I ran into a Loyola student last week.
It was about 11 a.m. on Wednesday. I was making a right turn from one multi-lane avenue into another and the student, in the lane to my left, turned right in a slightly wider arc at about the same time. The left front corner of my car creased the front and rear doors on his passenger side as he sped past me. My bumper and left fender suffered some damage, and both had splotches of paint rubbed from his car.
After we had parked and shaken our heads at the damages, he told me that he had been speeding to get to school.
“Loyola or Tulane,” I asked.
“What’s your major?”
“Music industry studies, but I’m also taking courses in music business.”
“I retired from Loyola a couple of years ago,” I volunteered. “I taught in mass comm.”
I gave him my name.
“Oh, yeah, geez. Now I know you,” he said, “You lectured on public speaking to my business communication class. You were awesome.”
That calmed the storm that had roiled my innards..
And seeing as how we had established our bond, he said, “I’m really sorry.”
I asked his name. “Timothy,” he said. (Why does no one under the age of 30 seem to have a last name?)
Both, we discovered are insured by State Farm. And while he called the company, I dialed 911.
Afterwards we looked at the damages again. “I know a guy who can pop that right out,” he said, looking at the long crease along his doors. Mine would have to go into a shop, certainly, but I didn’t know of a reputable one. And the shop would probably keep the car for a week, probably more. I swore under my breath.
I heard Timothy say, "This is my first accident." I silently swore again. Lucky me.
At least the weather was pleasant, and we took to the curb and made small talk. He told me about his dream to go on to law school and become an entertainment attorney. He also wants to buy a hat when he becomes an attorney and wear it to his office downtown as other attorneys do.
“Hats are coming back, I think,” he said. “I see lots of men wearing them. When did they go out of fashion?”
I said that President Kennedy didn’t like to wear hats, and that set a style for younger men.
“What about that president before him?” he asked. I forget his name.”
“Eisenhower. He wore hats, like most men of his time.”
“A hat will keep me from getting dandruff from the sun beating down on my head, too,” he said, and he bent his head and parted a swatch of thick, black hair. He did not have dandruff.
We talked about all the potholes that pockmark New Orleans’ streets, the broken streetlights, the city’s broken infrastructure generally, its underclass and their housing, the failure of office holders to improve conditions. And so we killed little more than an hour, and during that time no squad cars drove past the intersection in any direction. We remarked on that, too, because the intersection is near a relatively high crime area, and it is rare not to see one.
I did see a small car make the same illegal turn. It had the State Farm logo and an agent's name painted on the door.
Nearly an hour and a half had gone by when a parade of some five or six squad cars drove past us.
“Must be heading from the donut shop to lunch,” I quipped. Timothy laughed. Another point for him.
All the drivers ignored my waving—all but the last, and I think he must have been the officer who had been sent to the scene after my call.
We gave him our licenses and registration and insurance cards. He handed us forms on which to describe the circumstances. That’s an improvement, I thought. Some years back, when one of my daughters was involved in an accident, the officer listened to the versions she and the other driver gave him and wrote the report. It would have received a D for spelling, grammar and composition from a sixth grade teacher. A generous sixth grade teacher.
Timothy and I gave the officer our completed forms, and he told me they matched in the important particulars. He gave Timothy a ticket for “improper lane usage” and handed back our credentials.
It was close to one o’clock.
Timothy and I shook hands. Neither of us said it had been nice to see the other again. Then he drove off to campus and, I can only suppose, to explain his absence to his professor. I drove home to explain my tardiness to the missus.