Anxiously Assertive: A Tale of Two Accidents

I still remember it like it was yesterday; it was a sweltering July afternoon, and I had just finished purchasing my weekly groceries at Lidl. I hurriedly pushed my cart to the car, anxious that my frozen food would be thawed after waiting in long lines at the checkout. I was sweaty, tired, and anxious as I loaded my groceries into the back seat of my Dodge Neon and then returned the cart to the carrel like the responsible adult that I am. I sighed as I noticed that I was parked next to 2 monstrous SUVs that made my car look dinky in comparison. I hate backing out of parking spots, and only 45 minutes earlier, this particular part of the parking lot had been relatively clear. However, the madness that is Lidl’s parking lot on a Saturday at 2 PM meant every spare spot was being used.

I crept backwards tentatively, alternating checking my rear view mirror and craning my neck to see if someone was going to zoom past. I stopped as soon as I was able to see properly both ways, preparing to crank my steering wheel and zoom out of the parking lot and get home when I saw a SUV diagonal to me backing up. I’m sure it was only a few seconds, but I was paralyzed, seemingly unable to move or respond as I watched him back into my car. I heard the driver side brake light crunch into the driver side door of my car, leaving scratches and a decent-sized dent. I don’t even remember if his SUV even had any damage, but what I do remember is him jumping out of the car and yelling at me, berating me for being the cause of the accident despite the fact that he hit me.

I wish I could I could have kept a level head while telling him I needed his license and insurance information. I wish I could have defended myself and pointed out the flaws in his argument, that it was nearly impossible for him to hit me and me to be at fault.I wish I called the police so that they could come in and be the objective third party. Or at least, I wish I told him off for being a jerk while my Girl Power Spotify playlist played in the background. I did none of these things, however. I stood there, letting him demean me as I tried to keep from crying and barely able to speak due to the growing lump in my throat. I said little and meekly agreed to not swapping information  and to not contacting insurance companies. I remember watching him drive off as I sat in my car, my hands shaking and tears streaming down my face until I felt calm enough to make the drive home.

As I drove home, I continued the monologue where he left off, criticizing myself for not standing up for myself, for not handling the situation like a grown-up woman, and for not anticipating that this would happen. For weeks afterwards, I would see the dent in the side of my Neon and those feelings of inadequacy, of powerlessness, of stupidity would well up inside of me, despite what my husband, my family, and my friends said about that guy being a major jerk and that I should not beat myself up for what happened. Every time, I parked in a pull-through spot or felt tension in my arms and stomach when I would back up, I would remember that day in the parking lot. I vowed to myself that I would not let anyone treat me like that again, that I would assert myself in the best way my introverted, anxious self can do.

My determination would be tested this past Tuesday. I had begrudgingly changed from pajamas to regular clothes to make an 8 PM run to Food Lion to get a few supplies that I inexplicably missed on my grocery trip earlier that day and needed to make dinner the next morning. Ryan had headed to bed as I left, due to an earlier than normal shift at Wal-Mart that involved him leaving the house around 4 AM. I listened to my audio book Girl, Wash Your Face and enjoyed the slightly less busy streets as I navigated the short trip to the store. I picked up what I needed and headed out to my car. I was sitting in my car, getting myself situated to drive home when I saw it coming for me. A white van slammed into a shopping cart, sending it careening towards my car. It happened so quickly that I had no time to respond before it slammed into my brand new, not even been scratched yet Luna (which is the name of my car if you didn’t know).

I immediately jumped out of the car and surveyed the damage. There was a definite dent in the side of my car from where the offending cart had hit it, and I growled softly in frustration. I had cold stuff in the car, and I just wanted to get home to chop up all my veggies for my soup so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in the morning. Instead, I confronted the man who had climbed out his van and asked if it had damaged my vehicle.

“Was that dent there already?”

“No, it was not,” I retorted. “It’s a brand new car and that was definitely not there before.”

He cursed and then tried to convince me to allow him to pay for the damages without involving insurance. I immediately had flashbacks to the debacle back in January where a lady hit our parked Jeep, scratching the entire driver’s side and breaking the driver’s side mirror. We tried to work with her, to let her pay the damages without involving insurance, but she backed out on us once she realized just how much money repairing our vehicle would cost and refused to respond to any of our attempts to contact her. So we filed a claim with our insurance company using our uninsured motorist coverage, and we’re still in the process of getting our $200 deductible back as State Farm sues her for our claim. So after a brief phone call with my husband, I staunchly refused that option. I waited while he talked to Food Lion, trying to convince the store that they were at fault because their cart was in the parking lot, but they informed him that they were not responsible. We exchanged ID information and phone numbers, and I waited 15 minutes while he dug through his vehicle looking for his insurance card. He didn’t find it but promised to call me with the information later that evening.

Could I have handled this situation better? Probably. I should have called the non-emergency police number and gotten a report just in case. I should have taken more control of the situation instead of spending 30+ minutes in the parking lot. I should not have yelled at my husband because I was confused on how to report a claim with Geico without a policy number. However, I am making steps towards being more assertive. I didn’t let him talk me out of filing an insurance claim, despite several attempts in person and over text message. I was nauseated, anxious, and completely uncomfortable, but I made it through the whole ordeal (without crying in front of him) and learned more lessons about how to handle things even better next time. And I’ve filed a claim, and the man from the parking lot admitted fault so we’re moving forward on the repair process.

I like that I’m known as a kind and giving individual, and confrontation is something I’d rather avoid. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes messy. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay to fight for yourself, even if other people make you feel ridiculous, try to bully you into doing what they want, or make you feel bad about their situation when they’ve put you in a bad one with their actions.

 

4 thoughts on “Anxiously Assertive: A Tale of Two Accidents

  1. Urgh. I HATE it when people are belligerent like that because they know they were in the wrong. My first (and only) accident was when a car crashed into the back of me at a roundabout (he was falling asleep at the wheel, so hadn’t seen that I needed to stop for a lorry…) He screamed at me too, until a police car who’d seen the collision from the other direction drove over and told him he was at fault. When people know it’s their fault, they seem to get even more aggressive!

    I’d react just as you did. And then have conversations in my head the whole way home, working out how I could handle it better!

    1. I’ve been involved in multiple accidents – none of which have been my fault. I’ve been rear-ended twice, and then I t-boned a truck when it crossed over the highway and I couldn’t stop in time. That last one was actually my first accident, and I was 17 and completely freaked out. Luckily, one of my mom’s friends drove by and saw my car, and she stayed with me until my dad arrived to make sure things were ok. ☺️ But these two accidents were the only times I had to deal with difficult people, and I did the same as you driving home both times.

    1. Thank you! It’s going to the shop tomorrow to get repaired. I’ll be thankful when it’s all back to normal. 🙂

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