What Happens if a Bully Rear-Ends Your Car

27 Mar

On the twenty-first, I was driving up 20th Avenue toward my apartment, and at the intersection of 20th and Main I stopped for a pedestrian. It is true there is no painted crosswalk at this intersection, but it is nonetheless an intersection, complete with dipped sidewalks to accommodate wheelchairs. The pedestrian, admittedly, was still on the sidewalk, but she was facing 20th and watching traffic and clearly getting ready to step into the street. Therefore I came to a complete stop at the intersection. I stopped in a normal manner rather than slamming on the breaks.

A few seconds after I stopped, a vehicle rammed into the back of mine. The force took my breath away and shoved my car forward into the intersection, while I heard a horrible metallic groaning sound.

Shaking and in shock, I managed to pull over to the side of the road. The other vehicle parked behind me. While I got out of my car and stood on both feet, I was acutely aware of how much I was shaking. A driver with her window down across the street pointed her finger at the other driver and called out, “You caused the accident!”

The pedestrian was standing in the same spot. I smirked and told her, “Well, I guess you can cross now.” She looked both ways very cautiously before doing so.

I walked to the back of the car and stood between the two vehicles, where I surprisingly observed that neither appeared damaged. The other driver got out of her car and stood in the vicinity, commenting, “Hey, well, it looks like neither car was damaged.”

I turned to her and said, “Yes, surprisingly.”

The pedestrian joined us and stood on the sidewalk. I felt reassured by her presence, and the other driver (or OD for short) seemed to be speaking to both of us. She said something along these lines, to the pedestrian and me: “I used to live in LA, and this is what I hate about Portland drivers. They stop for pedestrians when they don’t have to.” She continued to rant in this vein, making me feel ashamed of having stopped for the pedestrian.

The pedestrian said, “I’m not even from Portland, so I’m not used to how people drive here. I’m just visiting. I’m from a small town.” The other driver may have responded with a snarky remark about how people drive here.

The other driver kind of towered over me, and when I turned to her she said, “Hey, I know you, you’re Susan, right?” I didn’t recognize her immediately. She was wearing big sunglasses. She added, “Remember, we were in that book group together.”

Suddenly I recognized OD, who participated in a writing group with me a few years ago.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right!” I said.

OD turned to the pedestrian and said, “We were in this book group a few years ago. What a weird coincidence.”

I said, “Actually, I just joined a new novel writer’s group. It’s through Meetup—“

“I don’t have time for a writer’s group right now.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” I said.

She quickly said, “Well, it looks like neither of our cars is damaged and nobody’s hurt, so it settled?” Meanwhile, I was still shaking and in shock while trying to converse.

I said, “I’m surprised neither car is damaged.”

The witness who had pointed at OD now began walking across the street and called, “Do you need a witness?” That was my cue, I now realize, to ask for her name and phone number so that I would have a witness’s information when I contact my insurance agent. The witness joined us and told OD, “The accident was your fault, because you rear-ended her. Now that it’s spring, there are going to be a lot of pedestrians. What if a baby stroller had been in front of her car?”

OD said something like, “Nobody was in the street. She didn’t need to stop for the pedestrian. This is what I hate about Portland drivers. Before I moved here, I lived in LA and [Santa Barbara?]. You don’t stop every time there’s a pedestrian. You keep going. The pedestrians know that.”

I turned to OD and said, “A friend of mine recently told me that there’s a five hundred dollar fine if you don’t stop for pedestrians.”

She said, “Even if there’s no crosswalk?”

I said, “Hmm, I’m not sure. I’ll have to look into that.”

The witness gestured toward the sidewalk and said, “Actually, there is a dip for wheelchairs.”

Looking at the dip in question, I said, “Oh, yes, that’s true.”

The witness may have said something else, but OD said, “I’ve got to get going. My husband and kids are waiting for me.”

OD may have said something else to the witness, and I may have said something like, “Well, I guess we’re all right.”

Actually, after one of OD’s little rants about Portland drivers, during which I smiled ruefully and felt embarrassed and guilty, I remember the witness walking back across the street.

OD’s comments about Portland drivers shamed me—while yes, I was still in a state of shock—and she convinced me that I’m a typical Portland driver and acted stupidly. Like an idiot, I said, “Well, since neither car is damaged, I guess we don’t need to exchange insurance information.” It’s interesting, as I look back on this, that OD never said anything about insurance.

OD may have ranted about “Portland drivers” one more time before getting into her car. By that time, still in shock, I felt intensely ashamed of allegedly being an overly polite Portland driver. Though I remained embarrassed, after the second or third time that she ranted about Portland drivers, I felt vaguely aware that she was insulting me and my driving. Simultaneously, I felt deeply ashamed and disgraced.

OD again said, “I’ve got to get going. My husband and kids are waiting for me.” She seemed to be in quite a hurry. She got into her vehicle, and I got into mine. I don’t remember her saying, “Bye,” or anything courteous, but of course I was in shock and shaking the entire time.

I was sitting in the driver’s seat and fastening my seat belt, and my driver’s window was open. OD pulled up next to me in her vehicle, and the front passenger window was rolled down. She leaned toward me and with a smirk shook a finger at me and said, “I’m getting in front of you, Susan.” I gave her a forced smile and nodded.

I wonder if she’s a reincarnation of Svengali. The moment I was alone in my car and OD was no longer around, I was aware that she had made it sound like I’m one hundred percent at fault in this situation. In that moment, despite my shock and need for time to think, I considered her fifty percent at fault. I had yet to acknowledge that she was the true culprit.

It wasn’t long before I noticed that my left knee was sore…as was the left side of the base of my neck and the left side of my lower back. I recalled that my next chiropractor’s appointment is in early April, and I’m looking forward to it.

In the evening, as I got ready to go to bed, I noticed that my left knee was swollen. This was rather disconcerting. It proved that I really was physically hurt by the accident. I got an ice pack out of the freezer and arranged my bed so that my legs lay on two pillows, and I placed the ice pack on my left knee for a while.

Over the next few days, I increasingly had a bad feeling about OD’s behavior. I had a sense that I had been polite to her and that she had been somewhat mean and aggressive and accusatory. I also became increasingly more convinced that she had largely caused the accident. I found myself wondering how fast she was driving, and whether she was tailgating me. Surely she had to have been doing one or both of these things, considering the impact. As the witness pointed out, she pushed my car forward. She also sprained my knee.

Today, I finally spilled the beans. I’d had enough days to process, and while I still felt embarrassed to confess about my driving, it came up in conversation with a friend after I picked her up at the airport and took her to a cafe. She made it quite clear that OD was being a manipulative bully. OD projected all the blame onto me and didn’t admit to any fault on her part. She was also in a big hurry to get away from the scene of the accident—my friend said it was practically a hit and run. Meanwhile, I was both emotionally and physically hurt.

She said that I need to send OD a Facebook message indicating that I’ve had injuries after all and we need to exchange insurance information. At first I thought that sounded crazy, confronting this bully. But after she talked about it a little more, I was convinced that this was the thing to do, and that I could write the message diplomatically.

My friend furthermore pointed out that bullies are a karma issue with me. The throat chakra is not only about creativity but also about self-expression, and my verbally abusive relatives took away my ability to express myself and stand up for myself. When she brought that up, a lightbulb went off. I said, “From earliest childhood, my mother and aunts conditioned me to have unquestioning loyalty to them. Even after I went off to college, there were situations in which I was at first in denial that certain people were bullying me. It’s like my mother and aunts tried to condition me to be a victim.” Those bullies in college were behaving like my mother and aunts, as was OD. In short, I was trained to side with my enemies against myself.

I experienced a new wave of shock at the realization that yet another manipulative bully took me for a pushover.

The following is the message to the bully:

 

Hello,

I hope you are doing well. Now that I’m no longer in shock and shaking from the accident, and I’ve had time to process, I’ve had counseling and have come to realize that the car accident wasn’t my fault. Also, though I thought I was fine at the time, in the evening I realized that my left knee is sprained and that I need to visit my chiropractor.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but it turns out that you have a legal obligation to exchange insurance information with me (specifically, the company and policy number). In hindsight, I now realize my mistake in not requesting this originally. In rear ending situations, typically the rear car is at fault. Let’s exchange this insurance information, and then we can let the insurance companies work it out.

Susan

 

I came up with the above message while going over the notes I took while my friend and I talked about what I should say and how I should phrase it. The above letter is based on my friend’s suggestions. I wanted to make sure it was civil and diplomatic, in hopes that OD would be relatively civil. Based on my experience with manipulative bullies, my diplomacy and civility doesn’t guarantee the bully will refrain from lashing out.

As I pointed out to my friend, when I’ve even mildly objected to verbal abuse from relatives, their typical reaction has been to lash out even more and be even more verbally abusive because I had the audacity to object to their verbal abuse. Their manipulative victim-blaming knows no bounds. No doubt I’ve been force-fed manipulative crap like this all my life.

This morning, I checked to see if OD responded to my Facebook message. She hadn’t, though I read “Seen 11:34 am.” About an hour later, while I was on the phone with a friend and discussing the situation, I checked again.

I discovered that I could not “reply to the conversation.” The bully completely blocked me on Facebook. I’m utterly flabbergasted and in shock all over again.

As soon as I hung up, I called my Allstate agent’s number. She was off for the day, but her assistant answered and I told him about the situation. He was new on the job and recommended that I call 1-800-Allstate and report a claim on that site. I had a very reassuring and hopeful conversation with a representative. She gave me a claim number and the name and number of my new adjuster, who will call me in the morning.

I also sent a Facebook message to former members of the writer’s group, and I now have a partial address and the recommendation that I file a police report. I’ll do that tomorrow also.

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