact and they were not moving at all, there was only one minor scuff to our bumper which looked right at home with all the other minor scuffs on the bumper. I hesitantly asked if she wanted to call the police since there did not seem to be much damage and we had already exchanged info. Oh yes, Girlfriend was indignant and adamant that we would call the police. So I did and cheerily asked 911 if they could send a trooper to our rest stop.
I have found that in situations like these when dealing with someone who is intent on overreacting, the only way to handle them is with kindness (and a subtle hint of snark).
So the trooper arrives and we explained what happened. He walked up and rubbed the "scratch" off with his thumb. He announced, "Well, there is no damage so you don't have to file a report." Girlfriend vehemently disagreed. It turned out that she had at one point in her young life worked for a car rental place and as such, felt that gave her the authority to advise the veteran trooper from the Tennessee Highway Patrol how to do his job. He looked at her incredulously and replied, "There is no damage." She disagreed. She saw scratches and now informs him too that they are the most expensive to repair! He, being a veteran trooper with the THP, quickly realized that there was no arguing with this girl as she is intent that we pay for our crime.
So he pulled out his paperwork and started asking the driver questions to which Girlfriend kept interrupting to give her side of the story. Finally, her boyfriend held up his hand in the universal "Girl, please" motion and she stomped back to the car. The trooper finished their part of the accident report as quickly as possible and told them they could go. The driver, who really did seem like a nice guy, apologized to us! And then quickly got the hell out of there.
The trooper, Engineer and I had a good laugh and headed on our way. All the way home, we giggled at the ridiculousness of it all. It was also a good teachable moment for the kids -- we talked to them about how to handle an accident with class and not lose your mind. Because once you crawl through glass to pull your baby, hanging upside down in his carseat, through a broken window -- it gives you a hard-won perspective on car accidents. I don't know if the driver will ever see this. I don't see how he could unless he Googles our names, but if he does --
You seem like a nice guy. But if I could leave you with just a little bit of advice:
And the Big Marshmallow takes a licking and keeps on ticking!