Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First-world battle scars

"Of all the things!"
"Look what happened!" I say, to anyone I can buttonhole for a few slack moments, and hold out my smart phone, to establish:
  • I have a smart phone now, with which I know how to take photos, and
  • I have a photo I think is worth showing
"Oh, no!" anyone says in response, or "What the …?!" or "Some people!"

The hood of my car has been cratered, the photo clearly shows. I have a series of pics, I say: Thumb through it. The deep indentation appears to be of a human body; you can almost make out the fetal position of the landing.

Instead of diffusing available light in a sleek curved smooth sheet, the hood now captures every manner of light and dark, dimpled and dappled. It bears peaks, creating a valley.

Whatever happened to it, happened last week, while I was swimming my usual spot at an unusual time, when the late afternoon was purpling and the mosquitoes had begun again to dance over the water.

(It could have happened before this, when I had parked the car in a multi-level garage near the light rail station. But I back into every parking space — once a Boy Scout leader, always a Boy Scout leader — and would have noticed the ruined hood on my way around the front, just as I did upon exiting the water. The new topography was obvious from 25 yards away.)

"What the …?" I said aloud. A half-dozen cars were parked near the boat launch, untouched. A fisherman was unloading his truck. He had only been there five minutes before, he said, and heard a noise but saw nothing; though he immediately blamed kayakers who might have dropped their boat on my hood and not left a note.

Kayakers would have had to pummel my hood, swinging their boats like hammers, to have done this damage, and would have left scrapes and marks. This was from a soft heavy object, no evidence left save the soft folds into the hard metal.

The hood (or "bonnet," as British swimmers said when I showed them the photo) still opens. The car still drives.

I'm stuck at "What the …?" grimly amused at the damage. My best guess is someone decided to take a running jump over the car and perform a piledriver. Or someone dared another to dent the hood. Or someone threw another onto the hood.

Some have said meteors. Rogue Canada Geese. Monster trout. One said it's reminiscent of a 1970s prank: I'd been "Starsky'd," after the TV show "Starsky and Hutch," where the protagonists were forever sliding or stomping across cars, including their own.

"We get a lot of idiots in the park," the ranger said in sympathy when he took my report.

I'll go through the motions of talking to the insurance company, report and photos in hand, seeing what can be done.

Probably very little.

"I would not have been so calm as you," someone told me.

It's not calm so much as resignation, and I guess the event has exercised me a bit, or else I wouldn't be showing the photo around so much.

"Of all the things you could do to a car!" I'd say.

Then I heard on the news about an Iraqi man whose car ISIS had blown up, because he had been a police officer. ISIS threw him in jail too.

At least I've got a car, I realized. I can go anywhere I've a mind to.

"Of all the things!"
It's a Taurus we've owned most of its life. We bought it off my sister, who had gotten it as a fleet car from her old job — remember when companies had fleet cars?

It was low mileage, and in good shape. The Taurus is the cockroach of automobiles, beetlesque (at least, the first models) and indestructible.

It still bears the deep crease behind the front left tire, imprinted only 10 miles from home as we returned from my hometown, to conduct the wake after my mom's death. We couldn't avoid the end table laying late at night in one of the freeway lanes. A leg of hit the car square, a home run in any park.

"Of all the things!" we said.
But … we had a car. We got to go a long way away and say goodbye. The car drove just fine.
The driver's side has a rolling dent where a car careened into it about a year ago. Our daughter in college had gone to visit a friend, parked the car at the curb, and sometime that night in a car used her car for a bumper and sheared off the sideview mirror. No note, no evidence except for the damage.

The mirror had stayed more or less put in the cool Oregon weather with many crisscrossings of duct tape, but wilted back home in the scorch of Sacramento. Then my brothers-in-law Joel and Greg found a matching mirror at a pick-and-pull and installed the mirror as our daughter's graduation present.
At least we had cars enough to let our daughter get around to work and school, far away.
Thieves broke into another car a few years ago at my beloved lake, grabbing stuff from mine and the cars of all whom I'd been swimming with, plus some vacationers'. Insurance paid for the broken window. The contents were useful but not vital, and not within reach of recouping through insurance. I kept bringing the car to the lake until we donated it.
At least we had cars enough to donate one.
My old red Ford Explorer, dubbed the Vomit Comet because two Scouts got carsick on either side of the car on one outing, carried a long bright yellow scar for many years.

I saw the metal pole protecting an electrical box at the apartment complex where I was helping some people do charity work. I just forgot about it backing out.

I kept the gash as a badge, a note to self that I had the means to help someone else, which far outweighed any inconvenience I might have incurred.

Many freelance auto body repair men, rolling up to me in supermarket parking lots or even in the next lane on the freeway, offered to repair the gash. I turned them down.

I might do the same with the crushed hood. Just keep it like that. I don't really care how bad it looks or what people might think. It's a funny reminder that I have freedom to steal away to my favorite lake and wash off burdens in the cold water.

I cried because I had no shoes.

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