Monday, July 25, 2011

This morning I dropped off the rental car. I pulled it into the garage and a lady came out, and asked, would you like a receipt? I said no, and turned and left. "Was that the right thing to do?" I asked myself. Not about the receipt but about the damage, which occurred just after I left San Francisco, got on the 880 south and hit a scrap of tire that had been ejected from an 18 wheeler. I saw it ahead of me, and looked to go around it but I was blocked in by a car to my right. By the time I looked back to the road and to my left, I was upon it, and it thunked, and immediately a ticking and flapping sound started coming from the car. I slowed down and a mile later took the first exit off the highway, somewhere around Mountain View.

The piece of plastic that protected the undercarriage of the right front portion of the car, including the wheel well, about a square foot of it, had been torn. There was nothing damaged mechanically, but the plastic bolts that held this black piece of plastic to the bottom of the car had been sheered, and the flapping sound was the plastic getting chewed up as it was battered between the road and the rotating tire, like a can being dragged on a string. It was easy to see what had happened and it was a relief that the damage was not more serious. However I did not buy the insurance that covers this kind of damage. What will I say, and will they charge me eight hundred dollars to get it fixed? I don't know but I'd like to get going, and I picked up a couple of sticks from the ground, a little larger than the diameter of the missing bolts, and reconnected the protective piece to the chassis of the car. It held relatively firmly and I got back in the car and continued south.

The jerry-rig held until Sunday, and when it came undone we stopped at a truck stop, bought some duct tape and resecured the plastic in a way that did not show the silver sheen of the tape. I returned it this morning, bringing me back to the original question of reporting the damage or not. On the one hand it's possible that the rigging will hold for a while and nobody will notice it. The rental car company can afford to pay for it, and I cannot without putting it all on a close to maxed out credit card. On the other hand, it's "the right thing to do" to own up to a mistake, and possibly avoid any mishaps for future drivers. Obvioulsy I've made my choice, but there's the question of will they notice? Will they call? Will I end up paying for it anyway? If they ask will I say it was like that when I got it? Will I continue to lie? These questions have followed me around this morning and soon they will make a little nest somewhere in my body. And they will live inside of me until I am held responsible.