At Home With Jeff: Things You Never Expect


My mother when she returned from her vacation in Florida in 1983. Her grand kids (Vivian and my kids) are in the foreground.

Things sometimes turn out as you never expected — usually to the better!  In 1983, Vivian and I were living in Hayward. We were a young couple, married five years with three children all under the age of four. We rented a small, three-bedroom house on Sunset Boulevard. Sunset was a main thoroughfare that paralleled A Street in Hayward so had significantly more traffic than a regular residential Street.  The speed limit was 35 miles an hour but people typically drove 45 or even 50.

I worked at the Oakland International Airport and rode Bart to work every morning. Our family car was a 1976 Monte Carlo which Vivian had to run the kids around and which we shared on the weekends.

My mother called from Santa Cruz one sunny afternoon with a proposition. “How would you like to use my car for two weeks?” she asked. “All you would have to do is give me a ride to the airport.” We learned that that Mother had plans to visit her sister Hilda in Florida. She didn’t want to pay for parking at San Francisco International so devised this plan of parking in front of our house and having us give her a ride to the airport. It was a win-win deal. We would get to drive her car for two weeks and she would get free parking.

Mom drove a baby-blue 1972 Pinto purchased from one of her long-time customers for $2,000.  My mother was a hairdresser. Many of her customers were in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. This particular customer had decided to give up driving.  The Pinto had been well maintained. There was not a single scratch on the finish.

On the appointed Sunday Mom arrived at our house early and ready to travel. She parked her car on the street and surrendered the keys.   As I drove her to the airport in our Monte Carlo, she casually asked “While I’m away could you please take the car in to get the exhaust fixed? The muffler on the car is worn out.”

I hadn’t anticipated this but the deal was still good. I would just have to sit in Midas Muffler for a couple hours the next weekend to have the new muffler put on.  Mom would reimburse me for the cost. Secretly, I suspected that her car had needed a muffler for a long time and she just didn’t want to go sit at Midas Muffler herself.

On Monday morning, at 7am, I was sitting in the living room trying my shoes getting ready for work. The kids were in the kitchen having their breakfast with Vivian. All of the sudden we heard a horrendous crash out in the street. Vivian and I jumped up and ran to the front door. What we saw outside was unbelievable.

My mother’s Pinto was in the middle of the neighbor’s front lawn pinned between a tree and another car. The cars were locked nose to nose. We ran over to check if anyone was hurt. In the nearest car a young lady in her mid twenties sat dazed. She was not injured but stuned.

We helped her out of her car and surveyed the scene. She had struck my mother’s car with enough force to shove it back past our driveway twenty feet then up onto the curb across the sidewalk and across the neighbor’s front lawn. There were skid marks and little  pieces of automobile spread along a 40 foot swath.

Barely able to take it all in, we asked the young lady what happened. She told us that she was hurrying to work with a new plant for her office sitting on the passenger seat.  When the plant tipped over, she lunged to save it, Her car swerved sharply to the left. When she looked up, my mother’s car loomed right in front of her. There was nothing she could do to stop.  It was all done in the blink of an eye.

We call the Hayward police who came to take a report. The police called the tow trucks who came to take the two cars. I knew instinctively that both of the cars would be a total loss. It would not be economically feasible to have them repaired so, before my mother’s car was towed, I collected everything that was not bolted down. We filled a paper grocery sack with the contents of the glove box, the cigarette lighter, the wheel covers, the key fob, the spare tire, the jack, the visor mirror, the Saint Christopher medal, the tire iron, the gas cap and everything else that was not secured. Mother might be able to use these items on her next car.

The young lady used our house phone to call her boss that she wouldn’t be in and to call her family for a ride. (This was in the time before cell phones.)  I also called my office to say I would be in late that morning. Only one call remained to be made. We had to call my mother in Florida to tell her what had happened.

It was already lunch time in Florida so I  dialed the number while quickly thinking what to say. When Aunt Hilda picked up, I asked for Mom. “How is your vacation?” I asked lightly.  “My vacation is fine” she replied “I haven’t even been here one day yet. What’s wrong?” My mother had a way of sensing things. “I am calling with good news and with bad news” I said hoping to soften the blow. “The good news is your muffler all taken care of.”  “The bad news is that your car is wrecked. I never even touched it! It was still right where you parked it.”

After learning what happened, mother took it better than I had feared. She reasoned “The important thing is that no one was hurt. I will call my insurance agent to take care of the paperwork when I return in two weeks.”

As I had guessed, the car was totaled.  The insurance company paid my mother $2,100 — $100 more than she paid originally! She used the money as down payment on an almost new white pinto from Enterprise Car Rentals — a  much better car than she had before! The whole thing turned into a win-win-win. Things sometimes turn out as you never expected — usually to the better!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *