This will be my first tribute to a member of the L.A. police force in more than three hundred and twenty posts. Sorry, officers, it won’t happen again. (This phrase seems to roll trippingly off my tongue. Is it experience, perhaps?)
I’m coming out of a therapy session, feeling better about myself, or at least more conscious of why I don’t. I walk to the street where I’m parked, and I immediately notice that….
Some idiot has slammed into my car.
There’s a note tucked under the driver’s side windshield wiper. I quickly alter my perception. Some thoughtful person has slammed into my car.
Turns out, the note is not from the offending driver. I revert to my original perception.
The note is from a witness. They describe what happened, giving a full description of the assailant’s car.
Not only that, but
They include the assailant’s license number.
Turns out it’s a handicapped license plate. I alter my perception once again. Some handicapped idiot slammed into my car.
And driven away without leaving a note!
So what, I’m thinking, I got the goods on them. I’ll contact my insurance company, they’ll track down the assailant, their insurance company will cover the damages, which will include my thousand-dollar deductible payment.
It’s going to be okay.
I call up my insurance agent, report the accident, passing along the pertinent information, most notably the assailant’s license number, which I hoped, emanating from the smaller handicapped classification, would be easier to trace. Sure, it would be a drag getting my car fixed – there was a mutilating gash in the driver’s side door – but at least, I wouldn’t have to pay for it.
A week later, my insurance agent reports back. They were unable to trace the license plate. This seemed bizarro to me. I mean, how many police shows have you seen: “Did you get the license plate number?” “No.” “Too bad. We coulda nailed the bastards.”
We had the license plate number. But we didn’t nail anybody.
I get this big song and dance from my insurance agent, who’d obviously attended a seminar where they’d been trained by specialists in the big song and dance. Seeing no hope in pursuing my claim, I do what I always do in these cases.
I give up.
For a while.
I’m still angry, because my insurance company dropped the ball on tracing the license plate. Though my insurance will cover the damages, I am now on the hook for the thousand-dollar deductible. (Not to mention the almost certain increase in my insurance rates.)
It’s maybe a month later. I get this idea. I emerge from my “Cone of Surrender”, and take decisive action. I can’t believe what I’m doing. Or that I’m doing anything.
I call the police station whose jurisdiction includes the street where the accident took place. A female police officer picks up, and I start to talk.
“I don’t know if you do this, but I’m kinda helpless here,” I begin, attempting to garner sympathy, which, when it comes to getting people to help me, is the only arrow in my entire quiver.
I tell her my story, ending with my insurance company’s inability to trace the license plate, and wondering if there was any way the police department could assist me.
The officer’s response is immediate.
“I’m sorry, sir. We are not permitted to do that.”
I then do something I almost always never do. Instead of mumbling, “That’s okay” and hanging up,
“The thing is,” I forge on, surprising myself enormously, “if we can’t identify the driver, I’m going to be stuck with the thousand dollar deductible.” Adding redundantly, “That’s a lot of money.”
There’s a long pause. Then the policewoman does something entirely unexpected, and possibly illegal.
“Could you hold on a second?” she asks.
I hold on. Less than five minutes later, she returns with the information.
“That’s so great!” I effuse, quickly adding, “Can I send you something? Some flowers? A basket of muffins?” The woman has just saved me a thousand dollars. She’s more than entitled to a few muffins. And maybe some preserves. And a small jar of olives.
Not allowed, I was told. What could I do? I dug deep for a “thousand dollar ‘Thank you’”, and hung up, eternally grateful to an angel in blue.
I call my insurance company. They take it from there. My car is fixed. I don’t pay a thing.
What’s this story about. “Never give up”? “The policeperson is your friend”? “Handicapped people are not immune from vehicular malfeasance”? I don’t know. I just know I feel really good passing it along.