If you’ve never had your neighbor’s 2003 Ford Taurus station wagon jump a curb and enter your residential living room, let me tell you: it’s disruptive. You’ll definitely have to cancel your meetings for the rest of the afternoon.
You remember the Kool-Aid commercials from the ‘90s when a big-ass pitcher of fruity, red, sweetened water made its entrance on the scene? Like, “Wham-O! Oh yeah! I’m here and I brought sucrose for everyone!” It’s like that, but with more shards of glass and broken brick. And, of course, no sugar spike.
When you arrive downstairs on scene to inspect the damage seconds letter, trapped inside your home because the bush your neighbor has utterly demolished is blocking your exit, she is dutifully parking, being sure to put her sun visor in place because even significant, life-threatening property damage shouldn’t keep one from protecting their car’s interior from the damaging rays of the summer sun! Let’s all maintain decorum!
When she does hobble over to meet you for the first time — “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m the one who destroyed your home” — you’re in the middle of a conversation with a 911 operator.
“What’s your address, ma’am?”
(This is a fictional address — for privacy reasons.)
“123 Encumberment Road.”
“Are you certain it’s ‘Road’ and not ‘Square’?”
“It’s Road. The apartment is ‘Road.’ The complex is ‘Square.’”
“Well the map is telling me it’s ‘Square.’”
You think, “Do I actually not know my own address? I have lived here for a year. But maybe she’s right.”
You decide to move on. Except you can’t. Because you’re still stuck in the doorway until the fire department gets there.
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Then your neighbor tells you how she lost control of the vehicle, how she tried to find the brake, how the car took over and had a mind of its own. And you stand unwisely in the doorway, awaiting your rescue. You are a damsel, moderately distressed. The postal worker, ever reliable, has examined the damage and reached over the bush that has imprisoned you to deliver a package — ‘cause the mail must arrive, rain, hail, sleet, snow or car crash. Package received. (It’s a toy… the type that might help take the edge off, if you still have a home to sleep in, later on.)
So you wait. And you hear the sirens coming and you remain, perhaps a little too humored for any psychologically well human being, taking videos and photos of the damage. Before even getting off the fire truck, the first firefighter gestures that you ought to move away from the door because you don’t have sense enough to come to that conclusion on your own. You’re busy documenting for
When the fireman lets you out by gingerly moving a couple of branches aside, that’s when you realize you’re sweating, braless, in a tank top, in a very unladylike way. After all, it’s 94 degrees outside in the middle of a Charlottesville summer and you weren’t expecting guests of the human or vehicular kind. And they’re not letting you back into an unstable structure, where one section of the wall is now only supported by two 50-year-old bricks, until they “shore up” the place. They like to use that term and will as much as possible throughout the rest of the afternoon. And they’ll enjoy explaining it to you, aspirational architects every last one of them.
The police officer who takes your social security number tries to assure you that you’ll have a place to sleep that night as the Red Cross offers assistance to the down and dejected, which is now you, though you’re mostly just hot and exposed. After some calls he realizes that, “Well, since this is not exactly a natural disaster,” they likely won’t be able to help you, he says as you sit on the curb mindlessly watching impromptu columns being erected in the space where you’d occasionally entertain guests.
(Bill Brent, executive director of the Central Virginia Chapter of the American Red Cross, told Charlottesville Tomorrow later that his organization can provide financial assistance to cover an array of expenses, including lodging, depending on the nature of the disaster. He says anyone can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or go to redcross.org to seek assistance.)
Your neighbors, who all heard the crash but stayed minding their business pretty hard at the time of impact, mill about the parking lot shaking their heads, whispering and gossiping, letting you know that this isn’t the first time this resident has had a serious crash. Someone brings you a chair. Chilled water bottles are disbursed to both victim (you) and culprit (her), but the firefighters say, “No, no! Don’t give her anything to drink.” They want to know what’s in the driver’s system and that blood analysis cannot be compromised for heaven’s sake!
Another neighbor offers to let you sit in her apartment that has air conditioning, but you state, for all to hear, that sitting propped on a chair in the parking lot is more dramatic as your fate is determined — frail and waifish lass you are, pushing 40 and 270 pounds — and you want to remain positioned there, where all the care workers can find you and you can reserve your God-given right to complain. And to this last part, the fire bro says, “Oh, we understand. We all have wives.” His suffering was heartfelt.
After you show a picture of your purse to a police guy, he goes in and rescues your wallet, keys, laptop and charger — 21st century essentials. ‘Cause inhabitable home or not, capitalism is gonna capitalize. The police officer hands you his card and tells you to call if you need anything.
“And I can call you day and night, right?” you jest, loud enough for the rest of the men to hear the ever so subtle innuendo. Because you’re cool and fun and flirty. Though also sweaty and homeless and a li’l hungry, now that you mention it. He smiles knowingly and, almost certainly married, decides not to reply.
Your supervisor from work — the first local person you inform of your calamity — gets you food. Your friend and coworker packs and moves your clothes. Maintenance workers disassemble your bed and set it up for you in a new unit. And you’re fine. Because you learned how to detach a long, long time ago.
You’ll reschedule the meetings. You’ll set up a new services account with Dominion. You’ll park as far away from the driver as possible. It’s all terribly inconvenient — but you’re all right.
And you sleep after you eat and take a shower. What else are you gonna do? You can’t stream a thing because you probably won’t have regular Wi-Fi access until next week — the scariest bit of all! And the postal worker’s delivery? Turns out, like Mr. Kool-Aid, he’s obnoxiously large and entirely impractical for use.