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My Unforgettable Car

I am reminiscing. I want to tell the tale of my first car.
It was a birthday present, which probably makes me sound like a spoiled rich girl- but it was a retired mail car with a super cracked windshield that my dad bought for $500.
I loved it, and it is legend.
About that windshield- the crack was splintery at the top, then lightning bolted down the middle. Right under the splintery part was the rear view mirror-
But only most of the time.
The rearview was glued there. Any time you had to adjust the mirror it would try to pop off, and I’d have to restick it and pray.
One of many, many quirks. The gas gauge lied- the 1/4 tank line meant “empty” My brother borrowed the car and thought I exaggerated.
He learned.
Without fail, every time I turned on the heater, the smell of maple syrup would blow out of the vents. It would straight up hit you in the face. People would ask me if I ‘d been eating pancakes or something.
It was such a merciful old car (already 14 years old when I got it). It would always sweetly and gently break down one manageable bill at a time.
As a broke college student, I could only afford to fix it at 1 mechanic shop where the owner felt sorry for me.
My mechanic, Baity, always thought he was seeing the car for the last time. He was all “I fixed the brakes, but it won’t last much longer” “I fixed the engine” “radiator” “fan belt” “that thing that kept catching on fire.”
Oh it loved to catch on fire.
It caught on fire when my dad and I packed it up with all my stuff to move in to college. We hit traffic and as we waited flames sprouted under the hood.
Dad got us to a parts store and replaced a few things and my Franken-vehicle lived again.
It still hated traffic though. Too many stop lights in a row or, god forbid, a single traffic jam and I’m on fire yet again. I got used to it. Concerned people would pull over as I let things cool off and ask if I needed anything, and I’d wave them on.
For about 6 months my heater went out, then 6 months without AC, then I couldn’t open the driver side door, so I’d scooch to the other side, then that door broke, so I rolled down my window and opened it from the outside (made for a very embarrassing traffic stop incident).
My window slid all the way down and would only go up in one inch increments after you started the car. My sister and I stayed in it for about an hour once, starting the car to roll up an inch, and repeating it again and again and again. I’d scream when someone rolled it down.
Then it went down and stayed down, and I drove with saran wrap around the hole for a couple of months. Guests loved it. What they really liked, though, was when the trunk would fly open at stoplights. I’d casually ask them to scoot out and close it. Much harder without guests.
My parents gave me that car when I was 17. They said they’d pay for the insurance on it until I bought a car of my own. They didn’t know how determined that car was to survive. They paid insurance on it through my high school, college, and grad school days. It wanted to LIVE.
My mechanic was a dear friend at this point, and I think we would have patched and patched that car forever. Unfortunately, one day, without any lights or warnings whatsoever, black smoke erupted from every end. I’d just pulled in to my house when the car gave up the ghost.
It had silently run out of oil on me. Irreparable damage. I donated it to cars for kids and, when I realized I forgot to remove the tags, I tried to get back to it. They told me it was already crushed. It and me both.
I loved that car and think of it often. I still get a little panicky in traffic jams, even though my well behaved vehicles since then have never once burst into flame. You never forget your first.

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My Greatest Shame: Picking (and Sticking With) the Wrong Lawyer

*The picture is of college me.

Midterm grades are in, and Fall Break has officially commenced! Yay!

It’s a Monday, but I was still able to buy groceries, cook, and play with the kids. Professor mode is switched off for the time being. Husband gave me a little writing time, and I think I am officially in a good enough mood to write about something that’s been hanging over my head for ages.

The great shame of my life (thus far)- the time I trusted, hired, and continued to trust, all the way to my sad, troubled ending, Mr. Tim Moore.

Back story:

I was hit by a car the week before spring semester final exams at UNC.

I was a pedestrian in a crosswalk on campus. No alcohol involved, in case anyone’s curious. A police officer witnessed the accident, and I was immediately cared for.

Details are fuzzy on my end, since either the accident or the shock took 24 hours of my memory.

Amnesia is weird.

When my family escorted me back to my dorm in the wee hours of the morning, we worked through what happened that day based on the evidence in the room: I had apparently bought groceries, treated myself to a king size candy bar (which I really wish I could remember), and I had bought Dune and read the first 200 pages (I reread them later, and I could have kept that one unremembered and been just fine).

My mom watched over me while I slept, in case I had a concussion. We found where I had parked my car the previous day (which took a minute, since I couldn’t remember), and my family took me home.

Bloody legs and a lump on my head took a while to calm down. I returned to UNC, took my final exams, and had my first talk with the insurance company- the one that was supposed to cover the damages from the guy who hit me. They recommended I get a lawyer.

Nice of them, really. I knew nothing of legalities, and my hospital bills weren’t that high. If they’d just covered my medical bills up to that point, I might have treated this like a regular car accident and moved on.  

Then, the bruising on my legs just stayed and stayed. That escalated things.

I shopped for lawyers in the two weeks between spring semester and summer sessions. I asked the (usually women) who answered the phone whether or not they would recommend the lawyers they worked for. I got 3 “yes,” 1 “no,” and 1 emphatic “He’s the best.”

Tim Moore should give that woman a raise.

I met Tim Moore, told him the whole story, and was assured this was the kind of case he could handle with ease. I signed some papers, giving him the right to request this and that from the police and hospital. Moore encouraged me to go to a specific doctor’s office.

I couldn’t get an appointment with that doctor in the immediate future, so I scheduled it out for a month later. I saw a local doctor in the meantime, and, a month later, Moore’s suggested specialist corroborated my local doctor’s diagnosis: the numb patch and discolored bruising on my legs were most likely permanent. It wasn’t surprising. It was even common for injuries of this sort.

There were big lawyer repercussions for “permanent injuries,” though.

Over the next year, I called Tim Moore’s office from time to time to see how things were going and if they needed anything from me. I called because they almost never did- the whole year.

Each time I called, I was assured everything was going well. They were just waiting for this or that. It started to sound really repetitive, so I pushed a bit. Then we would have a very brief, very difficult to schedule meeting that always started the same way:

Moore (looking through my file): So it’s… Stephanie… who was… hit by a car…

They say I had amnesia of the incident. It was nothing compared to my lawyer’s.

I wanted to jump ship, but with a year down, it was hard to imagine. I was in the middle of my master’s degree, and didn’t know where to turn. By the end of our meetings, Moore always made it sound like he had already done a lot for my case and had even more still in the works.

I just had to wait. Be patient.

Until the time ran out.

He let the time run out.

With just a little while left before my case would expire, I was once again assured that Moore could handle it. Then, I suddenly received a phone call from the man himself. He explained that he didn’t have time right now, so he was recommending I allow him to transfer my case to this other lawyer he knew. The other lawyer had already agreed to take it on, if I gave the go-ahead.

I’m so ashamed of my stupidity. This is really hard to write.

I accepted. The new lawyer (who always sounded frustrated and put out by having my case thrust into his lap), said he didn’t recommend renewing my case, so we would have to settle quickly. My file from Moore’s office was apparently very thin, and my new lawyer didn’t feel like we had much to work with. All of those things Mr. Moore had told me he’d had in the works either never came to fruition or never existed in the first place.

So ashamed.

The timing was terrible. When all of the frantic offer and counteroffer phone calls were happening, I was studying for my impending Master’s exam.

I passed my exam. I failed my first legal interaction.

A no-fault pedestrian struck in a pedestrian crosswalk, inflicted with permanent, uncomfortable bruising- and a settling offer that covered medical and legal fees, and might have paid for my Master’s exam book list.

Maybe.

I mean, there were a lot of books on that list.

I blame myself, but I hope there is no mistaking what I blame myself for- trusting Tim Moore. I absolutely should have jumped that ship. 

Deep breath.

Fall Break continues. After having to write this, I think corralling the kids into the kitchen for some extraordinarily messy cookie baking is in order.

Have a chocolate chippy day, folks.