Muslim, Jew Clash in Local Parking Lot; Police Called

My first post at Chicago Moms Blog. Originally published May 12, 2007.

It was Friday afternoon and I was running around like a madwoman trying to accomplish a series of errands before school pick-up which fell 1.5 hours earlier than normal because, well, isn't there always something interrupting the 5 days/week, 7 hours/day school routine?

I'd stopped at the Hadassah resale shop to drop off a few household discards items. Hadassah is a national Jewish women's organization; this little store helps support Israel's flagship medical institution, Hadassah Hospital. Just as the hospital treats patients without regard to religious background or financial concerns, the Hadassah Resale shop sells to anyone and their prices are gentle on one's wallet. As is my bad habit, after delivering my goods I got distracted. This time, a vintage apron grabbed my attention because it matched my blog. Stained retro apron in hand, I jumped in my car and started backing up when I saw the woman in the parked car next to me frantically waving her hands. My right, back bumper scraped her car above the left side of her tire well. Damn! I pulled forward and we both got out and inspected the damage, which seemed minimal. Both cars had a few minor scratches (never have I yearned for a camera phone as at that moment).

I profusely apologized as I wiped our cars clean to further assess the damage (still minimal IMHO). She insisted we I call the police to file a report. I know a police report was as much for my defense as hers, but the clock was ticking...I had to pick up my kids in ten minutes. It seemed inappropriate to call 911 for a couple of scratched cars, but when we tried the non-emergency police number that's exactly what they told me to do.

I explained the incident to the 911 dispatcher. She asked if our situation was an emergency. "Only in that I have to go pick up my kids from school really soon," I replied. (Note to self: avoid making sarcastic jokes to emergency dispatchers; it took forever for a policeman to arrive.)

Once the good officer arrived and handed us copies of the accident report and I noticed the woman had a common Muslim surname, I saw the whole incident in a new light. Suddenly we, Jew and Muslim, were a metaphor for Middle East peace. If we could get through this little incident without hurling insults, weapons, or involving the insurance bureaucracy, then my hopes for peace between our people would be raised.

Sure, I'd encroached upon her territory, but I hoped we could reach an amicable settlement. During out negotiations we learned we had much in common- we live in the same community, we're both mothers with multiple jobs and responsibilities, we both drive seven year-old cars--but here we reached an impasse. Whereas I planned to repair my two quarter-sized scratches with a $25 bottle of touch-up paint, she headed to a body shop and received a repair estimate of nearly $550! Things got tense, but she agreed to seek out another estimate. The second estimate, which came from a reputable shop, was close to $500.

The agreement has been sealed. I am to meet her at the body shop later this week to pay for the repairs. My moment of inattention is surely going to cost me, but at least I'm able to pay with cash, not my life. If only we could broker a deal like this in the Middle East.

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