Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Crash and Burn

Yesterday, I wheeled my grocery cart from Food Lion and as I approached my car, I hit the trunk opening.

A woman was walking by just as I hit the button, and it startled her. I called, "Sorry, I didn't realize you were so close to the car," and she said, "I thought I must've touched it or something." We laughed about it, and she climbed into her car.

I proceeded to start putting my groceries in the trunk. The woman had parked beside me and was driving a white van/SUV type vehicle. I was trying to figure out how to keep the hot rotisserie chicken away from the cold items when I heard a slight beep of a horn and then I heard, "crunch, crash, bang." I said, "Oh crap," and ducked. I turned around to see that the woman had backed right into a smaller vehicle with North Carolina plates.

They each pulled back into their parking spaces, and the woman climbed out of her car. "I just didn't see him at all," she said as she walked by me.

She said something to the man, and he somewhat loudly and angrily replied, "I don't have a job, I can't absorb this." Then he asked where he was, and she told him Botetourt County, and he wanted the police called, and wanted to know who would respond, and she again said, "Botetourt County."

I pushed my cart to the rack and as I walked back, I surveyed the damage. The car from North Carolina had taken the brunt of the blow, with the rear side being caved in. The white vehicle had scratches but was otherwise ok.

The woman was heading to her car with her cellphone in her hand. "Do you want me to stay?" I asked her. She shook her head no. Had she said yes, I would have stayed even though I didn't really see anything as I was focusing on my grocery unloading task. I didn't know her but I'm sure she was shaken. I know I would have been. Had I thought I'd been a good witness I would have stayed, but since I really didn't see anything but the aftermath, I left.

Since this occurred on private property, the police won't have done anything other than referee and ensured that insurance information was properly passed along by each party. At least there would be a paper trail.


The other thing that happened yesterday was something that I am occasionally confronted with, and it always makes me uncomfortable.

Someone I know asked me if I wanted to write their life story. 

For free.

I know many people are not writers, and I believe everyone has a story. But I do not want to write someone else's life story, not for free. I know they mean well, but they have no idea what kind of time that would take.

If the person had said, "I'll pay you," or mentioned anything like that - even a barter for services - I would have responded more enthusiastically. Instead, I said, "I think you should write it. Get started on it. I'll be glad to give you advice later on if you need it."

My friend said she wasn't a writer, but I said, "You should try it anyway. That's more real, more in your own voice."

Fortunately, she dropped the topic and we moved on. (I hope she doesn't read my blog.)

Many years ago, a good friend stopped talking to me after I declined to write her life story, so this is tricky. It's not something I want to lose friends over, but it's like asking a lawyer to take your case for nothing. Or asking your doctor to see you without charge. Those are extraordinary circumstances if you have to do that. Writing a life story is not an extraordinary circumstance, and writing has been how I've made my living. I have done enough volunteer work for various causes. I don't need to do free work for other people.

I remember another guy who asked me to write his life story - he had been involved, peripherally, in NASCAR - and he stopped talking to me as well when I declined. These things are not going to make any money, so offering to split the "big bucks" with me isn't going to cut it. If someone writes something, I am more than happy to read it and make suggestions for a meager amount*, but if they want copyediting or involved, in-depth work, then I need to be paid for my time.

*I charged the last person $100 to read through and make suggestions. That is way too little for what I offer, but I consider the circumstances. If you don't want to invest $100 in your creation for a read-through, then you either already know it's no good or know deep down you're not going to listen to my suggestions.

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