The steep cost of learning by mistake


Near Darke

By Hank Nuwer


I labored at my computer on a bitterly cold February day as a black truck crashed into my Union City, Ind. house. The truck smacked the siding just beneath the window behind me.

It shook up both the house and my composure.

Hey wait! Is the driver pulling away?

Holy smoke, he’s backing up. He’s hightailing it down Division Street.

I run out in my socks to see a black truck with handicapped plate speeding along Division Street. I get a partial plate description.

My wife Gosia races outside as the driver steps out to check damage. He gets back in and then takes a hard left at Stateline Street.

I call 911 and sound breathless because I am breathless. The 911 operator is so helpful.

A Union City officer responds immediately. He served as player-coach for the Stateline football team in 2020. I interviewed him for the Daily Advocate.

Good, solid guy. We have mutual buddies.

Gosia, the officer, and I check the debris under my window and on the front stoop.

Bits of white and amber glass are everywhere.

And it won’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the truck’s maker.

The officer inspects a damaged Toyota grille perched next to a rose bush.

The officer photographs the debris and tire marks in the snow. The Toyota truck skidded 60 feet before jumping a curb.

Gosia and I expected an accident here.

Most drivers obey the speed limit, but there is no stop sign on the North Union corner bend where it intersects with Division.

Hint, hint, Union City administration. Think you could consider adding stop signs? City snowplows do a great job, but snow on top of rain creates a hazard.

The officer calls in the info to his superior.

The Union City chief of police comes by for a look. Then a second officer joins the first. I recognize him from the Union City coffee shop.

I reflect how incredibly lucky I am to live in a city with police who are professional but also good people. Other cities could learn a thing from them.

The two officers leave, and I get back to my writing deadline.

One of the officers began patrolling the Stateline area. He located the damaged black Toyota.

A knock on the house door brought out a scared teenage boy and his dad.

The boy offered a quick explanation that went something like this: “Dad, you know that telephone pole I said I hit? Um, it was a house.”

Ah, the joys of parenting!

The officers tell the youth, an unshaven, tousle-haired boy of 17, he made four mistakes.

He used his mom’s car although he has no license.

He drove too fast for the ice and snow.

Upon sliding, he stood on the brakes instead of easing off the gas and going in the direction of the swerve.

He panicked and left the scene of an accident.

The officers took a statement from the boy and wrote him up. They suggested that the boy come over to Gosia and me.

The kid said we would bite his head off. The officers assured him we would not.

The officers couldn’t have handled the situation better.

My mind was on the time I didn’t tell my dad I got a speeding ticket.

Who knew the Buffalo News published the names of traffic offenders?

“Did that learn you a lesson?” my big, strapping war-veteran dad asked.

I nodded, not daring to offer a grammar correction. I’m still blushing 60 years later.

Gosia and I were happy to visit with the boy and his dad.

The boy offered to pay for damages but there was no need.

He’ll be hard-pressed to contribute his paycheck for the Toyota’s body work.

We all departed on good terms. They seemed like good neighbors.

But before they left, Gosia — being a mother — couldn’t help saying one thing.

“Everything was OK until you decided to escape,” she said. “No one was hurt, and you could have called your parents to come by. Now you have two marks on your record.”

The boy nodded and said he just panicked.

Gosia and I have a good feeling about him. The next time the young man faces a problem in life, we bet he’ll face it like a man.

Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

No posts to display