“Yo!  I can fix that dent – it’s what I do!”

I hear that a lot.  Today, it was from some guy that walked up to me in the drive-thru as I was ordering my lunch.

See, I have a dent on the driver side, rear panel of my car.  It’s not a new dent nor is it very big in the scheme of things.  It’s been there quite some time.  I keep it there to remind me that even I can be a dumbass sometimes.

People have said some nice things about me (and some not-nice things) over the years.  Stuff like I’m really patient or calm, easy to work with, great at training or explaining something.  But even I can get frustrated or screw up when I’m in a hurry.

Gosh, probably three years ago maybe?  I was working for a company up on I-70 and working late, as usual.  I didn’t particularly care for the company I worked for, but I believed in the product/service we could offer if run correctly so I was always trying.  Anyway, I was working late when I really didn’t need to be working late.

One of my cousins had moved to California to live with her dad for awhile, and was back for a visit.  That night, the family was getting together and having a nice, big dinner so everyone could visit with her and it was all the way down south in the Littleton/Centennial area – a good thirty minute drive with traffic on the interstate.  And I was already leaving later than I’d planned.

I was the only person left in the building, which meant I had to go around and make sure all the doors were closed, all the alarms were set, lights were off – that sort of thing.  I did this in record time and headed out to my car, watching the clock and cursing that I was going to be late for dinner.  I backed my car up out of the parking place so I could leave, and it stopped where I didn’t expect it to stop.  I looked in my mirror and didn’t see anything – heck, the parking lot was empty!  I gave it a little gas, nothing – wouldn’t budge.  So I looked again – there was nothing I could see so I gave it a lot of gas and heard the sound no one wants to hear – a crunch.

Getting out of the car, I saw what had stopped me from backing up: A telephone pole.

Of all the things to miss – a telephone pole in the middle of the parking lot.  I knew it was there, had seen it a billion times before, had had people in the company tell me stories about other’s who’d rammed the damned thing backing up and here I was now, with a story all of my own.

Absolutely pissed, I moved my car forward and then backed out at an angle and took off down the road.

Driving towards dinner, I was pissed and angry – fuming even.  Freaking telephone pole this.  Flipping telephone that.  “Who would put a telephone pole in the middle of a parking lot?!” I wanted to know.  Basically, I was looking to blame everyone but myself.

Eventually, I calmed down, made it down south without further incident and had a good visit with family, but the dent was still there to remind me of what had happened.  And that’s when I realized what had happened.   I was looking to blame everyone except myself, when it really was all my fault.

I looked, but didn’t look, if you get my meaning.   How many times do you look in your rear view mirror, but not your side mirrors?  There’s a pretty good reason they exist, you know?  I hadn’t looked in my side mirror because I was in a hurry.  I was rushed.  I didn’t take the time to figure out what was going on and so, my car got a dent in the side.

At first, I didn’t have the money to fix the dent.  Later, when I did, I still didn’t fix it because I wanted to be reminded that sometimes I needed to slow down, to think through things and not act rashly or impulsively – believe me, I know that’s a lot to ask of a dent, but there it is.   As time has gone on and people comment on the dent, I explain to them what happened and why I keep it.

Sure, I could get the dent fixed.  I probably don’t even need it as a reminder anymore.  But it’s sort of become like an old war wound or something; a scar that people ask me about and I tell them about the day I was a complete dumbass and how I strive not to repeat that mistake again.  They smile and nod, probably not quite getting it.

To them, it’s just a dent.

~P