“How am I supposed to get out of here?” I asked as the three of us headed toward the shiny, red Jeep. The parking lot was swarming with cars and even the 3 parking attendants, clad in their bright orange vests and talking sternly in their walkie talkies, weren’t keeping tight control.
“Would you like me to drive?” Mom asked, handing over the plastic bag that contained her 3 Christmas watches. Two red – with Santa faces – one for her and one for Aunt, and one green.
“Yes.” I answered quickly, and climbed in the backseat. I seldom use ‘yes’ in conversation. It’s bothered me that I tend toward ‘yeah’ or ‘yep.’ Little One uses ‘yes’ exclusively, so I’ve picked it up. This pleases me no small amount.
A woman sped into our empty spot before we’d turned around completely. Mom sighed and called her a twit. Dad said “thanks a lot” out the window quite loudly and I rolled my eyes.
“This parking lot is stressful!” I defended her. “Everybody’s trying to get out of the way!”
“She’s still a twit.” Mom said to Dad.
“Yes.” He agreed.
After turning right on the one way street downtown, we headed toward the big, tall bridge that always makes me feel a little queasy. It’s far too high. Before we could reach the turn lane, the light turned red and Mom stopped when so advised by her husband.
I was setting her watch – a red one – and had flicked the little white protector off the knob to correct the time. It was 1:37 and I was moving the hands accordingly.
Mom and Dad were talking about something – I was ignoring them, so it’s likely I didn’t approve of the discussion – when we were hit from behind.
I met Mom’s eyes in the rearview mirror – I was seated behind her as she drove – and assured her I was fine.
“Are you guys OK?” I asked, even as Dad was unbuckling his seatbelt to assess the damage. Dad loves cars, and I spared the driver behind us a moment of sympathy. There was no way we were leaving without calling the police because there would be some amount of damage that had to be corrected. I opened my purse to find my cell phone and sighed upon seeing it was dead.
“The light was red.” I heard Dad say to the woman behind us, and Mom sighed as she too exited the vehicle. I stayed put – Dad has a tendency to embarrass me and I didn’t want to snap at him.
“I know.” I heard the woman say. “I turned around to talk to my kids and my foot must have slipped. Are you all OK?”
“We’re fine.” Mom said, then asked about the driver and her children. I’m sure Dad was shaking his head disapprovingly at the thought of a foot slipping off the brake, but I was facing forward so as not to see any of this.
“Your car is fine.” The woman said, and I smiled at this. Good try, lady. Meet my father. “There’s damage to my car, but if you’re all OK, I’m going home.”
“No.” Dad drew the word out for dramatic effect, and I shook my head. “You crunched in the spare tire – the clear coat is off of it so now it’ll rust. And the back is caved in – if you look behind the spare tire, you’ll see it’s all out of alignment now. The bumper is probably buckled too. There’s damage.” He concluded. “We’ll have to call the police.”
By this time, he’d embarrassed Mom as well and she returned to the car. She threw the phone at me with a “do something” order that I thought was rather vague.
“I never know if you’re supposed to call 911 or the actual station. I don’t know the number to the actual station though.” I said. “So…”
“Ka-tie!” Mom whined. So I quickly dialed.
“No emergency.” I said to the operator when she answered. “I’m sorry. We had an accident and need someone to come fill out a report. Do I call someone else or can you help?”
Then I offered the street names, vehicle makes and colors and assured her we didn’t need an ambulance.
“Someone will be here soon.” I reported and we settled in to wait.
“Are you supposed to dial 911?” Mom asked after we spent a couple minutes in silence. “Or were they mad?”
“Did they yell at you?” Dad asked, turning to look at me - he'd finally returned to the car.
“No. No yelling. She took the information, so I guess it’s fine. How would someone know the appropriate station to call? So I really think that’s the right place to go for help.”
“You should have asked her.” Mom said, always a believer of learning as you go along.
“Oh!” She said, looking in her side mirror a few minutes later and reporting back to Dad and me. “He’s here. He’s talking to her first. … Now he’s getting in her car. What’s he doing?”
“Probably checking on the children.” I offered and she made a noise of agreement before continuing with her observations.
“He’s out now. OK, here he comes.”
“Tell him we all had our seatbelts on.” Dad said quickly and quietly just before the officer arrived at Mom’s window.
“Is anyone hurt?” He asked and Mom shook her head.
“We’re fine.” She said, then waited for the next question. I was surprised and impressed that she didn’t offer we had all been safely buckled in at the time of the incident. She handed over the license, registration and proof of insurance. He wrote down her phone number, and asked if there were just 2 people in the car.
“My daughter’s in the back.” Mom said.
“Those windows are tinted,” Dad offered. “That’s why you can’t see her.”
The policeman – I’d decided he was quite cute – squinted and peeked behind Mom’s seat.
“Well, hello.” He said after grinning at me.
“Hi.” I said with a smile of my own.
“Are you OK?” He asked, and I nodded and told him I was fine.
“She’s from [southern city].” Mom reported after asking if he’d like her to roll down my window.
“I don’t think that’s necessary.” I said as he shook his head, still smiling. So Mom continued.
“She’s home for Thanksgiving – she drove up on Wednesday and is staying until Tuesday.”
At this, he looked back at me.
“I’m driving home on Tuesday evening.” I confirmed, not sure what I was supposed to say. Then I shrugged at him while he stifled laughter.
“I’ll go enter this in.” He offered. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Oh, can you tell me what happened?”
“We were sitting at a red light, and she hit me.” Mom said obediently and Dad and I nodded.
“Hard? Or just a nudge?”
Then there was silence as we all considered the question. I never know – accidents are so weird like that. It happens and I try to reconstruct it, but the details are lost because I wasn’t expecting to have to remember some random moment right before or after being surprised by someone hitting my car.
“We rolled a car length.” Dad said, leaning forward to offer his opinion from the passenger seat.
“I don’t know.” Mom said. “Somewhere between hard and a nudge, I guess.”
Then he got to return to his car while we sat to wait again.
“Does he have a partner?” I finally asked.
“No.” Mom said, looking in her mirror again. “He’s all alone.”
“I wonder when they did that.” I mused. “If I were a policeman – hush” I admonished Dad when he chuckled at the idea of me being an officer of the law, “I’d want a partner. What if something goes wrong? Who’s supposed to call for help?” Then I told a story I’d heard on my local news where a partner was definitely in order, but had been missing. Said officer had been seriously hurt as a result of her solitude.
We all sat in silence to think about why officers were no longer paired.
Then Dad got out of the car.
“Oh, hell.” I said to Mom. “What is he doing? Does he have to go look at the car right now? In front of that poor woman?”
We jostled forward as Dad shoved on the back end. Opening the door to make sure it still functioned. He tried to close it gently, but it failed to latch. “Moron.” I offered lightly, then he slammed it closed. He didn’t hear me, but we tend toward teasing insults to each other anyway. He wouldn’t have minded. Much.
Mom, however, agreed completely. “He’s so stupid sometimes.” She sighed, looking in the mirror to watch him. “Now he’s under the car – lying down on the street under the car. Goodness.”
He soon returned to his seat and closed the door to list the Jeep’s injuries.
“Did you have to do that now?” I asked.
“Why not?” He responded. “I’m bored.”
“That woman is sitting right there when you’re out the screwing around.” Mom said.
“I was looking at the car!” He defended himself. “And she’s just sitting there looking sad.”
“She is sad!” Mom and I both said quickly and dramatically.
“I didn’t say she wasn’t sad.” Dad said, laughing. “I said she looked sad. It could be real.”
We shook our heads at him, and he smiled, happy with the attention.
“Maybe my neck hurts. I should sue. Then she’d be even more sad.” He decided.
“We don’t do that.” Mom said firmly. “You stop.”
“I could be hurt.” Dad insisted.
“Probably a terminal case of being a bastard.” I muttered, and my parents both laughed.
“Can’t sue for that.” Mom said. “Pre-existing.”
“Oh!” She said after several more minutes of silence – Dad started reading the classifieds and I daydreamed in silence. “He’s coming back. Now he’s talking to her – giving her some papers.”
As he made his way toward our Jeep – according to Mom, anyway – the phone rang. Dad fumbled his way through Mom’s purse, looking for the ringing device, as Mom turned her attention to the cute officer at her window.
Dad looked at the display – as is his habit – as it continued to create noise while Mom tried to listen to the instructions being given.
“Answer it!” I hissed and Dad finally flipped open the phone to speak to Brother.
“She’s talking to the police.” He finally said after Brother asked about Mom. “We had a wreck.” Then he waited for dramatic effect while Brother grew appropriately concerned. Then he started to tell the story in his slow, Dad-like way. I spared a moment of sympathy for Brother, then focused on the paperwork being passed through the window.
Mom asked several clarifying questions. Officer answered patiently, and told us to drive safely and enjoy the beautiful day.
I wasn’t expecting it because Mom had done so well so far. But then it came.
“May I ask you one more question?” She said, looking at him sweetly.
“Sure.” He said, and I shook my head because he really was younger than I am. It’s happening more and more and I don’t like it.
“Why don’t you have partners anymore?”
“Oh, Good Lord.” I said softly, and he smiled upon hearing me.
“Um,” He started, pausing to stifle more laughter. “Some of us do have partners. Others don’t. It really depends.”
Now I was curious – as to what factor determined the partner or lack thereof and as to whether Mom would inquire further. But she just thanked him and allowed him to walk back to his vehicle.
She proceeded toward the big, tall bridge and toward Brother’s house to pick up Little One.
“That was your question?” I said lightly.
“I wanted to know.” She said simply.
“I thought you’d ask about 911.” I offered.
“I should have!” She exclaimed. “I forgot. But I wondered about the partners – he’d be safer with a partner.”
“I wonder how old he was.” Dad started to tease. “If he grew up around here. Why he wanted to be a police officer.”
“If he likes his job.” Mom continued as I giggled. “If he ever gets to do anything other than traffic stops. I wonder if he’s ever shot his gun…”
And that’s what it’s like with my parents. Long story long. And I still don’t know the answer to the partner question – sorry about that.