•edit: TL;DR summary at bottom. It got longer than I expected (phrasing! Boom!).

•edit 2: Kinja isn’t loading the photos I took. (again). Trying to fix...

As soon as I got home tonight, my wife charged me with an errand. She needed me to get some baking ingredients for her to make single-serve birthday desserts for her coworker’s birthday tomorrow. Since I was already dressed for the frigid outdoors, I obliged.

One of the stops involved going to Walmart, based on convenience and certainty that they’d have what I need (multi-colored sprinkles and/or decorating sugar, if you must know). As usual, I parked on a side lot typically where employees park, as it’s less populated, hardly any pedestrian traffic, and a much lower chance of door dings. To that end, I parked next to a cart corral, and while I initially parked in the first space, I decided that - given the lighting and time of evening - it would be better to pull forward into the outwards-facing space so I could drive forwards out, instead of reversing.

It was a quick jaunt in and out (hooray self-checkout!), less than 10 minutes tops.I also browsed a few aisles and got some jellies for sandwiches.

As I was walking towards my car, I noticed there was already a car that was parked behind mine, in the space I had decided to drive through. However, what struck me was not the fact that the driver of the beat-up white ‘90s Accord wagon had decided to park behind me in a semi-empty lot, but that they had backed into the space. As I got closer, I noted that it was also oddly just inches away from the cart corral rail, which was strange since that was the driver’s side.

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Slightly confused yet simultaneously amused, I reached for my keys and walked around the passenger front side of the Honda which was the same as my driver’s side. As I was about to unlock it, a woman in a nearby car called out to me:

“Is the orange car yours?” (or something to that effect).

I replied in the affirmative, curiosity and trepidation building with equal measure.

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I quickly took another stock of my surroundings, noting now that the Accord wagon was strangely close to my car, but not seeing any obvious damage to either vehicle in the parking lot light-illuminated dimness. I noted that the Accord had some poorly-applied white spray paint on several panels, and that excepting the driver’s area and part of the passenger seat, the car was stuffed with, uh, stuff.

“That guy hit your car.”

My heart sank. Just a few weeks ago I’d paid to have all the dents removed from the car, and spent a good chunk of the day buffing and waxing it, along with changing burnt-out bulbs. Of course that TLC results would be short-lived.

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I immediately grabbed my phone and started taking some of the photos shared here (plates obscured after the fact, obviously).

As I was documenting evidence and hunting for visible damage, the helpful citizen went on to explain that the driver had gotten out and looked for damage, then parked it and went inside. We conversed and I pressed her for details: Low-speed hit but enough that my car rocked a bit on the suspension thanks to or in spite of my parking brake being applied. She further explained that she was a Walmart employee, and that the lot had plenty of cameras, but the recordings could only be turned over with a police report.

I thanked her for her time, information, and observances, quickly finished taking more photos (it’s damn cold right now), and moved my car forward a few feet to better gauge the damage without being in the Accord’s shadow and being far enough away to actually get better views.

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I made sure to take photos of the Accord’s plates, VIN, and inspection sticker. The plates are just a few months old, though the front one was already bent around the edges. Being just that old, it meant the owner would have had to have had valid insurance at the time of registration/renewal. However, I noted that the car was not in great condition, the stuff inside filled the interior entirely, and the back hatch wasn’t closed, either due to damage or an overflowing of stuff:

I realized that - not all that long ago - this could have been me: Aging wagon falling apart; barely making it by on hope and desperation; a dark cold night where even an orange car is apparently invisible; possessions crammed into one’s vehicle; a quick cosmetic fix to try to make an aged, decrepit, and disintegrating heap appear more presentable.

I surveyed the rear of both cars: His matte-white-overprayed rear bumper with early-90's rubber inserts was absent any orange paint from my precious jewel. My shining bumper, on the other hand, had a faint blemish, but whether it was scuffing, dust, or paint transfer I couldn’t tell. I took some more photos, trying to get various lighting to ensure the imperfection was captured.

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Reluctantly I removed my glove and wiped at the blemish: It mostly wiped away with my hand. I saw as well as felt that the surface was still mostly smooth, and there was no cracked paint. I carefully inspected where the bumper cover meets both rear fenders and trunk lid, and didn’t find any signs of obvious impact damage. Everything was still tight, smooth, and flush. I took some final photos, and made my choice:

Let him have this one.

It was not a decision made entirely lightly. I could have easily called the police and requested a report, and wait for the errant parker to come out and face justice. In fact, at least one local officer was on-site dealing with some matter on the other side of the lot, which I had seen as I was exiting the store. It’s also a populated-enough area that there’s several officers on duty at all times. Even if I eventually opted not to file an insurance claim, it could/would have been useful to have that report available, but at what cost? Extra hassles and stress for damage that at best might as easily be wiped away, or perhaps requiring a quick sanding and buffing to remove, certainly. The time spent doing that would have also meant that my wife would have to get dressed for outside again and get the ingredients from me, or else wait for me to come home, and thus be delayed until it was too late to start them and be up past a reasonable bedtime trying to finish the desserts. All considered, it didn’t seem worth it, even though I and my car were the victims.

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Not having any unused paper at hand, I wasn’t able to inform the Accord driver of my selfless magnanimity. I also didn’t feel like waiting for him to show up (did I mention it’s very cold here right now?), so I took some final photos, and went home.

Anyway, I still feel conflicted, because for once I was the victim, and I was taught not to leave the scene of an accident.

I guess we’ll see.

TL;DR VERSION: Driver of an old Accord wagon backed into my parked car, didn’t appear to do any substantial damage, and I opted not to pursue it.