Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Power of a Bully

Are there things about yourself that you do not like? I am not talking about the gray hair you could color or the few pounds you could lose if you really wanted to. I am talking about basic, innate personality characteristics. Do you wish you were more assertive? Less assertive? More vocal? Less willing to stick your foot in your mouth? More intelligent? More social? Less anxious?

I am not an aggressive person. I am an introvert, by nature. True to my introverted personality, I tend to be a bit passive. I am not aggressive. I am not confrontational. I am not intrusive. I am not disruptive. I am not rude. I am not offensive. I take great pains to keep my life and my surroundings peaceful. Harmonious. Amiable. This is all well and good—most of the time. For the most part, I go about my peaceful little existence with my family and friends and coworkers who seem to like me, for the most part. On rare occasion, however, when faced with a person who is not passive—a person who is confrontational, intrusive, and in-your-face rude—I am struck by just how much I wish I were different. This past week has been one such occasion.

On Friday afternoon, I went to pick Lucas up from school, as usual. His school sits on a very narrow South Minneapolis street. When cars are parked on both sides of the street—which they usually always are—two cars can just barely pass one another on the street. As you can imagine, when school lets out and all of the parents are there picking up their children, the street is both narrow and incredibly congested.

Friday afternoon, I had just turned onto the street Lucas' school sits on. Another car was coming from the opposite direction and we went to pass one another. Right as we were side by side, a woman whose car was parked on the side of the street flung her door open without looking first to see if cars were coming and I ran right into her car door. I was right there with not a single second to swerve (as if I would have anywhere to go), honk, or make any attempts to avoid the collision. I immediately hopped out of my car and said, “Oh my gosh, I'm sorry. Are you okay?” (In hindsight, I shouldn't have said I was sorry, but I had my kids with me, and I was being polite). The woman I hit was obviously flustered. She did not ask if I were okay. She did not ask if my four-year-old twins, who were passengers in my car, were okay. She simply began to expound on the plans that she had for the afternoon that were ruined by our collision. She was not exactly rude, but certainly upset. I said, “I have insurance. Let's exchange information and I will call my insurance company right away.” This woman had most obviously caused the wreck by opening her car door into oncoming traffic without looking. I was pissed that she had wrecked my car, but I assumed, because I was moving and her car was parked, that I would be held responsible for the accident. I did not tell her such, nor did I take responsibility for the accident in any way. I merely told her I would call my insurance company and we would let them handle it. I wrote down my name, phone number, insurance company name and policy number. I then took her information. I got her name and phone number. However, she told me that she was driving her mother's car and did not have her insurance information. I assured her I would call my insurance company as soon as I got home and they would be in contact with her. We said our goodbyes. I went into the school, picked up Lucas, and went home to immediately call my insurance company.

When I spoke to a woman at my insurance company, she informed me that the other party was responsible in this type of accident. The onus was on her, on a narrow street, to check for oncoming traffic before opening her door. Amazingly, the law made sense in this situation. I was told by the agent on the phone that she would contact the other party, get her insurance information, and I could file my claim through the other insurance. I was relieved, as you can imagine.

A few minutes later, however, my relief turned to annoyance. I received a voicemail message from my insurance saying that there was a dispute regarding the accident, so my claim was being turned over to another person at Geico for investigation. I tried to call this person, but it was late Friday afternoon and she had already left for the weekend.

Yesterday, I received a call from the person handling my claim. She explained that the other party did not feel she was responsible for the accident and had indicated that I took full responsibility. What the hell? Therefore, Geico was going to do an investigation and make a determination of fault. She took a recorded statement from me, indicated she had done the same with the other party, and that she would be back in touch with me. Yesterday, around 11:00am or so, she called back to indicate that Geico had already completed their investigation and found that the other party was 100% at fault in the accident. Again, I was relieved. For a moment, at least.

Almost immediately, the other party, who had my cell phone number (the only number I have, so the one I had to give her on Friday), began calling me. She left me messages accusing me of changing my story. Telling me that I had agreed to pay for her car (a blatant lie). I texted her, trying not to be rude, that I was at work and was unable to talk to her. That did not stop her. She continued calling me and texting me. Much of what she said was simply untrue. Being a reasonable person (not aware yet that I was dealing with a completely unreasonable person), I felt the need to defend myself. So I texted her explaining that I had not changed my story. That my insurance company had talked to both of us and made their determination. That I had never agreed to pay for the damage to her car. That I was not paying for the damage to her car. I directed her to call my insurance company. She continue to email me and text me. Eventually, as her messages turned into threats to sue me, I thought, “Why in the hell am I trying to defend myself to this obviously irrational person?” I stopped responding to her. However, by that time, I was completely sick to my stomach.

I do not handle confrontation well. It goes against my nature. I do not like it. I don't handle aggressive, threatening people well. They make me nervous. And to make matters even worse, I tend to cry when I get angry—a trait that I hate, hate, hate about myself. For the last hour of work yesterday, I was a complete wreck.

At about 12:45, I received a call from the woman I had been working with at my insurance company indicating that the other party had given her an insurance company name, but when she tried to contact them, they had no policy for this woman. She had obviously given them bogus insurance information. She also indicated that the woman was now claiming that I hit the rear side of her car near her gas tank and then hit her door. This was not something the woman mentioned to my insurance company on Friday or yesterday morning when they interviewed her. It is obviously a lie, and one that she came up with after the fact when my insurance found her responsible for the accident. I told my insurance agent about the calls and texts I was receiving. She indicated that I had no reason or need to talk to the other party and, if she tries to contact me again, I should simply direct her to contact Geico directly. She said that she had had numerous conversations with this woman already and was well versed in the situation. If this woman did decide to sue (which I highly doubt will happen), I simply need to contact my insurance company and they will handle it for me.

I called Ruanita to let her know what was happening. The woman at Geico had already called Ruanita—our minivan is in Ruanita's name—and had explained the situation in detail. Ruanita was obviously concerned about me. After thirteen years together, she knows that I do not like conflict. She told me, in no uncertain terms, to stop interacting with this woman completely. She said that the woman was obviously low-class and low-rent. Having dealt with her bipolar mother for forty-five years, Ruanita said that she is a pro at handling low-class, low-rent people. So she assured me she would handle the woman. When Ruanita got to work yesterday afternoon, she almost immediately called me to tell me that she had explained the situation to her boss and had asked to take a last-minute vacation day for today. She is going to be home with me this afternoon. She intends to pick Lucas up from school today in our wrecked minivan—and she is hoping the woman has the nerve to say something to her. Yes, Ruanita is swooping in to save the day and fight my battles for me.

So how does this make me feel? Firstly, relieved. I have no trouble ignoring this woman. However, our sons attend the same school. Though I don't recall ever seeing her at school prior to our accident, I am sure I will run into her there again. Secondly, grateful. I am grateful to be married to someone who—though certainly not out looking for a fight—does not shy away from defending herself and our family when need be. Thirdly, pretty wimpy. What does it say about me that I need my partner to swoop in and fight my battles for me? Am I so inept that I cannot defend myself from someone who is obviously, legally, in the wrong?

Ruanita and I talked about the situation again this morning. Obviously, we are going to have to have our car repaired. It appears that we are going to have to pay our $1000 deductible and have it repaired through our own policy. Our insurance company will then go after the responsible party to try to recoup our deductible and their money. But there is no guarantee we will see our money again. I feel fairly confident that this woman is throwing such a fit and hassling me because she has no insurance. If she did have insurance, she could simply contact her own insurance if she believed she was so in the right and have them go after me. She has not done this however. So I can only assume that she has no insurance. And people who drive illegally without insurance typically are not going to hire a lawyer to bring a case to court. I have nothing to worry about. I was entirely and completely in the right. The other party was entirely and completely and legally in the wrong. So why, then, am I letting a low-class, rude, bully of a blowhard rattle me? I laid in bed last night, unable to fall asleep, thinking of all of things I should have said. All of the snappy comebacks I wish I had said. All of the ways I could have stopped her in her tracks. I am thirty-eight years old. Aren't I old enough to be immune to the power of a bully?

Obviously not.


Jessica said...

Oh man, I feel your pain! I'm not a fan of conflict either and this woman sounds kind of crazy. When I was in college a guy hit me, we pulled over and exchanged information, but he gave me bogus insurance info and had no insurance. When my dad criticized me later for not waiting for a cop to arrive I started balling! I seem to recall it was finals week too. Ouch.

Another crazy car crash story, my brother was driving my car after school one day when a woman blew through a red light and totaled the car. Later she changed her story and claimed to not be at fault and it turned into a massive battle. Oddly enough, since school was letting out, there were hundreds of witnesses. I couldn't believe she had the nerve to try to lie about it. I'm happy to hear that Geico has your back!

Angie Rehnelt said...

Shannon - I can TOTALLY relate. Right before Christmas last year, this woman pulled out in front of me and I had no way to avoid her. There were no injuries and the vehicles were both drivable, so when I called 911 they said police did not need to respond. THAT WAS A MISTAKE. We exchanged info and went on, but then a few weeks later I received a letter that the woman hired an attorney and was suing me for her "injuries" which at the time of the accident there were no injuries. She also gave the wrong date and time of the accident. My insurance said it was bogus and she had no claim against me, HOWEVER, now they want me to accept 20% liability. In the meantime, my car is damaged and I also have the $1,000 deductible. I refuse to accept 20% liability in an accident that was not my fault so even though this happened over 4 months ago - I am still fighting!! My lesson learned out of all this is, CALL THE POLICE NO MATTER WHAT at the scene of the accident. Good luck!
P.S. I also cry when I get angry and I really hate that about myself too. ;)

Madgew said...

Hopefully, they will go after her if she lied about having insurance and who's care it was. It will be straightened out and I know you will get the money back. Sorry this happened to you and that it causes angst from a person who is an ass.

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