Should I Sweat a Dent on an Old Van?
OpinionShared Spirit

Should I Sweat a Dent on an Old Van?

The latest Shared Spirit dilemma addresses an early-morning accident with a neighbor's vehicle.

Rachel Stein

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

The neighbor's van isn't quite this bad, but it was a mess even before the accident. (By inkknife_2000 via Wikimedia Commons)
The neighbor's van isn't quite this bad, but it was a mess even before the accident. (By inkknife_2000 via Wikimedia Commons)

I woke up this morning as if it were a regular morning.

At 5:30 sharp, my alarm jolts me awake, and I hurry to silence it before it rouses my slumbering husband. Moving in automatic mode, I jump out of bed, don my exercise clothes, down a hefty cup of coffee and whisper a thank-you to my Maker for the gift of a new day.

Off I go into the early morning darkness, closing the front door behind me and climbing into my cobalt-blue Chrysler. Gentle music serenades me as I back out of my driveway.

And suddenly, CRASH!

My heart stops as I internalize the sickening thud and its ramifications. What in the world did I hit? And why did my perfectly planned morning have to go up in smoke?

I pull forward and glance behind me. My heart sinks. My neighbor’s geriatric 15-seater van is the victim, parked directly opposite my driveway.

No matter how many times I’ve begged him not to park in that spot because it makes it difficult for me to back out, that is precisely how many times he has placed his vehicle in that spot.

Is it senility or obstinacy? Does he want me to smack his van so he can collect for the other damages decorating its worn body?

I don’t know his reasoning for ignoring my request, but I do know that my temper is soaring.

It’s almost 6. If I don’t hurry, I’ll miss the class I woke up at this unearthly hour to attend. I’ll deal with this situation later. After all, my neighbor is fast asleep.

Heart hammering against my ribcage, I drive to the gym. I am secretly grateful that there are no witnesses to my crime. Well, other than an all-seeing eye and my, ahem, conscience.

When I slide out of my car, I glance at its rear and see that the bumper is sharply dented. Two simultaneous emotions play their tunes. I feel grateful that it’s just a bumper and nothing more severe. And fear grips me as questions assail me: Did I damage my neighbor’s van? Will it be an expensive repair? Will the cost of our insurance go up, or will we pay out of pocket?

Yuck, I think, feeling slightly nauseated. My husband is not going to be happy.

In spite of my apprehension, I enjoy my class and head home, hyper-vigilant as I coast along the lightening road.

When I pull down my street, I see the culprit van parked in the same spot. There are so many dents and scratches on that van, I can barely count them.

Trying to appear casual, I stare at one particularly large dent, the one closest to the spot I may have hit. Did I do that?

I shake my head, doubtful that my little car could have caused such a large indentation. After all, I was inching out at about 2 miles an hour. There’s no way I could have done something so monumental to that monstrosity.

“But what if I did?” a small voice asks.

In hindsight, I realize I should have gotten out of my car immediately after the accident to assess any possible damage to both vehicles. But I was so befuddled, not to mention half-asleep and intent on getting to exercise, that I neglected my duty.

At that point it didn’t even occur to me that I might have caused him damage; I was sure that because mine was the much smaller vehicle, only my car had suffered.

Because I have no earthly idea whether I caused damage, am I obligated to inform my neighbor about the collision?

Since it’s an old vehicle anyway, sporting multiple dents and scratches, why does one more make a difference? Why awaken a sleeping lion?

I am generally an honest person. That is, I think I am — or at least I used to be. What would you do if this happened to you?

Please submit your responses to And drive safely!

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