What to Do When You Get in A Car Accident in 14 Easy Steps

  1. Ok, so this happened. Look in your rear view mirror. Do you see a handicapped placard? Of course you do. Now think about how terrifying it was the last time your grandmother drove you anywhere. How she veered dangerously to the right, but you didn’t say anything because at least it’s better than veering dangerously to the left. How you thought things like “If I call her on her cell phone will she not realize it’s me calling and ask me to take the wheel for a second?”
  2. When you both pull over after the accident, you’ll be under the impression that getting out to go talk to the other person is something of an admission of guilt, and since the accident was emphatically Not Your Fault, that’s an admission of guilt that she should make. But she’ll never do that, not least of all because she’s old and judging from her Jaguar, in more of a Zsa Zsa Gabor sort of way than a Werther’s Original sort of way.
  3. Do they give you that handicapped placard when you reach a certain age? Not to get all Herbert Spencer, but there really should be  a point where if your ailment is just living older than humans used to live, you are no longer allowed to drive.
  4. The good news about walking over to talk to her is that you can let her sit there and think about what she’s done under the pretense of “controlling your emotions.” You will feel smug and emotionally superior as this happens. Having someone do a wrong and then being able to grant them forgiveness before they even realize what happened that really activates your smugness. If there’s one emotion you need to control, it’s that one. Enjoy it, it’s nice to have a positive emotion after a car accident, even if it comes from a bad place.
  5. You have insurance right? There should be a phone number on that piece of paper. Make like Anton Chigurh and call it.
  6. Break the whole thing into steps. You need to get from: a) Broken Car / Side of the Road to b) Rental Car / Car Being Fixed to c) Fixed Car / Home. If you ever lose track of the bridge from a to b, call one of the people who deal with this for a living. The good news about insurance people is that they are nice people who do well talking to strangers. It’s pretty much the only thing they have to be. It’s why France will never have insurance.
  7. So, you got into a car accident: it’s not a big deal. So be a normal human about it. You don’t have to convince the yakuza that they’d be better served by letting you pay your gambling debt in monthly installments or justify the disappointing output of the collectivized sorghum mill you run to Josef Stalin. You’re in a normal situation that happens to lots of people thousands of times a year. As such, because Americans insist that Everything Be Taken Care Of, there are a series of institutions arranged to pretty much handle this entire situation for you. Don’t be a hero. Let them do it.
  8. Your best strategy to out-dumb everyone. When you talk to your insurance agent, make him explain everything to you as if you’re a girl in a romantic comedy trying to learn about sports for the first time. When you talk to the Slightly Too Mean Lady who hit you and she wants some odd bit of documentation that you don’t seem to have, act like the idea of keeping up to date records in your car is a frightening and confusing idea for you. (Note: your actions in this case may be closer to reality). Basically, with everyone you interact with in this whole process, you want them to think the thought, “It’ll just be easier if I do this myself, won’t it?” Makes the whole thing a lot easier.
  9. Despite your best efforts at this, the thing that will stick in your mind the most clearly is your insurance representative’s insistence that if you feel any delayed stiffness a few days after the accident, you should take a bath in Epsom salts. He really drives that point home to a degree that you begin to wonder if he’s secretly a slug in a human’s body who is trying too hard to compensate in order to blend in.
  10. You should not bother trying to hide the weird cocktail of pity, condescension and gratitude you feel when the Slightly Too Mean Lady asks “did you stop short or did I…?” before she trails off unsure of what to call hitting someone from behind for no clear reason. And you can go ahead and inform her that yes, it was totally her fault.
  11. The sooner you accept that there is no easier way to describe your accident than as being “rear ended,” the better. You can try to describe it in a roundabout way, “I was hit by a car that was behind me in the back part of my car.” No. The fact of the matter is, you were rear ended by an elderly woman. People will mostly hold their snickers.
  12. You will have a moment of realization that Enterprise Rent-A-Car has the best marketing department. Where Hertz has O.J. Simpson, Enterprise has a slogan that implies all their competitors will leave you to be murdered by drifters (or O.J. Simpson) on the side of the highway the second your engine goes bust.Their slogan “We’ll pick you up” which previously had sounded like a really, really pointless brag, suddenly is the only thing you know about them or any of their competitors.
  13. When you talk to people about this, your opening statement should be something along the lines of “I was in a car accident and nobody is hurt.” Not “Oh god! This is terrible!” while crying. Your attitude should be more “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” than “I’m in a Glass Case of Emotion.” Don’t be a jerk and pause dramatically as they assume that you’re being held hostage by Peruvian kidnappers. This moment, like so many others, isn’t about you.
  14. Relax. The good news is, you and the other person are still alive. Even though this is the likeliest way for someone your age to die, this day just moves you a smidge closer to your eventual death from heart disease or cancer, or if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to be one of those shriveled prune people who lived so long that their eventual death is credited to Natural Causes.
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One thought on “What to Do When You Get in A Car Accident in 14 Easy Steps

  1. kita says:

    Jordan your writing is mad funny. You scored my so far all time favorite dig against the French. Tres touche!
    I just hope this piece didn’t have any inspiration in real life…
    ( btw, the Anton Chigurh video wouldn’t play for me. He’s such a classic ingredient in a master blogger’s bag of special tricks. That last name alone, but especially with Anton, and most especially the way Bardem played him. Oh, and did I mention his hair? I think one of the Brothers Coen is specifically responsible for his hair concept.
    Are you beginning to see why I missed the video clip?)

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