My Egg McMuffin lust landed me at the McDonald’s drive-thru yesterday morning, just like it does on more mornings than I care to admit.
But something odd happened yesterday.
This drive-thru has two lanes. When I arrived, a maroon minivan was idling at the fork between the two, waiting to see which lane might open up first.
I pulled behind her to wait my turn. Suddenly, the driver threw the minivan into reverse.
I had a split second to honk my horn. I didn’t actually locate the horn until after the minivan slammed into me. Hard.
I sat there stunned for a moment. I don’t generally expect to be rammed at 9 a.m., especially not by a stranger in the McDonald’s parking lot. With my whole body shaking, I stepped out of my car and surveyed the front of it.
A few words about my car: it’s old. It was the first new car I ever bought, but that was almost 14 years ago. It runs fine, but the front bumper has been smashed on one side for more than two years. Since it’s expensive to fix and the car is no showpiece, I’ve never bothered.
But as I stood there staring at a car that bore no damage beyond what existed when I got into it a few minutes before, an evil thought flitted through my brain:
The driver doesn’t know the bumper was already damaged. No one’s insurance company knows. They could pay to fix it.
No sooner had the evil thought crossed my mind when the other driver came hustling toward me. I didn’t even look up. “I’m OK,” I said. “The car is fine. That bumper was already damaged.”
Her expression was unreadable. “It was already like that?” She bit her lip. “Here, let me get my insurance information for you anyway.”
And so we did that awkward exchange people always do when they try to play it cool and pretend they know what they’re doing, but all they’re really thinking is, “holyshitholyshitholyshitholyshit.”
The other driver had trouble finding her insurance card at first, so while she fumbled and phoned, I pulled into the drive-thru.
What? I still needed my Egg McMuffin.
As I circled back around to meet the other driver, I mulled the evil thought. I know I’d never really lie like that. I don’t have it in me (insert additional ramming joke here).
Still, the evil thought was there, if only for a split second. I’m not proud of it, though maybe I should be proud I never would have acted on it. Does that cancel it out?
Once the Egg McMuffin was in my system and my hands stopped shaking, I got a closer look at the minivan. It was well-aged like my car, and the tires were bald. The driver was kind and a little frazzled.
Would I have felt differently if she’d acted belligerent? If she’d been driving a brand new Mercedes? If it bore an offensive bumper sticker?
As I drove away, one last thought hit me: the insurance info I scribbled for her was on a business card identifying me as an author with a new release and a three book deal.
What? Never miss a chance to sell a book.
I saw her studying the card as I got back in my car, and wondered what she was thinking.
If she’s like many people unfamiliar with the publishing world, she might operate under the misconception that published authors make tons of money.
One look at my car probably disavowed her of that notion. Did knowing my profession change her view of me? Did it change her view of authors?
Feel free to speculate on any of the questions I’ve posed here. Or hey, feel free to make a ramming joke.
Here, I'll get you started: Wow, my neck is kinda stiff from that hard ramming. And speaking of stiff...