Duct Tape and Accountability

So we’re eating dinner at Bonefish Grill in Fairfax (the cedar-planked salmon is exquisite). It’s Thursday evening in the DC Metro area, traffic’s horrendous, and — as befits late July — it’s also meltingly hot and humid.

Filled to the gills with seafood, we wander out to the government vehicle parked (perfectly, I might add) in the crowded lot outside. We’re driving a silver HHR — I never knew the government was so, well, current. I look and, for a moment I think it’s weird that there’s another silver HHR parked near us, but there’s been one at our hotel, too, so maybe it’s more normal than I thought. I check the plates — no, they’re officially governmental. But this one has a bumper that’s not quite right. I stop, and Landon and Micki stop, too. “Uh, guys,” I say, “has it always been like that?”

Our bumper, once pristine, has been ripped cruelly from the car, yet is connected tenuously to the body. Black streaks and scratches stare back at us. We’re dumbfounded, and not just because the car’s been violated. We all know what this means. Paperwork.

We move into action, scouring the glove compartment for accident report forms, calling the Fairfax police. Even though it’s a parking lot, we still need to cover all the bases and the bases include a police report. It’s 6:30 p.m. They’re exceptionally busy tonight, we’re told, but they’ll send an officer as soon as possible. Not encouraging.

Meanwhile, sweat condenses, then drips. It’s unbearably hot in this haven of pavement with no shade. We amuse ourselves by photographing absolutely atrocious parking jobs — and there’s one about every other spot. Are there no good drivers in this accursed country? Maybe an hour later, with heat stroke imminent, we see the welcome sight of a police car.

He doesn’t even emerge from his air-conditioned haven. We consider asking if we can sit in the back. You know this is unreportable, he asks. Yes sir, we say, but we need to follow the rules and do all the right things. He nods. Registration card? Uh, not in a government car. Insurance card? Uh, no, the government’s self-insured. We offer what we know, according to the couple who witnessed it: black, late-model sedan, perhaps a Honda or Toyota. Backed out of the space next to us and took the bumper with them.

We wait while he taps on his keyboard. Give me the mouse, I think. I’ll find it faster. I crack a few jokes, take some surreptitious photos of Landon with the police cruiser in the background. The officer lectures us about how the government manages its fleet of vehicles. Whatever, we think. We’re hot, we’re sweaty, we want ice cream. Hurry up. Finally, he delivers to Landon his business card with a case number jotted on the back. At least it’s something to reference and include with our paperwork. We’ve followed the rules and can now return with heads held high.

Well, maybe not. Micki’s back with duct tape in hand (an unauthorized procurement, mind you), ready to repair the car for travel. Oh, if only we could’ve found camouflage or neon tape — we’d have done that in a heartbeat! We’re driving a silver car. Silver duct tape is the norm. And in a perfect world … well, this is not a perfect world. There is no silver duct tape available.

We return to the hotel and back into our parking space. A few days later, training complete and bumper still adhered, the little government HHR takes its duct-taped butt home safely.

What I take away is this:

No one said life would be fair, and the driver who shirked responsibility will one day learn that lesson.

If you do the right thing, you can sleep well at night and feel good about yourself. And that’s mighty important.

Laughter is, truly, the best stress reliever around.

Three different psychological types (ENFP, ENTP, and ISTJ) can work well together and accomplish much. And that made our week of training in psychological type more valuable than we probably know.

I renew my commitment to always be accountable for my actions, unlike our hit and run driver (and no matter how much paperwork there is or how much I want ice cream and air conditioning).

Finally, duct tape is a truly amazing invention.

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