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SUVs: defying the laws of physics (February 3, 2001)

I got backed into and front-ended last night. As fate would have it, a man in an SUV perpetrated the deed. I was minding my own business, headed out of old town Alexandria towards a small gathering at my friend Jim's house. As I headed up a side street, trying to make my way towards King street, a big ole Pathfinder in front of me stopped and started reversing at me. Never mind traffic flow and all, this car was headed in my direction, backwards. I could see what was about to happen, but caught by surprise, I couldn't find the buttons on my steering wheel to engage the horn.

I got out of the car, prepared to rail at the driver for crashing into me. The list of insults, epithets and other forms of verbal abuse that I was compiling in my head as I stepped out of my car was extensive. However,I was disarmed of all my rhetorical weaponry when I realized that the person who got out of the car was an incredibly old man, apologizing profusely. Apparently he got frightened out of his mind because a Lincoln towncar was backing out of a driveway too rapidly, and rather than honk he decided to ... reverse his car. Once we moved the cars, realized that there was no real damage to anything, save a small crease on my license plate, I asked the man if he was okay. His clutching at his heart didn't help make me any more comfortable.

As it turned out, I really didn't want to make a big deal about it. There was no damage, and there's little glory in cussing out a very apologetic old man who's afraid he might get a heart attack. I did, however, tell him that well, he didn't see me because he drives the suburban equivalent of a cement truck, and he agreed and apologized some more. He game me his name, and number, and once I told him mine he started inquiring as to my background, my family, and so on. He started telling me about his family (Sicilian) and his dinner party, where his two hard-of-hearing friends didn't hear him tell them that he'd pick them up at the corner and ended up taking a cab home, leaving him circling around the block for 45 minutes. He mentioned that a woman who tended the bar at his country club was Central American and had put her two kids through med school. He mentioned that some other person he knew was married to a Peruvian woman named Marisol, and that they had adopted a little child in Peru. I suppose he was grateful that I behaved with a certain degree of civility and wanted to make a social situation out of his ramming his tank into my car.

But, regardless of the fact that well, I was more afraid about the guy having a heart attack on the street than of there being damage to my front bumper, I'm still pissed. To get hit by a 79-year-old man who just left a dinner at a restaurant (presumably had some wine with his meal), and who's driving an SUV of the year, which I will assume he drives because he feels safer in it (I'm sure it's not because he has all the gear to carry for scuba diving), is the ultimate in karmic bad jokes. SUV drivers' desire to occupy the same physical space as me proved a contentious foe throughout the AIDS Ride training. Now, it's not ironic that I got hit in reverse (that's just unfortunate, Alanis), but the fact that I was hit by an SUV driven by someone that I could not cuss out most certainly is.