The Car Accident
I have an Israeli driver's license, but because it was issued in part on the strength of my California license, I am, in effect, on probation. Too many points between issuance and the renewal, and I have to take the 24 lessons and pass a written test. I do NOT want to do this.
So I have been following my own advice in this regard: never hurry and always yield. So far, it's been foolproof.
Then, two weeks ago, I saw a parking spot on the opposite side of Yehuda. Those of you familiar with Yehuda know it is a major thoroughfare once designed for donkeys and not really appropriate for modern travel in automobiles. Along most of Yehuda, cars are parked, or wedged badly into driveways, or between other cars, or half on the sidewalk, etc. Parking is tough. Since it is, theoretically, a two-way street, with parked/wedged/entrenched cars on both sides of it in places, driving is somewhat like threading a needle--with a ton and a half of steel thread. This is further complicated by the presence of a gan or two, an elementary school, a one-way exit-only road from Baka's interior, and Pelech School.
Needless to say, most of the parents of these children can't find parking (who can?) and so they simply stop in the middle of the traffic lane to let their offspring out. Sometimes there is an attempt to pull over, although there is no real room to pull over, and this creates the illusion that the person in the car behind should be able to continue forward in the traffic lane. However, the Person Behind quickly finds that he is progressing only by straddling the middle of the road and has the oncoming traffic to deal with. The oncoming traffic is already dodging and weaving in order to avoid schoolchildren, pedestrians, traffic from side streets, and traffic from the other direction. Hence, travel up and down Yehuda is never hurried, often frustrating, but in my case, done with great care.
Imagine my surprise when after circumnavigating the pharmacy on Beth Lechem several times, I saw a parking space on Yehuda less than 300 meters from the pharmacy. The drawback? The parking space was on the other side of the street. Hey, no problem -- after 18 months of driving in Israel, I have mastered the Three Point Turn, a maneuver used seemingly by everyone in Israel and one which would get you shot if you tried to use it in California.
The Three Point Turn involves turning into the opposite curb so your car is blocking the entire roadway. Believe it or not, in a population with NO patience, no one seems to get upset about this. They stop and wait. Then you back your car up (usually to the curb now at your rear since streets are so narrow) enough to turn your vehicle so it is going in to direction opposite of that from which you came.
I looked around -- no traffic in either direction. I did my Three Point Turn, then pulled up behind the SUV into the empty parking space. What I didn't notice was that the SUV itself was parked half on the sidewalk (of course). In paralleling the SUV, my passenger side wheel went up on the sidewalk. Ooops -- can't have that. So I steered the vehicle off the sidewalk -- and it promptly went into overdrive and hit the SUV.
The SUV was fine. My front end was a total wreck.
The Husband later explained something obscure about speed differentials when one tire is in the air (coming off the sidewalk) and the other is still on the ground and how this makes the air-borne tire accelerate madly and thrust the vehicle forward when if finally touches down. I have no idea if this explanation is correct or not. I just know that I sat there in shock, wondering what the hell happened?
The neighbor came out and saw me there. I didn't move. I wasn't ready to move. My brain was still trying to assimilate a seemingly cause-less accident. He asked me what happened, and I said I didn't know. In bad Hebrew, I pointed to the engine and said something went wrong. He called the owner of the SUV, who was a real sweetie. She looked at my car (ouch!) and looked at her seemingly dentless and undamaged car (a Honda CRV, for those of you looking for indestructible SUVs) and told me "Ain bayah!" (no problem) and asked if I was all right. We switched to English since her English was better than my Hebrew. I said I could give her my ID, my insurance company, and all the things one gives to the person whose car you've just hit.
"But there's nothing wrong," she told me. "Maybe the plastic bumper is a bit loose, but it might have been that way before."
I couldn't believe I had hit her car with the force I did and there was no damage. I had a sneaking suspicion that my car, being very low in front, went under her very high SUV and at the least, she might have to get a new tail pipe.
"Let me give you my phone number," I persisted.
"No, no, look: your car has all the damage. Mine is fine. It's okay," she told me.
"Please take the phone number--just in case," I said again. Mostly to humor me, she took the number. I had visions of being reported for being a hit-and-run if I didn't leave her SOME information.
Good call. While I'm sitting at the dealership, she calls me, apologetically, and says that she just drove the car and there is a lot of exhaust coming out of the tailpipe, so she took it to the garage and they told her there is damage to the exhaust system.
Can I call them, or can I call them?
Before this, I arrive at the dealership (the car is still under warranty) and they assist me in calling the Insurance Company. Insurance Company is happy to take the information, tell me its all my fault, and that my premiums will go up by 30% next year. Insurance Company is happy that the owner of the SUV said there is no damage and by the way, I can't get the car fixed at the dealership.
"Why not? I asked.
Insurance Company tells me that they have a contract to use specific garages and a specific estimator. They give me the name of the estimator they want me to use, and the address and phone number of the garage they want me to use.
"But the car is under warranty. I have to repair it here," I protested.
Too bad. If I use the dealership, then my deductible will be 1600 NIS instead of 1100 NIS for using their Other Garage -- AND I have to pay the entire damage up front and wait for Insurance Company to reimburse me.
I do not need this financial headache.
Head mechanic, who was wonderful to me throughout this ordeal, came over to ask me what happened. I explained that Insurance Company wouldn't pay for the repairs done by the dealership, and wanted a specific estimator named "David Abraham" (names have been changed to protect the Good Samaritans here).
"But that's him!!" head mechanic exclaims, pointing to a guy I've seen running all over the place for the last 45 minutes. "He does all our estimates."
The estimator came over, heard my spiel about the Insurance Company, and said, "They're idiots. Don't worry about this. I will fix it for you -- you won't pay anything except the 1100 NIS deductible, and you won't have to pay anything more."
The car was fixed in 3 working days (delay due to ordering a part that didn't come in) and when I showed up, the bill was exactly 1100 NIS -- the estimator did exactly what he promised: he fixed it with the Insurance Company so that my charges would be no different from those at the "contract garage," which saved me money, got me genuine new parts instead of knock-offs and didn't undermine either my warranty or my bank balance.
I wonder if he has an "in" with the DMV?