A little perspective goes a long way
Matthew Berry [ARCHIVE]
September 13, 2012
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The part that gets lost in this story is that none of it would have happened if not for one Mr. Chuck. E. Cheese.

You see, I've been a ghost for the better part of the last four months. Between preseason football, my ongoing baseball duties (daily podcast, video, etc.), the twin babies and trying to finish the book I'm writing, I've spent almost no time with friends or, more importantly, the older kids. Seriously, I've spent almost every day of the last four months in front of a computer screen. We all work hard, I'm not complaining, lucky to have both the job and the book opportunity, but still. Mr. Available, I'm not.

And so, heavy with this guilt, on a rare day off, I took it upon myself to take the kids and their friends to Mr. Cheese's fine establishment.

Lots of games, soda and pizza later, we were finally ready to leave. I was late to get two of the kids back, they were being exactly how you'd think five kids younger than 12 would act in a car when hopped up on sugar and, well, as I pulled the car out of the parking spot, I heard a sound you're not supposed to hear.

I quickly stop, park and look. Did I … ? Yep. Dammit. I must have gotten distracted or something and I grazed the car parked next to me. I park the car and get out and look. Hard to say what was there before, but I definitely felt something and there was, in fact, a small scratch on the back right fender.


The kids, of course, find this hysterical. "Matthew, quick, drive off." "No, I need to leave a note. That's not the right thing to do. You make a mistake, you have own up to it." As I'm lecturing the kids on right and wrong (as far as you know), a 25ish woman storms out of one of the stores in the parking lot (it's all in an enclosed strip mall kind of place.)

Woman: You hit my car!

Me: Yes, I know. I'm so sorry. Don't know what happened. But I'll be happy to take care --

She holds up a finger as if to tell me to shush. She walks behind the car and starts writing down my license plate number.

Me: You don't have to do that if you don't want. I'm happy to give you all my informa --

Again with the finger. She finishes writing and now comes to face me.

Me: Look, again, I'm really sorry. I know this is a pain. But listen, I got five kids under the age of 12 in the car and I'm already late to get them home. So why don't I just give you my number, contact info, whatever you want, take the car to whatever body shop you want and I'll pay for it, OK?

Woman: I'm calling insurance.

Me: OK, totally your right to do so, but don't think it's worth it. If you call insurance, they'll have to make an appointment to come assess the car, then you'll have to take it to like three different body shops for estimates, it's a huge hassle. I don't want it on my insurance, so I'm telling you. I'll give you my info, take it anywhere you want, I'll pay for it. Easy.

Woman: I'm calling the cops!

Me: What? Look, all a cop is going to do is ask for my information and like I said, I'll give it to you. You can see my license. You want my insurance? You can see that too. I know this is a hassle for you and I sincerely apologize. I made a mistake. I'd like to make it right in the simplest way possible and I just don't want to sit here waiting for the cops to show --

At this point she turns away from me in the middle of me speaking to walk back to the store (she works in one of them, apparently).

Me: Where are you going?

Her: Told you. Calling the cops.

Me: Can we please just discuss this?

Her: I'm going to the store.

So now I'm like, what the hell? The kids have gone from bemused to antsy now. They want out of the car, they want to go home, they're yelling and I can't just leave because, small though it may be, it is an accident scene.

Sigh. So I grab the kids, make them go back into Chuck E. Cheese's, give them some more money for tokens (Here's how done they were: "Do we have to?" That's right. A 12-year-old being told to play video games. "Do we have to?" I say yes and leave).

Get to the store. The woman is now on the phone. She hands me the phone.

Woman: Police want to talk to you.

Me (confused): Hello?

Cop on the phone: Sir, this is Officer So-and-So (Not his real name). Are you all right? Are you harmed in any way?

Me: What? No, I'm fine. It's a scratch on a bumper.

Cop on the phone: Sir, you called 911.

Me (to her): You called 911?!!?!?

Her: That's what you're supposed to do.

Me: No, it's not. You call the police. At their station. 911 is for emergencies. Fires, violent crimes, horrible accidents. This is a scratch.

Her: I'm not talking to you anymore.

I get back on the phone.

Me: Officer, there is no emergency. Not sure why she called this number. But listen, can you transfer me to someone, or can I just give you my information? This woman won't take it.

Cop: That is her right to file a report.

Me: I understand. I just have five kids I'm trying to get home. What happens if I just leave?

Cop: If she decides to, she can file a report and you will be accused of leaving the scene of an accident.

Me: OK. Thank you, Officer.

Sigh. I turn to her.

Me: Seriously? You called 911? For a scratch on your back fender?

Her: You need to leave this store now. This is my place of business.

Me: I wanted to talk to you outside. You're the one who walked in here and wouldn't talk to me outside.

Woman: Well, I'm done talking.

A co-worker of the woman gives me a look and mouths "I'm sorry," as if to say she gets it. The woman is nuts. So what can I do? I go outside and wait.

As I do so, I reflect on the woman. She was working and she got her parked car hit. A total pain in the butt. She has every right to be annoyed. The feeling was correct. The reaction, and the way she dealt with it, especially given the actual damage? Crazy overreaction.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that she's a fantasy football owner.

Listen, you Matthew Stafford and Wes Welker owners: Better days are ahead. Kevin Ogletree had a nice day at the office, but no, you are not starting him this week over Hakeem Nicks. Disappointed in Week 1 results? Fair to be upset. Calling 911 -- er, sending panicked trade offers and tweeting out in despair? You've gone too far.

After about 20 minutes, the cop showed up. He met with the woman and me. He got my information and hers, wrote it up and gave us each a copy. On the report, he noted "No injuries. Observed VERY minimal damage." The caps were his, not mine.

Her: Now what?

Cop: That's it. This is a parking lot. Private property. We have no real jurisdiction here. All we...
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