Frabjous Times

Ice Crash

I spent an hour this afternoon applying a heat gun to the right rear corner of the bumper on our Prius, thinking only slightly about being fired from work.
Although we didn't get to the Gym this weekend, I figure we did our workout anyway moving pounds and pounds of snow from one place (the driveway, the top of the aformentioned Prius, the front walk, the sidewalk) to another (ideally a few feet away from the orignal place), an activity engaging both upper and lower body musculature. Saturday morning's activity was to take advantage of the lull between the two storms to scoot out and take care of some chores. A trip to the bank twenty minutes before closing, where a sign informed me that owing to the weather they were closing thirty minutes early. Over to the Dumont public library, which had its own sign sign indicating that the weather was forcing them to remain close altogether. Drove to the Oradell branch of the bank to find it similarly unavailable, then to their library which proclaimed its opening "delayed." I parked on the street in front of the Oradell library, a side street sloping uphill, just long enough to drop my books into the book drop, then jumped back into the car to zip back home. Unfortunately, because of a complete lack of traction, I didn't experience any sort of zipping, only a slow rocking back and forward as I labored to point the car back downhill. I was twenty minutes into the process when a plow driver came by and helped me on my way with a push, undamaged. Thanks, Mr. Plow!
The snow stopped falling late last night and the wind died down by morning, so the renewed shoveling effort this morning was relatively easy, though still strenuous. I discovered that we actually had mail in the mailbox from yesterday, the service once again living up to their ancient Greek motto. The two of us drove to church and parked behind the building, on a sloping alley next to the parking lots. A large truck was two spots over, the driver struggling against the slippery conditions to back out to leave. A beefy passerby helped with a push up the slope, the driver turned her wheels to head down the slope, but succeeded in sliding down straight into our car. So much for the parable of the good Samaritan as applied to winter driving. Neither my wife nor I was inside, but standing uncomfortably close to the crash; nobody was hurt. The local police were already on hand anyway to direct traffic, so they took down the necessary information from us and we traded insurance policy numbers. It turns out that the other driver was married to a friend of mine from the Knights of Columbus, who was away this weekend in their usual vehicle owing to a family health crisis. The truck, their son's, sustained only a small amount of damage, but it was clear that our stove-in bumper was easily going to cost more than the $500 amount where a police report was required.
With all the storm and stress of the last week, and the conflicting emotions in their wake, I was personally beyond feeling excitement or anger at something like this. Rationalizing the outcome was easy: if this had been our other car, which has a lease due in a matter of weeks, the issue of attending to repairs would have been much more fraught; if our car had not been in that spot, the truck would likely have sideswiped another one next to our spot and have experienced even more damage, or it might have smacked into the stone wall at high speed. On the other hand, if we had not stopped at Walgreen's on the way to church, we probably would not have found a spot in the alley and would have gone up to a spot far from all this trouble.
A friend of mine from choir who had witnessed the aftermath of the accident advised me that 5mph bumpers can sometimes be popped back into shape by the application of high heat. I remembered that I had a heat gun left over from a paint stripping project some years back, so the idea appealed to me. Strictly speaking, I didn't have to do anything with the dent, since it seemed pretty clear that my friend's son's insurance would be the one on the hook for making it right, but until we could get the thing in the shop, it might do some good to try to restore it myself as much as possible.
Oddly enough, by the time church was over and the choir practice we had afterwards, we found we had no difficulty at all backing ourselves out of the spot, since the ice had melted considerably. The borough was responsible for that stretch of road, apparently, not the church, so they had just fallen down on the job early today. It looks as if conditions are going to be fine for tomorrow, my first day officially out of work.
So that's why I found myself in the waning light of afternoon waving my heat gun back and forth along the dent, slowly finding it smooth its way more or less the way it was supposed to look. The two big cracks through the plastic mostly closed up in the process, and if you don't look too closely you might not notice that matters are not completely right. And this way I have the satisfaction of knowing that we got through a bunch of tribulations this time with only small lasting scars to show, ones which can in time also be erased.
Originally published: 2003/12/07 22:09:41