Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Plead the Fifth

My position as an Artistic Administration Intern at Heartbeat Theatre requires me to float between all of the administration departments. Since starting in January it has been apparent that my primary interests are in Development and I now basically go between Front of House duties and helping the Director of Development, Tad*, plan for our annual benefit. Thus far, the majority of this planning involves researching and soliciting possible donors for live auction prizes and raffle items. Most of the time I look up a place in Chicago, fill-out a letter of appeal, give it to Tad to sign, and then I post it. Other times, however, Tad and I go door to door with our letters, hoping an in-person interaction will prove more fruitful.

Yesterday, Tad and I drove to my neck of the woods to visit some of the popular shops and spas in downtown Evanston. Whenever we drive somewhere we take the Heartbeat shuttle and Tad drives. I have to admit that Tad is one of a handful of people who makes me slightly nervous when they drive. He doesn't pay much attention to other drivers and every now and then I so doubt his ability to brake that I find myself doing the parental "invisible brake" move.

Our drive started out as it always does: Tad backed out of the Heartbeat driveway and I braced myself for the inevitable impact with the cement wall across the narrow cobble-stoned road. Thankfully I was proven wrong once again and we headed into the city to pick up a candle-filled gift bag. We got the gift and then made our way to Lake Shore Drive. On the way we encountered an intersection with downed lights. The woman in front of us was not a terribly assertive driver and let about five cars go before she finally took her turn. When she did, Tad plowed on behind her much to the surprise of two other cars: one which was attempting to turn in front of us and another which got about a foot away from my passenger side door.

"Why are they honking?" Tad asked. "That lady went and no one seemed to mind."

I should mention that, like me, Tad is a fellow military brat. However, unlike my military brat life, Tad's overseas experience was spent in the Middle East as the son of a diplomat. Tad's family had their own driver and Tad only came to the States to attend a college in Chicago. Basically, Tad has had little experience driving his own car. I explained to Tad how powerless intersections became four-way stops. I am not quite confident that the next time he'll actually follow that rule, but maybe he'll at least not question the dirty looks from the other drivers.

We arrived in Evanston and Tad pulled up in front of the first business we were to solicit. Neither of us had enough change for more than thirty minutes at a meter and we wanted to save that for the row of businesses on the main drag. I hopped out of the car and found that the place was closed. I got back into the car and we headed a few blocks west. I pointed to the awning of the next store that was on our list. There were two cars parallel parked out front with enough space between them for the Heartbeat shuttle. "I'll wait in here," Tad said as he started to pull between the two cars. I watched anxiously as the side of the shuttle seemed to near the front of the parked white Lexus. We can make it, we can make it, I thought.


We didn't make it. Tad turned to me suddenly. "Did we just hit that car?!" I thought the sound and vibration through the shuttle had made the answer very obvious, but I craned my neck anyways to inspect the damage. All I saw was the curb and Tad turned the shuttle back towards the road. "I'm not sure," I said, "but it sounds like we did."

"Oh my god. Did we -- oh my god." Tad's eyes were wide and he looked from the wheel to the rear-view mirror.

"Maybe it was just the headlight," I offered. "Cars can make a lot of noise even when there's no real damage."

"Oh my god." Tad was looking over his left shoulder.

"I had a car fly past me once and they were so close that the sound sounded like he had just scraped all the paint off my car."

Tad pulled back into traffic. "We just hit that car...can you see a dent?" I wasn't sure if he meant the shuttle or the Lexus. We were now a block and a half away from the Lexus so I tried to look at the side of the shuttle.

"I can't tell," I said, watching the Lexus disappear completely from view. "Are we...we're not going to stop?"

"I can't believe I just hit that car. It's probably not that bad, right?"

"Probably not. Are we really not stopping?"

"Oh god. I think I saw a silver streak left on the car." We paused at a red light. "Are the rest of the shops north?" Tad asked.

"...Yes...we're really not stopping?" I felt dumbfounded. The side of the shuttle read "Heartbeat Theatre Shuttle" from wheel to wheel. The owner of the Lexus wouldn't have even needed to run out and read our license plate. The shuttle literally spelled out the name of the streak-leaving culprit.

I couldn't tell if Tad had stopped answering me because he wanted to ignore the situation or because he was that petrified. A typically self-assured man, I had never seen him so at a loss for words and indecisive.

He turned north on a street a few blocks away from my apartment. "Do you think we damaged that car?" he asked.

"Pull over here and I'll check the shuttle," I said. "If we left paint on their car then it has to be missing from ours."

Tad pulled over. I checked the rear-view mirror, only slightly paranoid that the owner of the Lexus might have seen the incident and followed us on a warpath. I mean, that's what I would have done if I had seen someone hit my car. Luckily, there was no paint missing from the side of the shuttle. Not even a scratch! There was, however, a small dent in the side door. A ten year old shuttle, Tad and I were not completely certain as to whether that dent had already been there or not.

We spent the next hour handing out appeal letters and walking from shop to shop in downtown Evanston. By 4pm we had only four letters, one of which was addresses to the business where the white Lexus had been parked. Tad and I stared at the letter for a moment. "Do you think we should go back?" Tad asked. I knew he meant only to deliver the letter, not to apologize to the Lexus owner. I fully believed that he would have dropped me off around the corner from the business and waited for me, safe from view. "Let's just post it," I said.

I realize that this story makes Tad sound like a horrible person who does not take responsibility for his actions. This is not true. As I said earlier, Tad's reaction to the hit-and-run took me completely by surprised. In the past three months I have known him as a thoughtful, upstanding, and confident person, who is not afraid to admit when he is wrong. It was not until after Tad had dropped me off at my apartment that the true cause of Tad's panic hit me: there is a very high probability that he does not possess a U.S. drivers license. Having spent his entire high school career in the Middle East being driven around by an armed guard, I am unsure as to whether he has any type of drivers license at all. Like me, Tad is in his early twenties and needs an ID to order a drink, but age can be demonstrated by a passport, too. I had ordered drinks with Tad once while hosting a Bingo benefit for Heartbeat. I could not recollect what he had shown as his ID. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't think either of us were even carded that night.

As the Heartbeat shuttle drove down my street I thought about how often I needed to show my drivers license for one reason or another, but how each of those instances could have been satisfied with a passport. Maybe Tad had a military ID. That would show his age and have the hologram to prove it wasn't a fake. The shuttle yielded briefly at a stop sign before speeding through the intersection. I watched until it was more than a block away. I wanted to make sure he didn't hit my car.


  1. I bought a little car when I arrived in Tucson last year. Within two days I had backed into a tree and dented the trunk. I wanted to get it fixed but the cost was prohibitive and it was just a little dent in the trunk. I have not driven for 40 years--except for the 8300 miles I drove in 2010 with my mom. I can't imagine that Heartbeat would let Tad drive without a license though. I think it may be more likely that he already has tickets or accidents on his record and doesn't want to lose the license. Next time you should volunteer to drive. ;-)

  2. I just can't go a whole month without a Georgia blog.