This is a first-world problem.
If you have real troubles — and we all do — here’s your chance to take a break and rage on with me about something stupid.
I’m here to talk about car dings.
Until a few weeks ago, I haven’t thought too much about those little dents other people put on our cars. For years, I’ve been driving around with unwelcome parking lot battle scars. I consider this a sweet spot: My car has accumulated enough dings that I’ve stopped worrying about where I park, yet my engine is still dependable.
As a rule, my husband and I avoid buying cars for as long as possible. Hitting a dealership is an unpleasant experience not unlike a colonoscopy. Only more expensive. To us, “list price,” “protection package,” “let me speak to my manager,” are nightmare phrases. Life is stressful enough to willfully go to a place with colorful balloons tied to $25,000-plus chunks of metal.
Unfortunately, recent circumstances dictated we add a new car to the family fleet. Our college kids are in different states and can no longer share the Teenmobile. We’ve had to reshuffle vehicles and assigned drivers. Now there’s a ding-less car in the mix.
So the nervous parking phase of new car ownership is back. Apparently with a vengeance.
Here’s what went down. Less than 24 hours after driving our wheels off the dealership lot, my husband and I stopped at a busy grocery store. We were high on that new car smell, yet sober enough to know how the general public swings open car doors. As we approached the lot, I said to my husband, “Let’s park far away. Over there, at the edge of civilization.”
He sighed and told me dings are gonna happen, but since we were in that rare window of temporary car tags, he humored me. He spotted an empty row, far away from the swacking crowd. He said to me, “Not even an %$S#@[* would park here.”
Twenty minutes later, we left the store with a full load of groceries. To my relief, the outer banks spot we secured was still wide open. Not one car had parked anywhere near our row. We popped open the trunk and loaded it for the first time.
With a renewed sense of parking lot etiquette, I took our empty shopping cart back to one of those “We Are Not Responsible…” corrals while my better half hopped in the driver’s seat. Just as I headed back, this woman in a large SUV — one hand on the steering wheel and the other clutching a phone — swerves into the spot right next to our car. She turned so fast, her wheels actually made a screeching sound. There were at least 10 empty spaces on either side of our car, but she was out to disprove my husband’s earlier, logical statement of, “Not even an %$$#@[* would park here.”
As I hurried closer, the situation was worse than I thought. She steered her tank not more than 12 inches away from our smooth, dimple-free sparkler.
That was the moment I broke all human sprint records. There was no way in asphalt hell I was going to let that woman open her 10-ton door onto our 22-hour-old baby. I trapped her. I wedged my heaving body between the vehicles to prevent that woman from making her next idiot move.
I peeked at my husband, feeling thankful our windows were shut because I’m very good at reading his lips. I curled up my toes and signaled for him to back out, which he promptly did.
Once I hopped in the car, we were flummoxed and almost looking for a hidden camera because it all had to be a joke. It wasn’t.
The take-away from this is that no matter how careful you are, you will be dinged. Just as in life. But stay alert anyway. There’s at least one major %$$#@[* out there.
Freelancer Denise Snodell writes alternate weeks in this space.