Thursday, May 13, 2004

Fear Ye Fear Ye!

Fear is a tyrant and a despot, more terrible than the rack, more potent than the snake.- Edgar Wallace

Fear is such an interesting thing. Recently, Amy has developed a real fear of driving. She knows it's irrational, but she can't help it. For whatever reason, she is hyper aware of the traffic around us and every car ride is somewhat frightening for her.

Worry gives a small thing a big shadow. - Swedish proverb

In recent weeks I've repeatedly tried to reassure her by asking, "In all the time I've known you have I ever been in an accident with you in the car?" She and I both know the answer - no.

That changed this afternoon.

Lisa and I picked up Amy from the hospital and being acutely aware that Amy's fear of driving is very real, not to mention that it was raining, I was as cautious as I could possibly be. As we headed down a crowded roadway, a guy driving a huge SUV apparently decided he didn't want to be in the line of traffic so he pulled in front of our car as we approached less than 20 feet away. I hit the brakes but there was no hope. I clipped him, while mercifully avoiding another vehicle in the turn lane to our left.

No one was hurt. We pulled into a parking lot and I expected it would be a relatively routine exchange of information. There was no doubt the other driver was at least so I thought.

This guy had the audacity to deny even being in an accident! He said he pulled over only because he thought I had hit another car!

I stared at him wordlessly.

Then he said, "You must have been flying down the road!"
I not so gently informed him that he was indeed in an accident and my car doesn't fly. I pointed to my now quivering wife still bandaged from her hospital stay, and said, "We left the hospital 2 minutes ago, and we are in no hurry to go back there believe me."

Then he said, "Well, I was clearly established in the lane, so it's not my fault."

I really had no response to that, it was such a nonsensical statement. First off, had he actually been in the lane...he would have been moving since that lane was clear. At worst I would have rear ended his vehicle, and it was quite evident I hadn't done that.

Then he contended that there was no damage to his car and he didn't see any damage on mine.

I wondered how far we would go with this game of denial. I told Amy to call the police, as I pointed to my dented fender and cracked headlight casing.

The driver who had been in the turn lane also had stopped. She gave us her contact information and also confirmed my story of what had happened.

As I started taking down his license plate number, the guy got back in his car. Amy called the police while searching for my insurance info (I think the same demon who steals socks from the dryer takes those proof of insurance things out of glove boxes, but that's another story). Then the guy rolled down his window and said, "Hey, it's raining, get in my sense getting all wet."

I crawled into the lush leather backseat of his luxury SUV and saw his newborn baby - in a car seat thank God. I also noticed his wife, who hadn't said a word to me. Soon though I suspected she had said several words to him before I got in. He handed me his driver's license and insurance info. I gave him my business card and as I was handing him my license he said, "I don't need that. Just get two estimates when you get a chance and I'll write you a check."

When a police officer arrived, I told him no report would be necessary since our insurance companies weren't going to be involved.

Presumably that will be the end of it.

The guy who pulled in front of us works for a big financial company in their tax division. From all appearances he is doing well for himself monetarily.

As I thought more about his reaction to the accident I realized at the heart of it was fear. It was almost instinctual for him to deny wrongdoing. Yet, it was completely irrational. In his panic at facing the fear of his own wrongdoing, he pulled excuses out of thin air so rapidly that I was mesmerized. He's probably a great tax guy, I'm sure he can find deductions of which most folks never dream.

Where fear is present, wisdom cannot be. - Lactantius

When we arrived home and all was calm again, I logged onto our family website and saw a picture of my sister-in-law Terry.


Apparently Terry's youngest son, my nephew Sam, decided he would skydive for his 18th birthday, and at the last minute Terry decided to do it too.

To my knowledge, Terry has never before displayed symptoms of insanity, but you can only be in this family for so long I suppose before some of it rubs off.

Again I thought about fear. I suspect that Terry had some fears about skydiving. However knowing her I'll bet it was probably much more frightening for her to see her son jumping out of a plane.

In any case, she conquered both of those fears. I was greatly pleased at the timing.

Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness. - James Thurber