Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day at the Gas Station

Ready for a story? Today, I had the privilege of experiencing what happens when you get in a car accident here.  No worries, everyone is completely safe and sound.   Here's how it happened...

I have a stupid phone (the opposite of  a smart phone) and needed to purchase more minutes.  You can do this task at lots of places...but I usually go to the gas station that is near our house.  I had Noah with me and we pulled into the gas station and were driving past the pumps to park in front of the little market.  Suddenly, I heard a crunching noise (metal on metal) and in those split seconds when your brain is trying to figure things out...I thought maybe I had run over something and then thought...seriously, I hit another car??  I kept driving a few more feet until I realized that I had been in an accident.  Actually, I didn't realize that I had been the one hit for about another half hour.

So the rule here is that you stay put...you are not allowed to move your vehicle out of the way (which resulted in me getting honked at all afternoon).  So I turned my car off and got out.  (Still didn't notice the dent in my driver's side door....I am thankful we opted to get the giant tank of a SUV that we have).  The older man driving the other car got out and tried to tell me what I did.  I insisted that I didn't understand (which, apparently, when I am super stressed...I really don't understand a lick of Spanish). Now remember, I didn't have minutes on my cell phone...so, at first I panicked and thought...how am I going to call anyone?  Then I remembered a nifty little trick where you can dial *800 plus the number you want to call and it leaves a message with that person saying that you are trying to call them without minutes.  Jeff called me back...I informed him that I had been in an accident...and PLEASE come down and help me!!!  Okay, keep in mind, I'm obviously a foreigner...so lots of "staring" is going on as well.  Jeff eventually arrives and the man in the other car tells Jeff that I hit him and he'd like us to pay to have his car fixed.  This is when I noticed the big dent in my door...and realized for the first time that I was not at fault.

Okay....so there is a guy that "works" in the gas station parking lot selling movies.  Jeff has spoken with 'movie guy' before and Jeff asks him if he saw what happened.  The guy off-handedly mentions that he didn't but that the gas station has security cameras.  Jeff walks into the gas station market and asks the manager about the supposed security cameras.  Jeff, the manager, and a few market employees get to watch the "movie" of  they guy in the green car driving into my car in the parking lot.  Jeff comes back out and lets me know that  "I'm innocent".  However, the green car guy still wants us to pay to have his car fixed.  So at this point, we know that the easy route is washed away and now we are in it for the long haul.  Honestly, we don't care about the dent in our car...it just gives it more 'character'.  However, this man wasn't willing to admit wrong and walk away...he wants his car repaired.  So, we call the transit police, because this is the next thing you are supposed to do after not moving your vehicles from the scene of the accident.

Now, for the next part...are you ready...we waited THREE hours for the police to show up.  At this point, Jeff has already left to get Andrew and Ella and returned.  So now the whole family is together in the gas station parking lot.  The manager of the gas station has called the police twice and we have called twice.  However, this is fairly normal.  So there is no point getting irritated at what is considered normal.  I've gotta admit, after about 2 hours I was struggling to maintain a good attitude.  When we called the police initially they asked if anyone was hurt...of course we said no...but I was ready, after 2 hours, to hurt someone if it made them come quicker.

At about 4:30 a friend came and picked up the kids (and acted as a translator between me and the police officer.)  Oh, and I want to say...the police officers were super nice and helpful.  They were also incredibly patient with my Spanish (and Jeff's...but especially mine). Now it was time to call the insurance company.  That was fun. At 5pm-ish, the insurance inspector arrived to take photos. He was very nice also and even practiced some of his English.  At this point, nearly 5 hours after the "crunch", I get to go home.

The story is not over...it is more of a "To Be Continued".  Tomorrow, I need to go to the bank and pay for an accident certificate (don't even ask...I have no clue!).  Then, I take that certificate to Police Station to retrieve my license.  Then, in a few days, we are supposed to hear from the insurance companies about who they determined was "at fault."

Here is what I learned (and it really has nothing to do with the accident)....it is incredible to be part of the community of believers in Christ here.  It generally takes me too long to ask for and accept help (my kids who sat in the car for about 2 hours waiting for the police to arrive can attest to that).  However, it was comforting to know that we have friends to call on when we need help.  [Thanks to the Edgars, Sarah, Richard W. and Wyeth !!!!]

(Tomorrow I will take a picture of the car door and let you all see the dent that caused me to lose nearly 5 hours of my day).