Al Batt: It was a disagreeable door-dinging derby

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Al Batt’s column runs every Wednesday and Sunday.

My wife had things to do.

She wanted me to keep her company.

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I agreed to ride shotgun.

I took a long time getting dressed. I wanted none of my clothes to match. I’ve found that being color-coordinated leads to shopping.

I didn’t want to shop.

The day would be a relay race. We stopped at the first place. The weather was nearly 60 degrees and the sun warmed the car. My wife went about her appointed rounds in the store while I read a book. It was a good book that demanded my attention. The only things that could have drawn my interest from that book would have been a Vikings Super Bowl Championship parade or my car being hit. Which is what happened. Not the Vikings parade. This isn’t a fantasy. A young woman, who had been texting, opened her door and hit my car’s outside mirror.

Seeing me, she and her thumbs with the bulging biceps fled the scene.

She’d scraped the mirror a bit, but my car still had fewer dents than I did.

My wife returned the car. I mentioned the incident without whining. That’s a feat for a husband of long-standing.

She drove to the next stop and hurried into the store before I reconsidered whining.

I was OK being in the car. Oh, I’ve shopped until I’ve dropped. It was usually a bottle of ketchup that I dropped. I used to buy Tang because it was what the astronauts drank. I’ve earned my shopping spurs. I wanted to sit back and finish my book.

I was doing just that when a big red truck with tires the size of small countries pulled into the next stall. My wife had centered our vehicle in the parking space. The truck needed much more room.

The driver, a young man, flung open the door and hit my car a larruping good lick. He glanced at it and then, seeing me, likely mumbled, “Feet don’t fail me now,” and headed into the store.

I got out and inspected the damage. There was red paint on my car. I have never wanted a red car. I think they are cited for more traffic violations and suffer more attacks from bulls than cars of other colors. Now I had a car with red paint on it.

I gave myself that Minnesota nice pep talk. Stuff happens. Who needs the hassle?

Then I saw it. A sizable dent accompanied the paint. That hurt. My car isn’t new, but its only blemishes are a scraped mirror casing on one side and a painted dent on the other.

We remember the first dent in our automobiles. It’s like a first love or the first time we rode a bicycle. I remember my first attempt at becoming a bicycle pilot. I went off the driveway into some carnivorous barbed wire. Once you learn to ride a bicycle, you’ll never forget. It’s difficult for me to forget my first pedaling and I’ve tried. I can’t wipe it from my memory banks because I still have the scars.

I waited for the young man to return. Dents anger up the blood. I wasn’t as cross as those guys who host call-in shows on AM radio, but who is?

He came back sooner than later. I confronted him. He claimed not to have noticed, but was pleasant enough otherwise. We exchanged information in a civil manner not manifested in our national political scene. I took photos of the vehicles and him. I told him that if he didn’t make it right, I’d put a sign on my car that pointed to the dent, identifying him by name as the perpetrator of that heinous act.

I got an estimate. It was well over $500. I know that the first car I drove after passing my driver’s license test on the second try would have deflected the attacking door as if it had been an ailing mosquito. That old car, while not a muscle car, had real muscles. People are fond of saying that they don’t make cars like they used to. The new cars are softer and lighter, but their engines are much better. That old car might not have made it to those parking lots. It might have refused to start or stalled on the way.

Of course, then it wouldn’t have been dinged twice.

That’s why people like old cars.