Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mirrorgate: The Crime Of The Century

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published May 1, 2014]  © 2014 

The man who knocked on my front door pointed to the curb.  “Is that your car?”

Instantly you know there’s no good news to be had.  Which doesn’t, of course, keep you from fantasizing he’ll say, “I just wanted to say that I totally love those older model Toyota Corollas.  Such classic lines.  And SO affordable.”

But, of course, what he said was, “A truck just hit your car and took off.” 

It wasn’t just any truck.  The good samaritan on my porch had been painting the house across the street when a big service vehicle bearing the prominent logo of a Famous Company sheared off the driver’s side mirror assembly of my car sending its now-micro-pieces some 30 feet ahead in a truly impressive debris field.  The driver stopped, quickly looked around, then sped off.    

I do have to say that doing a hit-and-run in a well-marked business vehicle with a GPS on it may not be the smartest move.  Obviously, he didn’t think anyone had seen him.  Both the house painter and I tried calling Famous Company but among their many customer options was not “Report hit-and-run by our service vehicle.” 

Before “the body” could be removed (or in this case, vac-ed up), the police came out and took crime scene photos.  I took a bunch too.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I was finally able to get through to Thelma at Famous Company’s Risk Management office, apparently in the South. She did not inspire confidence that this matter would be resolved quickly.  When asked to describe what happened, I said - exact words - “One of your vehicles hit my car, sheared off the driver’s side mirror, and left the scene.  It was a hit-and-run.”  Thelma drawls, “Oh, mah.  Thas more than Ah can put in thah spaice.”

Over the next four days, both the house painter and I were called repeatedly by the police, my insurance company, and several levels of Famous Company people - field supervisors, Risk Management, Third Party Claims Assessment.  I went over to the neighbor’s house and apologized to him where he was still trying to get a little painting in between phone calls.  “I’ve never been so popular,” he laughed.

On the fourth day, Famous Company said they were coming out to do a crime scene re-enactment.  The painter needed to be there too.  When I told my husband, he said, “Do you get to be the truck this time?” 

The Famous Company guys were really hoping for a house painter who smokes dope on the job and calls you “dude.”  Their bad luck, this guy was the sharpest witness in America.  They were dismayed that I had had my mirror replaced, never mind messed with the crime scene.  I assured them that I had ample photos of the corpse.

They had me put my car in the exact place on the street where it had been hit so the distance could be measured from the mirror to the ground. The Famous Company field guy admitted that the GPS on their truck showed it being precisely in front of my home at 4:32, the reported time of the crime. And the painter’s description of the driver was dead on.  But, sacre bleu, their truck showed no damage in the corresponding place. How could it have hit my mirror? 

The detective assigned to the case had an explanation for that, which he basically summed up, albeit more kindly, as “armored tank hit your crappy Corolla.” 

The Famous Company guys push on:  Is the painter positive there wasn’t another car right behind their truck that could have hit my car?  I could see a new theory emerging.  The Famous Company driver hears a loud noise behind him. Someone has hit my car! He pulls over, sees my mirror in a bazillion pieces in the street.  Outraged, he speeds off in search of the real killer, er, crasher. 

The painter is having none of this.  He is 100% positive there was no other vehicle anywhere in sight.  At this point, the salary cost of all the people involved in this has exceeded the sum total value of my car. 

But ultimately Famous Company concluded that, despite reasonable doubt, they would just pay me the $406 (a crime in itself) for my mirror.  And the painter, against all odds, was actually able to finish the job.


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