I wrecked the family car this week.
It was unarguably my fault. I was preoccupied with my own thoughts and drove right through a red light. Lemme tell ya, I felt awful for the poor tourist who hit me.
As for myself...well, I am physically uninjured. And the damage to the car doesn't actually seem that bad; a smooshed rear passenger door and side panel. But the car is so old that it seems likely our insurance company will opt to pay us the blue book value rather than shell out to repair it.
This wouldn't be such a bad thing IF we had the funds to buy a replacement. The car has the automotive version of leprosy anyway. Plastic bits you'd never think were important - like door handles and dashboard knobs - have disintegrated in the hot Florida sun. There's a fossilized mass of gunk that used to be a vanilla milkshake welded to one floorboard, and dents on the hood and roof from where our son (the autistic one) thought it would be fun to play atop the car with a brick. The trunk won't latch and is held shut with a bungee cord. The cheap self-tint film some previous owner applied to the windows is peeling off and starting to affect visibility. If we had the money to replace it with something in better shape I'd be shrugging the whole incident off with a "c'est la vie" and being grateful that nobody was injured.
But we don't. All we have is the pittance the insurance company will pay us for the car.
And the thing is, it's worth a lot more than book value to us. Despite its issues this car is THE reliable transportation not just for Izzy, myself and the kids but also for my mother, tia and his roommate. There's little chance of finding an equally reliable replacement for what the insurance company will pay us. So what should be a minor crisis, easily remedied, becomes a potentially major catastrophe. (And this is what the alleged "recovery" looks like to those of us who are clinging desperately to the lower edge of middle-class.)
It's ironic because I am one of those people who's a fanatic about obeying traffic laws. I'm the sort who will sit through a red light at 3am when there's obviously no traffic for miles because IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. So naturally the one time I fail to pay adequate attention results in a collision.
But the biggest irony? The thoughts which occupied my mind so much that I failed to mind the road were worries about money.