Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two in Two

It is cryptic, I agree. But that's the point.
Someone who was not very good at writing had once given me a priceless piece of advice. He had said, "Keep the title cryptic! Give as little away as possible in the first line. That way they move on to the next in search for the clue." What he forgot to mention is the degree of cryptic-ism.

Two in two refers to my life on the road, pertaining particularly to my car.

The month was July and the day was thirteenth. I don't suffer from triskaidekaphobia and hence I was a happy woman driving back from work on a moderately congested CA 237. My speed slowed down considerably and came to a halt altogether when I spotted an unending line-up of standstill cars with their back lights flashing red.I stopped. It was not very unusual to come to a stop on this particular freeway at this particular hour of the day. Everybody wanted to get somewhere at this time and because of the collective decision, individuals went nowhere.

I sat tapping my fingers about and distracted myself trying to hum an extra mushy song that I had heard a few days back. Drivers around me looked at me angrily. I knew they couldn't hear me with my windows rolled up. Or could they? It possibly had to do something with the heat and the general feeling of hopeless frustration one finds oneself when they have a wheel and a will but still no way to go.

I nodded, at no one particular and continued my mellifluous activity.

Suddenly, I heard a loud screeching sound. Before I knew it a loud bang followed. It was also accompanied with a forceful impact - on me. I bounced forth and back and realized it was my car that the screeching-car had hit. For a few minutes I knew not what to do.

Meanwhile the screeching car came to a halt on the shoulder of the freeway.
Other drivers looked at me expectantly. I was supposed to "do" something. The road suddenly turned into a stage and I became the second lead character. The first was the screeching car. On a standstill freeway this was the only form of live entertainment.

I drove over to the shoulder and parked quite a few feet away from him. There was no knowing if he had done it on purpose and on finding me alive, wouldn't want to do it again.

I got out of my car self-consciously. The traffic behind seemed to edge a little forward while those in the front stopped budging ahead. All the inactive drivers had something to do now. Namely stare.

I stepped outside my car. The damage was conspicuous. It was my first car which needless to say I bought with my first pay check. It had tremendous sentimental value and some stupidity involved. I paid more than I should at that time. Bargaining with conniving dealers was not my forte.
But my car was not at fault. It should not have met with this fate. I peeled my eyes off the rear end of my car, which was now pretty badly butted out. On the road lay the fallen remnants of a battle lost before it was ever fought. My face fell.

I looked over. The screeching car came into sight. It was white and was equally devastated. My black car and his white car had scars running down their opposite sides on opposite ends. Our cars might have even been mates in an earlier birth if their souls subscribed to Hindu Rebirth notion. Perhaps it was an unsettled debt that had to be dealt with?
His damage was more profound than mine. His face however looked more confused.

I walked over to him and said "Hi".
Some nearby drivers tried to edge their ears closer. Were they expecting me to be more dramatic?

If I was in India it would have been entirely different.

Roadside Romeos and Robinhoods would have emerged from their hiding. They would have presented and dismissed the case with a verdict in minutes. No investigation or deliberation required. When a pretty woman in short skirt is hit by a nerd in ragged jeans, the latter is at fault. Bingo! Case resolved. There would possibly be some needless expletive thrown his way and some unwanted assistance rendered to me. A over enthusiastic "Chulbul Pandey" might even come up with the idea of hospitalizing me, just on the off chance that I could be spiritually if not physically hurt. I pulled myself away from the Indian image.

I was in US and there were protocols to be followed. By-stander court-of-law was non-existent.

He apologized immediately.
"I am so sorry for all this. I am so sorry."
I gave him a woebegone smile. It was difficult to reprimand a person so contrite.
Before I could ask his name, he began again.
"I spaced out. I completely "zoned" out. I know I shouldn't have but I did."
I wondered which zone he went off to when everyone around him was stuck on 237. He looked pretty young to be wanting to go to space at this age. I myself have been toying with the idea of a space venture but I know I would never have the money.

"Are you below eighteen?" I thought that might explain his zoning-out syndrome.
"No no. I just turned nineteen!", he answered indignantly.

We exchanged personal information. I found out he was given to drive the worst car his family owned. And his family owned quite a few new expensive ones. Maybe his dad predicted these things well. If my dad was to choose to give me a car, he would have given me a rickshaw! I had a new found respect for his doting dad.

I found out that he didn't know the difference between an insurance policy document and a car registration one. Upon enlightenment it turned out he didn't have the former with him. He decided to call his dad. I nodded in agreement.

"Hello dad?" He said. (10 seconds of distinct silence).
"Yes, I am in CA 237, rear-ended someone, need the policy number NOW!" (10 minutes of indistinct loud noise.)
"Ok so it AB-blah-blah. Thanks!" He hung up pretty quickly.

I wondered what kind of father-son confrontation would be waiting for him and what kind of car-less plight would be waiting for me. If I was in his position, my dad, would denounce my mother first, blaming my driving skills on her side of genes.
Both me and my sister have been badly tossed about while growing up from one side of lineage to the other depending on whether we bumbled or we blazed. When I got my first award for coming third in my Class, my father lapped me and accolades up as being very like his side of genes. A day later I smashed his car window by an accidental ball hit. I was discarded as an outcast and sent off to the enemy camp, namely my mother's gene pool.The "bangal" (aboriginal Bengalis) and the "ghoti" (original Bengalis) live in constant strife and harmony. Me being the "bati"( "ba" from bangal+"ti" from ghoti) have seen much of the push-and-pull in childhood.

The next day I received my rental car. It was a car that no one wanted from the rental office. The person handing me the keys, looked bemused and said,
"I didn't know they still made these any more."

It was a Nissan Cube. Blue and big. My friends, named it the "Cartoon Cube". The square windows and doors boxed me in. My sense of thinking altered itself as well. I stopped thinking out-of-the-box. Instead of being "cool" in the cube, I became conscious.

My colleagues came around for a viewing and a free laugh therapy. On-road rage increased. Drivers screamed at the slightest delay I made in budging once it was my turn. At every turn, I came across amused or angry public.

Less than a week into it, I started feeling a little better. The car was a 2010 model and drove very smoothly. It had less than a 1000 miles on it. I felt privileged to be taking care of a pariah car.

A week later I relaxed and let myself feel at ease. It was afternoon. 3 o clock. At a red light. The light turned green. The car in front of me took 1 minute to move ahead. Being ridiculed for no good reason this past week, I refrained from honking at him and patiently waited. After all, I was at ease. Before I knew it, I was hit. Again. For a second I thought, the driver behind me had resorted to nudging me with her car to move ahead. Perhaps she preferred that to honking?

I let out a sigh before flashing my indicators and moving to the shoulder. It was a deja vu on a hot summer day. It was a teenage driver. She came out of her car and asked me, "What happened exactly?" She kept asking me the same question quite a few times.
"You hit me from behind. That is what happened." I explained, again and again.
She explained that her phone fell down and in an attempt to pick it up, her leg eased off the brake pedal and boom! I was hit.

The exchange was one way. She was least interested in me and continued her text-ing marathon. I felt like an unsolicited salesman when I forced her to note down my name and number.

My mother called me. She had heard of my driving debacle from my sister and was ready for a confrontation.
"You should stop driving", she said angrily when I picked up her call.
"I should what?"
"Yes of course", she continued. You have had two accidents and in two weeks! In different cars. The only thing common is you!" She had logic, I had to give that.
"Monty, Dumba and Bampi are all driving around. They never get hit. Why is it you?"
The three names belonged to three pestilent boys who grew up with me. Their pet names were very Bengali. Bengalis had a fascination for bombastic booming names. The moment you called your son it should herald a celebratory blast.Their lack of rear ended accidents were none of my concern.

It took a lot of effort to convince my mom of my lack of guilt despite being the prime suspect and link in both the incidents. Thankfully she did not head any of the insurance companies. I was in talks with three insurance companies at the same time, all of whom accepted that I was "100% not-at-fault." I breathed a sigh of relief.

My car was declared total loss. I wept silently at the verdict. My car looked forlorn. I refused to let go. I paid a sum of money and bought back my car from the insurance settlement. It is still pretty drive-able. I got it cosmetically modified at an auto shop.It stays parked now. It has been deemed an emergency vehicle or a garage car. I have resorted to driving another one.

I looked at it today. Parked solemnly, with a non-pretty butt, under the shade of a green tree. It has suffered in silence and reconciled itself. I haven't. Hence I dedicate this post to him.


Anonymous said...

As always, pretty good! Extremely funny.

Anonymous said...

Nice one ..!! very well written. I wish I had sth similar, so that I can make my insurance or other person's insurance pay :)

sourav said...

The moment you called your son it should herald a celebratory blast - brilliant

Deepthi said...

Well written Meenakshi :) got me to lol many a time! keep writing :)