Friday, August 02, 2013

police encounters of the weird kind

I pulled into my apartment's parking lot today and saw my next-door neighbor out there, staring at his old Jeep Cherokee. I asked him how things were going, and he replied, "I'm not sure." Then he showed me the other side of his vehicle, on which a soap-scrawled message had been left:

Hit your car. Sorry. [phone number]

My neighbor was puzzling over what, exactly, the damage had been. He wasn't sure of the time frame in which the fender-bender might have occurred. I asked whether he had tried to call the number; he said no, because he wasn't sure whether someone wasn't just messing with him. Because he didn't want to give the hitter his own number via caller ID, my neighbor called the police instead. I said that, if the person was aboveboard enough to leave a number, he or she couldn't be all bad.

I told my neighbor that I'd wait with him for the police to arrive; the police seemed to be taking their sweet damn time. While I waited, I took my go-bag and laptop up to my apartment, along with a box of books I had brought back from YB, then I went to the rental office to recharge my electronic laundry-machine card. Those errands performed, I went back out to hold vigil with my neighbor. The policeman still hadn't come.

It was about a half hour before the cop arrived—bald, mustachioed, and wearing an uncomfortably hot-looking flak jacket. He got out and spoke a bit with my neighbor, squinting perplexedly at the scrawled phone number, whose final four digits were barely legible. "Gotta give 'im credit for at least leaving you a message," said the cop, echoing my sentiments. His pate glistened sweatily in the afternoon sun as he tried several possible phone numbers based on the scrawled message. None of the people he spoke with would confess to having been involved in a fender-bender either this morning or last night, so the officer left it at that. He asked my neighbor whether he wanted to pursue the matter; my neighbor shrugged and said "Nah; not worth it." He apologized for bringing the officer out on this errand, and with that, the cop got back in his car and drove off.

My neighbor looked at me ruefully. "There's not much damage here," he said. "Barely any scratches." He took a cell-phone photo of the message for future reference; I offered him a paper towel and some wiper fluid with which to wipe the message off his window.

And that was that. Strange.



  1. We went down to the parking garage once a few months ago to find a note on our car, saying that someone had hit the car, and they left a message. Our car has so many scrapes and scratches, though, that we couldn't figure out where they might have hit it. Nothing looked fresh. So we just shrugged and tossed the note.

    There are advantages to having an old car that's been around the block a few times.

  2. I'm not sure my neighbor went about this the right way. He struck me as overly paranoid about letting others have his phone number; had it been my car, I'd have tried calling the number right way and settling this personally. By getting the police involved, my neighbor pretty much ensured that everyone the policeman called would clam up for fear of arrest or some sort of penalty. (The officer did his best to be reassuring during his calls: "I know this may sound a bit crazy..." "Don't worry—you won't be charged or arrested or anything..." But how reassuring is it to have Warren County's finest breathing down your neck?)

    The policeman noted that, since the hitter had left a note, this couldn't be classified as a hit-and-run. Unfortunately, the final digits of the hitter's phone number were so garbled that s/he might as well have not left a number at all. Very frustrating for my neighbor, but in the end, not too tragic: his Jeep suffered only very slight cosmetic damage. As happened in your case, my neighbor's just dropping the whole thing. Not worth worrying about.

  3. Oh, yeah—my neighbor and I both thought it strange that the hitter would have the means to write, right there on the spot, a message on a car's glass window.

    "Maybe he or she has a car-hitting habit, and has had to do this before," I ventured. Neither of us is sure what medium the hitter used, but I'm going to guess it's some sort of soap.



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