Dear reader, what I am about to share is the first of a series of articles chronicling a weeklong string of unfortunate events. Unfortunately they are MY unfortunate events. I have had many bad days in my lifetime but I can honestly say that I have never experienced the madness that all began on a pluvial afternoon in April.
Welcome to McDonald’s. Would you like fries with that dent?
Tuesday April 25th was a very rainy day. I remember thinking when I walked into Faith Baptist Church for my leader’s meeting at 8:55 that it seemed to rain every Tuesday morning over the last month. I left the building at 11:30, my usual time, and headed to my usual place. I have an office in Elkton MD two minutes from my son’s school. McDonald’s is not an ideal location to use for an office. It tends to be noisy, not just because of the foot traffic, but also because they have piped music that’s just a tad too loud while they have the TV on that is usually a lot too loud. But my McOffice has its benefits:
- My booth is always unoccupied.
- Fox News is the only channel that’s ever on the “too loud” TV.
- The Wi-Fi, although at times very slow, is unlimited.
- The staff hasn’t kicked me out for taking up space with my computer for hours while eating my homemade lunch.
I arrived at McDonald’s and found that the “sweet” parking spot was vehicle free. This spot is right next to the main entrance of the building. It’s nestled between two handicap spaces. The very first time I saw it I thought, I wonder if they forgot to paint the blue wheelchair on the ground? So every time I pull into that McDonald’s and find that space available I feel like I just won the parking lottery. I parked Cecily (my car), grabbed my hobo bag (named for what I look like when I’m carrying it) and entered the lone door that is closest to my booth. I noticed two women in the booth next to mine. They were having some sort of meeting. I pulled out my computer and put on my headphones and got to work. About an hour later I noticed one of the women in the booth next to me stand up and move towards the door, which was directly behind me. I didn’t think much of it until she came back to her table and grabbed her cell phone in a hurried manner. Then I saw and the other woman stand up as well and look past me. I lifted my headphones off slightly and asked the woman who was still in my line of sight what was going on. She told me that someone just hit the other woman’s (I soon learned her name was Kelly) car and took off. I frowned and said “Oh wow, that’s too bad” and pulled my headphones over my ears and continued what I was doing. I could hear some commotion right behind me but I didn’t look up. Four minutes later a young man came over to me, got my attention and said “Do you own the Mini Cooper?” I nodded and then heard him say, “They hit your car too.” It took about 3 seconds for those words to register. My brain was processing the words in slow motion, most likely because I was in denial. I jumped up and turned to see almost a dozen people standing behind me staring out of the glass door and windows, talking incessantly. I shoved everything into my bag and immediately went out to see what was going on with my car. The rain was unbelievable. It was the kind of rain you could drown in if you tilted your head skyward. I noticed that the red minivan that had been parked in the spot parallel to mine was no longer there. It was now out of its blue boundary lines, perpendicular to my car. I reluctantly walked to the back of my car and saw the pain. The back passenger side of my car was destroyed. I quickly put my bag in the car and ran back into the McDonald’s and joined the crowd. I was able to find out the it was a hit and run but the runner’s vehicle blew a tire and was stranded at the far end of the parking lot near the road. I dashed out with my phone and took pictures of the huge unoccupied 10+ year-old Ford Expedition. I ran back inside, and believe me that was hard to do because thanks to the rain, I was carrying an additional twenty pounds in water weight. I joined the crowd once again, trying to find out to where the perpetrator(s) of this crime escaped.
A few moments later I saw a kid not more than five feet tall, in a hooded sweatshirt, hand his cell phone to the other victim (Kelly). I couldn’t hear what she was saying but she was definitely very annoyed with whomever she was speaking to. As I stood wondering what in the world was going on I glanced at the kid who had handed her the phone. He had the “deer in headlights” look so I asked him “Was it you who caused all of this?” He nodded slightly and then moved away from me. I was stunned. This kid, who looked to be 15 at the oldest, was driving that huge vehicle in torrential rain through a fast food parking lot at a speed fast enough to hit my car and subsequently the rear end of a minivan knocking it completely out of a parking spot? So there we were, two victims, a McDonald’s manager and a cluster of curious spectators standing in a large two inch deep puddle inside of the restaurant waiting for the police to arrive.
Fifteen minutes later the first of three police officers arrived. The young lanky officer got out of his car, momentarily observed the train wreck in the parking lot, ran into the building, slid across the floor to a stop and said words about the rain that I won’t repeat. Water poured from his head and face, contributing to the community puddle. Then the questions began and answers came in frenzy. The officer asked where the driver of the disabled get-away car was, and though he and his 10 year-old partner in crime had been roaming around near the drink fountain machine at the opposite side of the restaurant minutes before, they were suddenly no where to be found. The minivan’s mom (Kelly) and I answered more questions and asked many of our own. Two other officers arrived and several minutes later I observed the officer speaking with the young car-wrecker who had finally made an appearance. For some reason the kid walked away and I looked at the officer and said “ does he event meet the minimum height requirement for driving? The officer laughed. I was serious. Later, in the retelling of this story to a friend, she told me that there is no minimum height requirement for driving. That doesn’t seem right to me but whatever.
While waiting for what seemed an eternity for our paperwork to be returned, Kelly and I, sopping wet with no hope of drying out, began chatting. She shared with me that when the kid handed her the cell phone it was his father on the line. He asked her to tell the police that he (father) was driving. She told him no. She wasn’t doing him any favors and she certainly wasn’t lying to the police. We were amused that he even thought that would work considering the police were on their way and “dad” wasn’t in the vicinity.
In the next few minutes my husband and son arrived to assess the situation and take me home in the event that Cecily wasn’t roadworthy. I saw the first officer on the phone and was aware that he was talking to the boy’s father. I heard him firmly ask how long it would take him to get to the McDonald’s as they (police) had already been on the scene for over twenty minutes. While we waited, the officer came over and explained to us that the young driver refused to talk to them, as advised by dear old dad, and that we needed to wait for him to arrive. Eventually daddy dearest walked in wearing a hoodie (like father, like son). He spoke with the lead officer for a few moments and when the officer went out to his car, dad looked at Kelly and said, “The reason I asked you to say it was me driving was for your benefit. I was just trying to help you. He’s not on my insurance so my insurance probably won’t pay. So you probably won’t get anything.” We just shook our heads. All three police officers came back inside and that is when the fun began. We got to listen while they asked the hooded duo questions. The interrogation seemed to go on for 20 minutes. There was talk of a driver’s permit that couldn’t be produced. There was the refusal of allowing the officers to speak to the son. There were questions, comments, threats and eventually an outburst from dad and a warning from officer #2. I got on the phone with my insurance company and walked away from the commotion. After about ten minutes into my call, Kelly walked over and told me that dad and son were arrested. While I was still on the phone the lead officer walked in, returned our documents and explained that the two were arrested for obstructing an investigation. Kelly and I exchanged numbers. She confessed that she was happy that she wasn’t going through this alone. (Misery really does love company.) I wasn’t annoyed by her admission. I understood how she felt. I smiled slightly and thought about how I had merely extended a cursory sympathetic comment when I discovered that her car had been hit. And I didn’t even say it to her. I had clearly forsaken the internal WWJD question that when asked, is designed to elicit godly behavior. I hadn’t responded in a way that showed genuine concern. But I didn’t care, and I’m not very good at faking. I said goodbye to Kelly and thought I really wish she had gone through this without me. I walked out into the unforgiving rain, got in my car with the missing taillight, dents and hanging pieces and began the hour plus drive home, the weather allowing very limited visibility, with my husband and son making up the rear guard.
Stay tuned. The drama continues. The next article will be up by 11:59 pm Thursday.