Once upon a time, long before I ever had a license to operate a motor vehicle, my dad the driver's education teacher, taught me that anytime a driver runs into the rear of another car, it is the first driver's fault. Sadly, and somewhat violently I learned that lesson first hand Thursday morning.
After prayer and Bible study with a friend, I stopped by the bank, and then was on my way home when I got behind an elderly couple driving very slowly. So slowly, in fact, was the man creeping that he actually pulled his converted golf cart to the side of the road for me to pass. Actually, that description is not entirely accurate. Golf carts go much faster.
We have here in Portugal terribly small contraptions with four wheels and two doors that inch up and down the road. Only people over seventy drive them, and Nina and I are convinced that they are powered by a large key that is inserted into the trunk and twisted. Sort of like something out of Stewart Little. I could be wrong, they may have a hamster wheel under the hood or places to stick your feet in the floorboard – Fred Flintstone style. The interior seems to be made out of cardboard and the motor makes less noise than an average weed eater. They are two seaters and extremely dangerous. Top speed can't be more than 40 mph.
Now, you have a good idea of what I was driving behind. Unwillingly to be rude and hasty, I patiently stayed in the rear as we approached the entrance to the highway. I looked back to see if I could safely merge, and seeing no approaching cars, I made the poor assumption that those in front had continued. Only they hadn't. So, by accident, I rammed into the back of the overgrown hot wheel, sending plastic everywhere. We got out, assessed the damage, checked on everyone's health, and I made great and repeated apologies. Being a normal winter day in Portugal, rain fell steadily as they began to worry about how we were going to resolve things.
Where did I live? Close. Was my car new? If 1996 is new. What should we do? Call my insurance company. They pelted me with questions faster than the rain drops could fall.
After my insurance agent arrived, they felt more at ease and were willing to follow me back to his office. As they followed, I had to make periodic stops on the side of the road for them to catch up. I also discovered that my new friend always drives only on the shoulder of the road...never between the white lines like everyone else. Arriving at the office, they felt even more at ease, when my insurance man told them that I was, “a good boy, a nice man, 5 stars” and even, “a friend of Bush.” We all laughed and I said that the accident must have been the president's fault – since everything else was. When the report was completed and everyone satisfied, I stayed behind to speak with my agent. Though I made no qualms about my guilt – it was clear, I did express my opinion that the other party was a danger to everyone else on the road. The insurance man agreed and gave me the Portuguese name for the “wind up car.”
Translated, they are called, “cars that kill old people.” How thankful I am that the name didn't prove true in our collision.
Written by Michael Andrzejewski for The LaGrange Daily News.