How often are your car accidents? Some people drive a car for decades and never wreck. What about the other end of the spectrum? What is the record for shortest vehicle ownership before an accident? A month? Two weeks? A couple days? How about just over five hours?
In the fall of 2014 my mother was planning her retirement. The date she picked roughly coincided with the birthday of my very spoiled Nephew, Nicholas. He was turning 16. My sister decided to plan a big party for the whole extended family. This shin-dig would take place at a rented condo out on the water from Friday night through Sunday afternoon. There were lots of plans being made for balloons, cakes, barbecue, celebrating etc. Some family members couldn’t stay the entire weekend, so we all agreed that the festivities would primarily take place on Saturday evening. My mother’s office was planning a party for her that Friday. Nicholas, my bratty nephew complained that his party would be a day early. His birthday wasn’t until that Sunday.
During this same time-period my mother was thinking about getting a new car. She bought an Avalon about two years before, but she wanted to go back to an SUV. She liked sitting higher, to see traffic better. While at the dealer for service, she wandered over to the new Lexuses (Lexi?).
A friend of hers drove an RX 350 and mom really liked it. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with a black example there on the lot. An astute salesman asked for the Avalon to be appraised while he went to fetch the keys to the RX 350. The story I got was that before she knew it, mom had committed to buying this black SUV. The only thing slowing down the process was running everything past my step-dad. She left the dealer after paying $55 for the Avalon’s oil change.
The Salesman was smooth. He called her with “good news” about getting the tires on the RX 350 filled with nitrogen and he asked when she was coming back in. He might be able to get that beautiful black paint sealed, she would only have to pay dealer cost. Should she get it? My step dad was non-committal. He told her that if she really liked it, she should buy it. It was her retirement present not his.
She decided to go ahead and get the black RX 350. The family reunion/ birthday/retirement party was that weekend so the salesman was told they would probably finalize the deal the coming week. This smooth-talking salesman was good. He called back to let her know that someone else was looking at the vehicle. It was Friday, anything could happen over the weekend. She needed to get there quickly! Should he hold it for her? She explained that her office was having a farewell party for her that afternoon and then the weekend was booked with party plans. The sales guy wasn’t letting the sale of a nearly $50,000 SUV get postponed. He said “Wouldn’t it be great to show up at the family reunion in your brand-new car?” He promised to have her in and out in no time, she just needed to sit with the F & I guy in the back for a little bit.
Remember that I was not privy to any of these shenanigans. My mother and step-father consistently buy cars and then inform me about their purchase later. I guess, in her mind, I am still a little kid putting plastic model cars together. What could I possibly know?
Sure enough, that Saturday, Mom pulled up at the condo a few minutes after 4:00 PM in the brand-new black Lexus. Everyone was oohing and ahhing. If I must say, it was a beautiful vehicle. Top-notch build quality with wonderful materials inside. She showed off the second row and explained that they did not need a third row, it was just her and my step-dad most of the time. The SUV had some neat features, but there was not time for the salesman to explain any of them to her.
Over dinner Nicholas kept asking to drive the Lexus. My mother kept saying “Sure, when you get your license.” But Grandma loved little Nicholas the most. He kept begging her to let him drive it. “I’m getting my license soon.” He kept on repeating.
Later that night, some of us were shooting pool downstairs when my uncle came in the room muttering something like “I can’t believe she let him take it.” I instantly knew what happened. Nicholas had been in the kitchen badgering my mother while all the men were downstairs. I went and looked outside, no Lexus. When I went upstairs, mom was standing right there! “Who went with Nicholas?” I asked. She said he went with his younger brother – just around the block. I shook my head. She did not treat my sister’s kids the way she treated my kids.
Not even five minutes later, I was still in the kitchen, chewing on a brownie, when my mom’s cellphone rang. It was Nicholas. There was a problem. Somehow, he scratched the front bumper. My mother was nonchalant; “It’s okay, we’ll get it fixed.” There was more, the hood was dented. Everyone turned toward mom, listening to this one-sided phone conversation. “What do you mean? How can the headlight be out, but it still works?” she asked. “Oh, the headlight is hanging out, but it is still on.” She was just restating what she was hearing on the other end of the phone.
This was far worse than a little fender-bender. Their conversation continued while my sister kept saying “Tell him to bring it back, just bring it back.” Then mom said “Oh, your eyes hurt, – because of the airbags?” The car was inoperable, he someone needed to come get him. Could uncle James help? Yes, but poor little Nicholas did not know what street he was on.
We finally found them. The thing was crunched down about a foot shorter. The entire front end of the car was completely demolished. It looked like Godzilla took a swipe at it. Nicholas claimed to be going about “Fifteen or twenty miles per hour.” Really? Then how was the hood pushed through the windshield and curled on to the roof? Nicholas commented that he didn’t think the SUV was very well built, mom nodded in agreement. I walked away. She bought her retirement present just after 4:00 PM, it was totaled before 10:00 PM. The odometer showed a whopping 38 miles.
Oh, and things got worse. My mom’s insurance company rejected her claim. They said her policy forbade allowing an unlicensed driver to take her vehicle on the road. And, at the time of the accident he technically wasn’t even eligible to be licensed. Later, I was surprised when I found out the car was going to be repaired. Obviously, it needed extensive work.
About a month later, I asked my mom how much everything cost. She said “It’s fixed now, it doesn’t matter.” And then she smiled, and said “You can’t even tell”.
Maybe, mom. But Carfax and I can’t forget.