Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The cost of integrity


I am a parallel parking genius.

Well, until last Sunday, when I was sure I could fit my car into a spot that I realized, belatedly, was too small.

I did all the right moves, but ended up stuck between the curb and the big, brilliant, red Durango parked in front of me. Even though I tried really hard to unentangle myself from the mess, I ended up scraping bumpers with the Durango. Hard.

As I threw on my flashers and stopped my car so I could leave my name and number, the person I was with suggested I just leave. "It will be expensive", "People can be territorial about cars and can be crazy!", "That is what insurance is for...", "Just go, it's barely a scratch..."

So, even though I protested, I drove away.

I want to say here that I have no judgment about what people choose to do in situations like this. We have to listen to our heart and do what we think is the right thing to do. And honestly? It frustrates me that I drove away at all, but I did. Yet as I drove, I knew it was the wrong thing for me to do.

I told the person I was with that I really needed to go back and leave my name and number. And amid, "Let me out, you aren't thinking clearly..." comments, I left off the person I was with to get some coffee, and took a deep breath.

I turned around my car and headed back. Alone.

I do not doubt the situation could have gone horribly wrong. I've seen people get extremely angry. I once had a road rage experience with two guys in a truck. I wasn't going fast enough and didn't get out of the carpool lane fast enough for them to pass. They passed me on the LEFT of the carpool lane in the BERM screaming the whole time.  I got their license plate number and ended up calling the police because I was so frightened for the safety of me and my daughter.

About seven years ago, when I was t-boned, the woman who hit my car got a lawyer, sued my insurance company and walked away with a lot of money. A lot of money. She even got up on the witness stand (with her lawyer asking questions) and under oath, in the courtroom, lied to the judge about what I said at the scene. My car was totaled, hers was barely scratched, and she took me to court. And then lied about something I never said at the accident.

But even knowing that, even knowing that it could end up badly, I went back. Because that is what I knew I had to do. It would be a lie to say I wasn't a little scared. I mean, there I was, alone, having to tell someone, "Hey, I hit your car." But I believe in the goodness of people. I have been told I live in a 'make-believe world' where I think people are nice and kind and good and one day I will be in the real world and find out people aren't.  I'm not delusional - people can be cruel and back-stabbing and vicious, but I try to go with the good first. If I turn out to be wrong, I turn out to be wrong. I'm still going to believe in people and that they will do the right thing.

So as I drove back to the scene, the man who owned the Durango was standing next to his car with the driver's side door open, getting ready to leave. I opened my car window and shouted, "Hey, please don't leave, I hit your bumper and I want to give you my name and number." He hadn't even noticed I hit his bumper.

I parked my car a little distance away and walked up to him. He was older, had a cane and a worried look on his face. At first I thought he was worried about his car, but it turned out he was worried about me! He smiled at me and said, "Young woman, that was very good of you to come back." (When was the last time someone called me young woman? ha!). When I looked at the damage, I saw that I had scraped the bumper worse than what he realized. He was very kind. Told me not to worry about it, he had an employee who worked on cars and that guy could buff it right out. I looked at the bumper again and knew no buffing was going to fix the scrape. I wrote down my name and my number and gave it to him. He told me he hoped he didn't have to call and thanked me again for being honest.

He called today, and actually started off the call apologizing that he had to call me at all. I said to him, "I hit your car. I will take responsibility for it." He was very nice and we talked for about ten minutes. He told me his friend had buffed out the majority of the damage, but I had scraped off the paint and his friend would try to just sand and paint the area, but it might be that he needs to replace the bumper. I ended the call by saying, "I appreciate your integrity and concern, and I will make sure I take care of what happens. And I'm really sorry I hit your car. Please call me back when you know the cost and what you need from me." He thanked me again, and we hung up.

And so, it looks like the price of integrity might be financially expensive (how much does a new Dodge Durango bumper cost anyhow? ugh). However, it was never about the monetary cost - that doesn't matter; the price of walking away from my integrity would have been much, much higher.


It really was worse than the pic makes it look...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A letter home


Dear Candace,

I'm curled up in a blanket outside. The birds are chirping and my coffee is almost drinkable. Yesterday, in preparation for Mother's Day, M. planted a bunch of flowers. She insisted we go to look at plants, then picked out a beautiful snapdragon, potted it and put it on the kitchen table. Her love of plants mirrors your own.

Remember that time you came to visit and the plant in my living room was screaming at you that it was dying and you saved it? You were always so in touch with the green world. She's not always as patient as you were with the whispers of the grass and trees and flowers... but in time, I suspect she will hear it more clearly. I signed her up for an organic gardening class next year. It's what you would have done. I don't hear the earthy world as clearly as you did, I've always been more in touch with the watery one. She for sure gets her love of the earth more from you than from me. She doesn't really even like to swim.

She went to her first prom last night. She looked so much like you. It caught my breath a couple of times. She's got your stubbornness, humor, kindness... can you believe she will be 15 next weekend? How did that happen? Only a short time and she will be off to college.

I have the photo of the two of you above my bed. I remember how unhappy she was that day because you took her out of school to get the pics taken and that you didn't care because you knew it was important. You were in the middle of one of the rounds of chemo, but you looked stunning. Probably because you never took a bad photograph!  It's a beautiful photo and it captures the connection perfectly. I have one of your whole family in my office. I look at it every day.

I often find myself remembering what you taught me about friendship. Until I met you, I didn't really understand what it took to be a true friend. You showed me rather than told me - through your actions, your laughter, your anger, your honesty and your kindness - more about unconditional love than anyone I had met. Your spirit showed my spirit its value. I sometimes wonder if you were preparing me to be a better person simply by being with you. You used to say I was the most spiritual woman you knew, that even when I could so easily take the low road, I took the high road. I wish I could say that was true, but friendship sometimes makes it easier to not see another's flaws. If anything though, being friends with you helped me shine all the brighter.

But of all the gifts you left to me, all the life lessons, the memories of swimming at midnight down at the lake, the rehashing of relationships until 4am, teaching me how to be more aware of people, how to weed out the people who were mean or unkind to me... the best gift you gave me was trusting me to raise your daughter.

And in case I didn't thank you enough - not just for all you did for me, but all you did for your family, and for everyone who ever asked anything of you... Thank you.

And thank you for thinking... no... for knowing in your heart I would be a good mother for your daughter. I never thought I would be a mother and when that happened, especially because of how it happened, it simultaneously shattered my heart, and then completely filled it.

I think of you every single day and have a million questions about guys, and life and choices and love and what the heck am I doing? You know... the questions you always helped me find answers for - especially when I started spinning in my head about what to do. You listened, you told me your thoughts and you called me on my crap when I needed it.

I just wanted you to know, even though I believe you already do, she is doing well. I am doing well. We are doing well. And if I am half the mom you were on Mother's Day today... then it is because you were my role model and my best friend.

Miss you,