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The Column

Instant Carma's Gonna Get Me
12/5/04

I used to have insanely good luck. I find money, I guess numbers that you're thinking of, and I spent a childhood in New York City without ever getting mugged, jumped, or even looked at funny. But my luck may have finally run out. Quick, think of a number. Seven! No? Damn.

I always imaged if someone told me that my luck just ran out, it'd be a guy in pinstripes mowing me down with a tommy gun. Instead, it's everyone I tell about my car trouble. The world seems to agree that I'm insanely lucky when it comes to everything but cars.

I was first hit from behind after braking to avoid another guy a week after I bought a car – I wrote about that. A few months later, I totaled my car swerving to avoid a police officer parked on the interstate – I wrote about that, too. But since then, two incidents so mind-boggling have happened that I wanted to save them for a special "I shouldn't ever touch a car again" edition of Observational Humor.

I'll write about the easier one first. While at a full stop on the customs line on the way into Canada last week, I was hit from behind by a guy on a cell phone. He was somehow angry at me – that I had the nerve to interrupt his call by asking him for his insurance information. I'm currently in the middle of filing a claim.

The other one is a bit more insane. I flew home for a week in November and rented a car, leaving mine with a mechanic to get checked out. I was driving home at 2AM one night and stopped before making a right turn at a red light – perfectly legal in LA. Before I completed the turn, a guy on a bike drove into the side of my car.

How ridiculous is that? It gets worse. The guy grabbed at his shoulder and said it he slammed it on the hood. Which would have been impressive because he never fell off his bike. Just incase he did fall off his bike and got back on while I blinked, he was also holding the wrong shoulder – he hit me with his right side facing the car, and he was holding his left shoulder.

I suggested we call the police and get him immediate medical attention, and he backed off a bit, which made me follow through with the call. EMS said he was fine and the cops cited him for riding a bike on the sidewalk and riding at night without a light. They also listed him at fault for the accident. But somehow I got a call this week saying he still insists it was me.

The rental company assured me I had nothing to worry about. But they're wrong. I have something to worry about every time I start the engine – I have to worry that the guy behind me has no brakes or that there's a cop parked in the interstate or I might get attacked by a scam artist with a bike. I have to worry that the insanely good luck I've had my entire life isn't there when I'm behind a wheel. And I have to worry about coming up with a column idea that doesn't involve steel being crumpled.

One the plus side, none of these incidents happened when another person was in the car – but maybe that's just someone up there screwing with me. These accidents don't hurt anyone – reporting them just embarrasses me to death.

Only once have I demonstrated actual skill behind the wheel. When I rented a car in Baltimore, they forgot to give me one with brakes. So while turning off the interstate going 50, I turned off the interstate going 50. I somehow found a space between two pylons and I coasted to a stop on the dirt. I was okay, and the company didn't make me pay for the rental, unless you count almost soiling myself as payment.

I've avoided one accident and gotten into four others. And it's only been four months since I started driving. Sure, I drive five thousand miles a month. But this is still ridiculous.

At least I have not yet gotten a speeding ticket – that luck is holding up. I was pulled over once, and I told the officer that it was the first time I'd used cruise control, and I didn't realize it made you go faster on hills. He told me that I should be careful using cruise, as it could go anywhere from one to ten miles faster than I originally set it.

I guess seven.

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