Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I mentioned yesterday that I was "trying to squeeze a bit more summer out" and that that was about all there was for the year, but I neglected to mention how we had made plans to go to Legoland this week! My wife has an annual pass and the Little Ditchman, I think, gets in free until she's three, so they go there with playgroup friends from time to time and I have always been jealous. I remember when the first Legoland opened in Denmark when I was a kid, and I dreamed of going. I had read about it in World magazine, which was National Geographic for kids, and that was the first I'd ever heard of this magical place called "Denmark". Even today, when I hear about Denmark, I picture lego spires and towering cathedrals and whole towns made from the plastic bricks and blocks. Now it turns out that I live ten minutes from Legoland and my daughter loves the things! What a life!

So we'd been making plans to go to Legoland because the kid just loves it, and I finally got a day where I could ditch everything and join them but then I remembered: dental appointment. The nice lady behind the counter had written it on a little card for me and I uncovered it while cleaning my desk the other day. Remember those two "tiny" cavities I had? Figured I'd get them filled while the insurance was still good. "Two tiny cavities," was how the doctor had actually described them, so we decided to load the family in the car and they would wait in the lobby while I had the work done.

Same good doctor, same efficient business, same off-handed quips. They set me down in the chair, put the apron on, shined the light in my eyes and handed me a clipboard with the bill on it. I could barely make it out... $320! The doctor said "most of that is for the hair transplant," which actually made me laugh. Anyway, it was a "sign here, please" situation as they hovered over me with the tools ready. I told them I thought I was just getting a couple tiny cavities filled and doesn't my insurance cover this and hey, ow! Things were suddenly really moving in there. I love how they bring the Novocaine syringe up from behind your head, out of your eye-line, and then they sink it in to the bone. Twice. ("We charge by the gallon on that stuff," he cracked.) So, guess what? One of those "tiny cavities" wasn't so tiny. The doctor set up a bunch of mirrors again and showed me -and it was an ugly sight. So I said go for it and they kept drilling. When I stumbled out into the waiting room an hour later, Mrs. Ditchman asked what all the drilling was about and the doctor came out and explained it to her. And when she saw the bill, and the gaping cavity it had suddenly made in our checking account, well, we all could have used another gallon of Novocaine.

We got in the car. It was about naptime. The Little Ditchman was beginning to get a little surly and I contemplated how much fun it was going to be at Legoland with a numb mouth and a napless child and I was thinking about the work I should be at home doing and how much debt we have and how in the world are we ever going to pay it off and there's a baby on the way and Christmas is coming and that's when we got in an accident.

Rear-ended. Left-hand turn lane at a signal getting ready to get on the freeway to go to Legoland. We were just sitting there quietly, a few cars back from the intersection, when out of nowhere -CRRUNCHH! I spun around and saw a car way too close behind us. The Little Ditchman had that I'm-frightened-and-in-about-two-seconds-I'm-gonna-cry-look and my wife's heart skipped a beat. We were fine. We were all fine. I remained calm. I got out to see if the other driver was okay and found a middle-aged woman edging slowly toward a panic state. She said she had no idea what happened, that this had never happened before. I suggested that we move off the road, and as I picked up her license plate off the asphalt, I noticed it was a handicap placard. I handed it to Mrs. Ditchman, "Here. Hold this." I turned to our little girl, "Are you okay?" "Yeah," she whimpered confusedly.

The requisite phone calls were made. A Sheriff pulled up. A few more community service officers pulled up. Again, everyone was fine. Our beat-up ten-year-old 4Runner now just looked more of the same and I thought, Couldn't she have just hit it a little harder and bent the frame a little more? Everyone seemed bothered (and who could blame them?) so I started to make jokes. I turned to my wife, "When we get out of the car, I'll complain about my neck and you fall to your knees and pretend you're going into pre-term labor." The lady who hit us was very apologetic. Her handicap was a mangled hand, which looked congenital, and I'm not sure I would have noticed except that she wanted to shake my hand and thank me repeatedly, which had an awkwardness to it. I caught that her car had a special steering wheel, but steering had nothing to do with the accident. We were just sitting there and she had accelerated into us, for no good reason. She kept thanking me. "You're welcome!" I said when we left. Not sure for what. I said it because it made me laugh.

I took pity on her. I've rear-ended someone before and I know that it's always your fault when you hit a twenty-foot long, two-ton automobile directly in your path. (How could you miss it?) You feel pretty dumb when it happens, and my reaction to the whole thing was to shrug and shake my head. Call the insurance company. Move on with life.

Is there a moral to the story? Nope. Is there some kind of final tag line I can append at the end here that wraps it all together and makes you ponder wistfully everyday events and their sum importance in our lives? I could say how thankful I am that we're all okay, that the peace of mind that having insurance brings is worth every penny. That I'm glad I'm not one of those people who lashes out in anger and raises his fists to blame God when something insensibly bad happens, (at least, not anymore.) The rear-end of our car was properly mangled. Not so bad that it looked awful on the street, but certainly bad enough that when you inspected it closely you saw that it was going to cost a pretty penny. The other driver's car? Well, the license plate came off.

We finally made it to Legoland and found that it was closed for the off-season. We were all disappointed. The Little Ditchman cried herself to sleep on the way home. The Novocaine had worn off and my tooth hurt. Funny, it didn't hurt before I gave the doctor $320. My wife and I actually laughed at what a bummer of a day it was, and somehow it made everything just perfect.