By Barbara Tuttle
Barbara Tuttle, Minneapolis, is the reference and instruction librarian at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount.
One evening recently, I pulled out of a parking spot at my local supermarket and felt that sickening thud that meant I'd hit a car behind me, coming down the lane. It didn't sound too bad. But a glance in my rearview mirror showed a man storming out of his black SUV.
"Hey! You just hit a $100,000 vehicle!" he yelled. He was a big man in his late 30s. His body language told me I was going to get socked in the jaw. I wondered what it would feel like.
Instead, the assault happened in words. As he roared invectives, the woman beside him screamed over and over, "You witch! You witch!"
My heart pounded, but I stayed calm. "It doesn't have to be like this," I said. "I have very good insurance." He called me a scam artist. Though it was 6:30 at night, he demanded I call my insurance company that very moment, right there in a southwest Minneapolis parking lot.
Hands shaking, I pulled out my insurance card and dialed the toll-free number. The person answering the phones wanted information about the man's vehicle. "Year, make and model?" the man yelled when I asked. "You've got to be kidding me." His sidekick resumed shrieking, "You witch, you witch!"
The police would handle this, he said. He'd already called 911. And we were all going to wait there in the freezing parking lot until they arrived, presumably to haul me off in manacles.
"You're scaring me," I said.
"You should be scared!" he yelled. "You should be scared!"
But there are angels in this world, and I met three of them that night. A woman and then a man appeared at my side to ask if I was OK. "Not really," I said. "This man is scaring me," which brought forth a burst of "She should be scared, she should be scared!" from the man. He sneered at them for coming to my aid, told them I needed to be taught a lesson, whipped out his camera and took their pictures.
The nice man invited the other woman and me to wait in his warm car. We exchanged names: He was Patrick, she was Casey. By odd chance, Casey was a claims adjuster. Patrick said, "That man is carrying a world of hurt, and he's going to make sure everyone else feels it."
"Are you OK?" he asked me, adding: "I'm a psychologist." We all laughed. Too perfect.
He put calming New Age music on his CD player and talked about his mellow lunch hour at CorePower Yoga. Casey whipped out her smart phone to show us a photo of her beloved rat terrier/Chihuahua mix, wearing a pink cape. We gushed about our pets, all rescue animals.
Then a kind-looking 20-something guy appeared at the window. "I thought you might like having another man here," he said. "That guy is lucky I love Jesus, because otherwise I'd have socked him."
Then Mr. Maniac came over, in a calmer mood. It had been more than an hour, and the police hadn't arrived. Seems they had crises more pressing than a minor bump on this man's SUV. We traded insurance information. As he drove away, Casey, Patrick and I bemoaned the fact that we hadn't gotten his license plate number. But the man who loves Jesus had made a point of it. He'd held it in his mind for a good 15 minutes.
There was nothing more to be done. In the light of day, insurance would handle it. Without hesitation, the four of us, each one of us, hugged all the others goodbye.
The next morning I got a good look at my bumper. It has a minor scrape, which tells you just how "serious" this accident was. If the angry man's black behemoth is worth the $100K he paid for it, I can't believe it sustained much damage. I hadn't checked because I was not about to go anywhere near him that night.
Given the minor nature of this so-called collision, I figured his rage was about something bigger. He certainly seemed to think that the value of his vehicle, which he kept trumpeting, entitled him to treat me like scum. He wanted me alone, isolated — little me and my salt-coated 15-year-old car vs. the big man with the shiny rolling fortress. He hadn't counted on good people coming to my aid.
For the past week I've had flashbacks. Again, I feel the horrified disbelief of that night. But what is winning out in my mind is this: That three people, without hesitation, dropped their plans and gave nearly two hours of a January night to protect me in a cold parking lot. They put themselves in the path of a big man on the verge of snapping.
We didn't trade contact information, so I only know them as Patrick, Casey, and The Man Who Loves Jesus. When we said goodbye, I told them they were angels. Each one shrugged as if to say, "No big deal."
But I would like to say to them now: I want people to know how brave and good you were, what relief you gave me that night. I'm not sure I would have done what you did. But if I ever do come upon someone else in a similar situation, I hope I'll be like you.