Sunday, October 07, 2007

Our First Accident

And no, I was not the one driving!

It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon. We were on our way to a birthday party at the “parcela” (piece of land out in the country) of a friend’s family, and as usual we were late. (The lateness was not a factor in this particular incident, however.)

We reached a busy intersection just a few minutes from home, and Pedro prepared to turn left. However, a very large bus was preparing to turn right from the opposite direction and there was no way both of them could make the turn at the same time! Pedro wondered if perhaps he wasn’t supposed to turn left at that intersection (we later confirmed that he could have) and decided to go straight instead.

At the moment he pulled ahead, an impatient driver behind us decided to go around us on the right. Our car swiped his car – just a quick, gentle bump. But while our car has nice plastic bumpers that cover a multitude of evils (remember the incident I had with the gate?), his two-day old sedan did not. (Even so, the scratch - if it could even be called that- was very minimal.)

A typical response here in Chile would have been to simply drive off and pretend the sideswipe didn’t happen. I’m not putting down Chileans by saying so, but it is simply a fact that in certain areas of life honesty is not a virtue here. For instance, people will jump on the back of a bus to avoid paying the fare in the front. Or, they will slip under the metal bar at the subway entrance instead of paying the fee. Case in point, Pedro and I were in the house wares section of a department store the other day when a little boy knocked over a glass and it shattered on the floor. His grandmother was walking beside him and I heard her say, “Just keep walking like nothing happened.” His mother, a few steps ahead, turned around and asked, “What did you do?” To which the grandmother replied without the slightest hesitation, “I don’t know. I didn’t see anything.”

My upright husband, however, followed the other driver into the gas station and spoke with him about the situation. Unfortunately, because we have only the minimal, mandatory insurance coverage (due to the issue with Pedro’s name change, which has held up an important document relating to the car) we couldn’t simply exchange insurance information. The way the other driver saw it, we could either face the music with his insurance company or we could pay him $100 bucks and he would tell them he ran into a pole! He added that if we were to go through the insurance channels, they might not allow us to travel for awhile.

We were at a loss to know how this is actually ethically handled in Chile and so we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to call back on Monday. We are planning to call another missionary who supposedly had a similar experience in order to get some guidance on the issue. And so this is the story of our first accident in Chile. May it also be our last …!!

(P.S. The fun didn’t end there that day. In trying to find our friend’s parcela with our limited knowledge of the new highway system, we turned a 30-minute drive into 2.5 hours! We almost gave up, but having promised our kids the fun of a birthday party complete with inflatable bouncing toys we just couldn’t. We finally made it, and it was very enjoyable.)

1 comment:

Deborah said...


I am so sorry! I totaled my car in July, but I don't feel like it had THAT much headache associated with it (although, I, too, would love for that to be my last accident!). I'll pray that it all works out for you!