Friday, March 13, 2009

So you dinked a car in the parking lot …

After circling the mall parking lot forever, I finally saw a vacant spot by the entrance wall next to a shiny BMW. My inner voice woke up. Looks a bit small, it warned me, not gonna make it. But in a quick split-second decision, I swung into the lot.


Heard it. The sound of damage. The clamorous entry for a new record in world-class stupidity. Grinding score for "I'm so screwed now." Told you so, my inner voice said, before dozing off again. I just dinked a shiny new BMW with my old Corolla. I'm in shock, almost ready to cry. I'd give anything for the last three seconds. Now that it is over, I'm thinking, hearing, and seeing a whole lot better. In fact, I just see the new parking lot extension on the other side of road, wide and empty. Why I didn't see that extension in half an hour of driving right past it beats me. Intense feelings of self-loathing take over: I'm Maximus Doofus, Fool-iana, Jellybean Jackass, Joe the Neanderthal.

Of course, what is done is done. The right thing to do is to leave the own-up note on the BMW with my insurance number. But, the wise thing to do, on the other hand, is to run the hell out of there, which I did. I refer to this table when in doubt.

Table: Best course of action when you dink a car.

You are …


Bill Gates

A check for a new car, and a complimentary copy of Halo 3

Art of Living student

Leave the note, and concentrate on the purity of your soul, for god's sake!

Engineer in dead economy (no crowd)


Engineer in dead economy (crowd)

Leave a note that reads:

Sorry, dinked your car, I have no intention to own up, just pretending to leave my contact details.

So, I backed out from the lot.


More BMW damage. Going back the same way apparently has the same result. But, once the decision to run is made, the mind at peace. Yes, the damage is awful. Yes, it does look like the beamer got a personal carwash from Edward Scissorhands. But I have a job to do. I must run, drive up my Corolla to the parking lot in the opposite street, in a spot shrouded in the darkness. A bit of touch-up paint on the bumper gets rid of any evidence.

Now, before you feign outrage, it is not that I never tried owning up. The very first time I dinked a car, I left a note on the windshield. For a minor scratch on a really spotty Nissan 240SX. I thought the owner will call the insurance directly like most normal human beings do. I even imagined that he will appreciate my integrity. Here is a good citizen, the owner would think, I for one am lucky he left me a note.

Half an hour later, my phone rang. I picked it up.

"Hey! You banged my car!"

Several things ran through my head. First, this guy was an Asian Indian. Second, why didn't I think of that possibility before leaving the note?

"Yes, but I left my insurance card number..."

"Hey Banger! You banged my car. You can't bang cars and talk nonsense. Come over here right now!"

Five minutes later, I met the guy in the parking lot. He looked he just swallowed a gallon of petrol and, for some reason, was trying to keep it down.

"Do you know what you have done? Do you know what a Nissan 240SX is? Have you ever been in one in your entire sorry life?"

He regarded me with such utter contempt I had to look away. I wished I had at least shaved my furry chin and looked like someone who had indeed been in a Nissan 240SX even if only as a passenger.

"What did you bang it with?"

I pointed at the Corolla. He looked shocked - how could a common Corolla dink the magnificent 240SX? That was like William Hung stealing a kiss from Scarlett Johansson.

I had to follow him to the Body Shop. There, he managed to get every scratch outside and inside into the claim. The Body Shop came up with a $1500 estimate.

"Man, you are lucky," said the dinked one.

"Really?" I asked.

"My brother says it would cost at least $4000. That would be major damage to your insurance."

"How is your brother an expert? Does his car get dinked often?"

"No, he works on rockets for Lockheed Martin. He knows stuff." Right, that made his brother an expert. Part of rocket science. Lucky for me, his brother was wrong on this occasion.

My insurance got him a rental car: a Mazda Protégé. The same evening, he swapped it for an SUV without informing me. Obviously, I had to cover for the difference from my own pocket. He said that the Protégé was too small for his groceries. Unless he bought Elk wholesale, I couldn't figure out why a car is not big enough for groceries.

So, all I got from writing the note was a guy spitting in my face and taking me for a ride. You can't blame me for running.

I get back to the mall, walking through the parking lot. I'm trying to see if the BMW owner discovered the damage. I hear conversation, in German. I spot a boy picking up something from the ground and showing it to his father.

Papa, Betrachten Sie diesen! (Dad, look what I found)

Ah! Sie wissen, was dies ist? The father bellows, picking up the piece of scrap from his son. He is tall, at least 6'7", looks like a brick wall, with flaming blond hair.

Es ist ein Stück eines Bumper Sticker!

A piece of bumper sticker! Oh shoot, part of my bumper sticker must have ripped off in the collision. But, how can he possibly tell anything from it?

Es ist gelb. Siehe gibt es noch eine halbe Schreiben sichtbar, ein schwarz M.

Oh no, the piece has a black M in a yellow background. I hope it is not ...

Ich habe diesen vor. Es ist ein Mystery Spot Bumper Sticker.

Oh no! It is the Mystery Spot bumper sticker.

Was ist Mysterys Spot, Papa?

Es ist ein Ort, wo Indianer fahren Corollas hängen aus.

He knows! He knows that most people who go to Mystery Spot are Indians driving Corollas. Just then, he spots me. I freeze.

"Hey you, you Indian! Do you drive a Corolla?" That is it. I can't deal with this. I run.

Papa, ist der Mann, der zerstörten unser Auto?

Ja. Fang der Bastard. Ich werde ihn töten.

He says he will kill me. I tear away with their footsteps pounding behind me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


An Evite pops into my mailbox this morning: from baby Jimmy for his first birthday party. The program is smashing - green cake, cheese pizza, and a clown. The only problem is that Ramon’s party is also scheduled for the same time. Ramon’s party is simpler - beer, cigar, and a stripper. Of course, there are no Evites for bachelor parties, just a terse message from a shifty-eyed guy at the water cooler giving the time and location. It is a tough choice to make. Much as I like the kid, I have given my word to Ramon. I just have to reject this Evite, sorry, Jimmy. Oh wait! Oh no! My wife’s name is on the invitation list too. Oh no! Please … ! Argh! She has already accepted. With two guests – that is me and our kid.

I call my wife. Hi! Can I get out of this? I have work to do. (pause) Yes, I know, Jimmy’s parents came to our homewarming. Got it, the Reciprocity Law. But, I must go to work. (Pause) Right, they are the only American buddies we have…

She’s right. Jimmy’s parents are the only White Americans left in our network. We are holding on to these guys with dear life. The others gave up trying to understand our accent.

Listen, I can’t go, but you can still go without me. (Pause) I will iron all your clothes for the next two weeks. No? (Pause) Wait, hold on. I will hunt down the pesky rats in our crawl space. (Pause) There are no rats in our crawl space? Ok, all right, I have a better idea. I’ll stop making fun of your parents. Honest! (long pause)

Whew, she’s considering the offer. The jokes on her parents must be hitting a raw nerve.

I’ll get them a nice gift when we visit India next month. (Pause) Fantastic! Wonderful!

She agrees! I’m free! Wow!

Thanks. Have fun at Jimmy’s party! (Pause) Hey, when we visit your parents, I’ll even bear your father’s nutty philately collection. Ha ha ha! Oops. (Pause) Hello? Hello? Are you still there?

I blew it. I blew a once-in-a-blue-moon chance with that dig at her father. No use ruing about it now. All right, I have to go to this infernal kid’s party, but it is just a couple of hours in a long life…big deal, right? Wrong.

First, the unforgiving last minute trip to Babies R’Us for the gift. The only likeable part about this store is that you don’t need driving directions. Just follow the first minivan on the highway with the yellow “Baby On Board” sign stuck on the rear window. But, the store is huge, and we find ourselves moving around in circles trying to find that elusive toy, while dodging pregnant women bouncing down the aisles like giant rubber balls. Suddenly, we are running out of time. We just have to get anything. After some more hypertension, we finally find something: a decoy remote control. The minor difference to a real remote is that this one sings. Right, some Jimbo thought that a singing remote control fools a baby. But, we still take it. It is better than the dancing vacuum cleaner and the talkative rice cooker. Ok, so all we need is a gift bag now…, hold on! Are you telling me that the gift bag is more expensive than the toy? You can’t be serious.

Ok, I take the bag, and finally get into the cashier line when I realize the bloody irony. The three women ahead of me are pregnant. So are the two women behind. I’m the lone guy standing right in the middle of five pregnant women. Not exactly the scenario I planned for when the day began.

We go to Jimmy's party. Only kids have chairs, the adults are gathered around like a human version of Stonehenge. The food is just great - the cheese pizza is cold and the pepsi is warm. But I'm too nervous to eat. There are balloons everywhere. They are big and moving slowly. Moving balloons give me the heebie-jeebies. Just the thought of a pricked balloon is frightening to me. Oh crap! A beastly kid is creeping up on the large bumper-sized buster right in front of me. I need to find a corner to roll into a fetal position to prep for the blast. I get down on the floor and wait there with my head in my knees, but the balloon never bursts. I just hear lot of cheering and look up. The kid is gone. The danger has passed.

It is the cake cutting part of the ceremony. The adults who have been clinging to the walls like barnacles swoop down finding something to talk about. Oh the cake is wonderful! Look at the plastic doll holding the candle, it looks so cute! Guys, you know, HP has a new device that prints the icing on the cake. Supports 705.39c protocol.

The chatter runs out its course after a while, but the birthday kid is still not appearing. I don't know if you ever noticed, but birthday babies are big party poopers. All they want to do is hunker down under their blankets and sleep, but their parents drag them out in front of suffering grow-ups who sing "Happy Birthday to You" with the same gusto as prison inmates singing the National Anthem.

It is over. Now, I can go home. My son is turning one in a few weeks. Got to plan his party. I hope you are going to make it. It will be great fun. Look out for the Evite in your mailbox. Please come and make it a success.