Ink Soup: AN ACCIDENT IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- Driving home from the market the other day, I nearly had the second accident of my driving career, which began in 1945. (I have my own entirely personal and private understanding of D-Day.) Coming up the Holman Road, a large four-lane thoroughfare, I was foronce not in a cluster of other cars, which might have emboldened theyoung person in the Jeep who made a purely perfunctory pause at the stop sign of the side street and nearly lambasted the right side of my car.
His reactions, thanks be to God, were livelier than mine might havebeen, so we did not collide.
But the idea of the collision has given me no rest, for it would have been, this second accident in my motoring life, eerily identical to the first, except in outcome.
The first occurred in Cambridge, Mass., in the late Fifties,when I was a penniless graduate student at Harvard with a pregnant wife and no job prospects on the horizon. My subject was the then hopelessly unmarketable topic of Russian Literature. Sputnik had only just flowninto orbit, and it is to Sputnik, in a sense, that I owe my career. ButI digress.
We were driving along in an old green Chevrolet Bel-Air station wagon when a car, coming the wrong way out of a one-way street, and withouteven a perfunctory pause, blindsided me. No one hurt. Some damage to the Chevy at about the level of the rightrear wheel.
The other driver was a courteous fellow who spoke in accented Englishand said that he was very sorry. He and I exchanged the usual information about insurance. Naif that I then was, I simply informed the insurance people that this misfortune had taken place, and that the body shop had given me this estimate of the repair, and thank you very much.
The insurance company thanked me for my letter and said that, as I might very well have foreseen the abrupt threat of another vehicle headed toward mine and stopped in time to prevent the aforesaid collision, they felt in no way obliged to indemnify me. It was entirely my fault. And have a nice day. For the first time in my life to take such drastic action, I went to a lawyer.
Were there passengers? Yes. Who? My wife. How is she? Unharmed, thank heavens, as she is pregnant.
She is? Pregnant.
Preg...? You said pregnant!!!? You are married? I said, truthfully, that we had been so for over a year.
If you have ever seen jurisprudential glee light a human countenance,you will know what I mean.
We've gottem! he yelped.
He then outlined to me a grandiose scheme for recovering a sum that would not only have repaired the more or less trivial damage to my old Chevy but also put my presumptive heir, still in utero at that point, through Harvard, MIT, and several other expensive schools.
Reader, I ask you to believe that I settled for dent removal and repainting.
But I am thinking now of reopening the case as soon as I can find alawyer who does not turn to jelly when I outline my scheme.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus ofComparative Literature at Princeton University.