The best way I've ever handled a dumb mistake
I saw the guy’s face before I realized I had hit his truck.
It was the first accident I’d ever been in.
And I was driving the biggest vehicle I’d ever driven — a 26-foot behemoth of a U-Haul truck.
This was not the truck I reserved for my move, but it was the only that was available.
My wife and I were moving into a new apartment, and I already felt nervous driving this rickety hunk of metal on wheels around city streets.
The narrow alley I had to turn into was partially blocked by wooden barriers and orange cones surrounding a dumpster being used for construction.
It didn’t leave much room to maneuver.
I had to swing the U-Haul truck just to the left of the cones and into the alley.
I’ll barely be able to fit, I thought.
I made the turn slowly, in deep concentration as I aimed the truck away from the cones and wooden blockade.
I broke out of my deep state of concentration to look into the left side-view mirror.
I couldn’t see much, so I decided to look out my window and back to the left.
That’s when I saw the guy’s face.
He was looking right at me, and he was screaming.
I had made a rookie mistake.
I couldn’t swing the truck wide enough, and the back left of this massive vehicle had scraped the front of this man’s white, brand-new pick-up truck.
He was absolutely furious — and rightly so.
I put the truck in park, leaving one half of the truck in the alley and the other half on the sidewalk.
“What are you doing!?” he bellowed as he got out of his truck.
“I’m so sorry. I couldn’t even see your truck,” I replied.
“Didn’t you hear me yelling?” he shot back at me.
“No, I didn’t hear anything. I’m so sorry.”
“Have you ever driven a truck that big before?”
“No, I haven’t. I shouldn’t even be driving this truck. I reserved a truck at another place, and I showed up this morning to learn that they didn’t have a single truck available. So I had to scramble to see if I could find another one. This is absolutely my fault. I’m really sorry. I feel awful.”
The man’s face instantly changed when he learned that was totally out of my league when it came to operating this type of vehicle.
“Ok, ok. Alright, get back in the truck, I’ll help you get it backed out of there.”
“Oh, ok,” I stammered. I was surprised by his sudden change in demeanor, to say the least.
The man spent the next few minutes helping me dislodge the truck from the awkward angle in which I had wedged it by the alley. He patiently gave me instructions while I watched him in the side-view mirror.
From there, I backed it up down the street. Together we decided it would be too tough to make the turn — especially considering what had just happened — and he advised me to circle the block and pull into the alley from the next street over.
Unfortunately, another moving company had pulled into the alley from the other side during the time all of this took place. They were now blocking my path and preventing me from getting into the alley.
I had nowhere to go.
I parked the truck and, downtrodden, went to talk to the three men of this moving company, all of them standing around their truck.
I explained to them everything that had just happened, down to every last embarrassing detail.
The man who seemed to be the ringleader of the group, a gregarious man who looked to be in his mid-forties, said they could finish up quickly. Then , said, he would block traffic on the other street and wave me in.
What are the odds? I thought.
I got back into the U-Haul truck and circled the block.
I had to drive up a few blocks to get to a one-way street that would take me to the correct street.
I made a left turn and, when I came around the corner, I saw the moving company ringleader two blocks back down the hill, jumping around, waving, and dancing in the middle of the road.
I would have laughed if I hadn’t been concentrating so intently on not making another stupid mistake with the truck.
The man yelled and waved at me. As I drove towards him, I could tell he was having one heck of a time, laughing and waving me in.
He was a cross between Vanna White and Bozo the Clown.
Regardless, he did an outstanding job blocking traffic and guiding me into the alley.
I parked the truck in the alley by the building’s freight elevator, and then I walked through the alley to the other side to meet the man whose truck I had hit.
We waited a few minutes until a police officer showed up.
I could tell he felt bad for me.
And my intuition was confirmed when he said, “You know what? I have a better moving dolly that you could use.”
He had seen the sad and pathetic-looking moving dolly my wife and I had brought with us.
“We use it for construction, and it will make your move go a lot faster.”
“Are you serious?” I sputtered. “You really don’t have to do that.”
“Yeah, it’s not a problem. It will make the move a lot faster. I’ve been through this before. Another guy actually hit my truck while it was parked at the construction site a few weeks ago.”
All in all, the damage on his truck wasn’t too bad — a few foot-long scratches along the front-right part of his truck. It looked like it could be the handiwork of a giant beast, perhaps a saber-toothed tiger.
“Well, I really appreciate it,” I told the man.
“I have to lock up the building, but you can just leave it back in the alley.” He walked with me into the alley to show me where I could hide the dolly before he could grab it the next morning.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I don’t want anyone to take it.”
“It’s not a problem.”
All of what had just occurred wasn’t a problem.
I couldn’t believe it.
I was mortified when it happened, but the whole experience after my mistake taught me a lot about humanity.
I learned something important.
Everyone makes mistakes.
But not everyone owns up to their mistakes.
This was a situation where I could have gotten defensive.
I could have returned this man’s anger with anger of my own.
I could have argued with him for parking his truck too close to the alley.
I could have pointed out that he left almost no room for others to turn.
But I decided to be human. I decided to own up to my mistake.
Not only did nothing bad happen as a result of my mistake, but I actually benefited from the situation.
The man whose car I hit took it upon himself to safely guide me out of my awkward predicament and then loan me his equipment to expedite my move-in process.
On top of that, I befriended a moving-company worker who had a blast helping me out.
By being human and being vulnerable, it encouraged others to be human and helpful.
Of course, people make mistakes all of the time.
But it’s rare to handle mistakes with humility and with total ownership.
I became very vulnerable in pointing the blame completely at myself.
But the world has a funny way of responding to vulnerability.
You can’t have connection without it.
First time here? Check out our latest mental health posts.
Did you enjoy this article? Click below to share it with others!