Three Cheers For Cops
Oops! We got hit in the rear. Bang! We got hit again! Three cars pulled over to the side of the road. The person at fault came to my window to apologize. He said, "I'm sorry I didn't see you. Is anybody hurt?" I said, "I don't think so," hoping that the dual impact didn't exacerbate my sciatica, but I felt sore with some mild pain down the right calf of my leg. The driver of the third car was in the parallel lane as we all headed west until I signaled to turn left and I guess he could not avoid hitting me as I was pushed into him fishtail fashion. He hit me the hardest and did the most damage.
Now the fun starts. "Let's settle this without involving the insurance. Our rates will go up."
In addition, the at-fault driver said, take it to your mechanic and get an estimate and we'll pay it; motioning to the third driver. We will split it. The third driver seemed rather non-committal at first, but after asking if the damage was there before, says he will pay $250. I know from past experience that the bumper would have to be replaced and would cost over $500. So I asked for $500 right on the spot.
After a pause, I said to the at-fault driver, "I need to see your registration and insurance information." Early on he had given me his name, address, phone number and driver's license, when he wanted to make a deal. He said, "What are you, a cop?" I told him that I used to be in law enforcement. He said, "Let me see your license and registration! How do we know who you are?"
It was time to call 911 and the local precinct. It was cold so we all sat in our cars as we waited. My wife cancelled her luncheon date with her girlfriend. Shortly, a male and female police officer arrived in their white SUV. Officer V surveyed the damage and appeared not to think there was anything to be done with the situation. He said, "There is no fault. You have to call the insurance company for this." I told the officer that the only reason I called was because the person at fault would not give me his insurance and registration.
Officer C, in a commanding voice, said to me, "Sit in your car; Sir." She was on the ball diffusing the situation by separating the combatants. Officer V then comes over and to my surprise says, "I am going to have to give you a summons because your car insurance has expired." I was shocked but at the same time knew that he was just doing his job, which gave me confidence about the whole situation.
I just keep adding stuff to my wallet without removing the old obsolete. No wonder I have a sciatic condition. I showed him my current insurance slip and said, "Now you can't give me a ticket," which I regretted immediately. "I don't really want to give you one," he said. I said, "Why don't you give him a ticket for no registration or insurance slip?"
Officer V says, "He came up with them." These young officers were cool, relaxed, and made everything feel routine. I felt like I got a taste of professionalism in action.
The other two cars drove off while I waited for my papers to be returned (another smooth, subtle move by New York's Finest).
Well, comic relief was now on the way. After the now very charming Officer C wrote down exactly how I and/or my insurance company can get the accident report, he then asked me, "Do you feel OK? Do you need an ambulance?" And gave me a little jab at my sciatica being a grandfatherly thing. They couldn't find my registration.
Officer C says to me, "Are you sure we did not give it back to you?" I told her, "I gave you three items and you only gave me two back." I started looking through my "well-organized wallet" and pockets. What do you say to a police officer that has lost your registration but feels that she has given it back to you? I was about to search the whole area when Officer V walked over with the registration. Even Cops are human. It felt good. I told them: You're Great!
JOSEPH J. BUSHE