How a dent changes the world

Okay are you ready? It’s time to crank up the Time Machine. BaaaarrrrRRROOOM hold on. BaaaarrrrRRROOOM buckle your seatbelt. . . .

It’s 1994, and I live in Columbus, Ohio. I’m working as an intern for Honda Motor Company, and since I speak fluent in Japanese I am in good with all of the Japanese managers at the plant which means that I get to do pretty much whatever I want whenever I want so I spend most of my days test driving cool cars like the recently released Honda NSX.

I live in a small townhouse with eight roommates who are all guys and in the same internship program as me. They are all single college guys so it’s a bit tight, but there’s always lots going on, and someone to party with if you want to.

I drive a 1986 Toyota MR2; is not a new car, but It’s in great shape – not a scratch on it. I loved that car. I drove it back to my perminant home in Baltimore, Maryland on the weekends (about a 12 hour drive one way). That car and I spent many intimate hours together flying down the freeways of Ohio, PA, and Maryland.

The parking lot in front of our townhouse was small and crowded so I never liked to use it because I was afraid someone would scratch my car. That meant that I usually parked on the street in front of our house even though that area was a no parking zone. As you’ll see from this story, I rarely follow the rules.

One morning I got up, put on my Honda whites, which is what we called our work uniform, and went outside to my car. To my chagrin there was a big dent on the driver side door along the bottom, about the size of a softball. There was no note on the car or anything so it looked like a hit-and-run; I was pissed! (In the US, pissed means mad as hell).

Over the next couple of days I tried to do some detective work and figure out who hit my car but I had no clue. Then, one night while having dinner with my roommates I told them that I was going to file a police report, and that a hit-and-run is a very serious offense in Ohio – it could mean jail time! Of course all of this was bullshit. I believe that if you want to catch a snake, you have to rattle the grass.

It worked. A few days after that one of my roommates, Carl, came forward and told me that he was the one who hit my car. I told him that he would have to pay for the damage but he insisted that it was my fault because I was illegally parked. I then told him that it’s never legal to hit a parked car, regardless of where the car is. He disagreed, but in the next few days I think he did some research (help mom and dad) and realize that I was right.

Carl reluctantly agreed to pay for the damage to my car. We’ve agreed that I would get two estimates and he will pay the lower of the two. What Carl did not know is that my father had his own repair shop back home in Baltimore, so it was easy for me to get estimates for any price I wanted. I gave him two estimates, one for $1224, and another for $924. After a a lot of complaining Carl agreed to pay $924 in installments over the next few weeks.

Fast forward about two months, and boom, I’ve got 9 Benjamin’s ($900) in my pocket. Yeah! What to do with the money?

It just so happens that I was having my occasional “I miss Japan” blues. So I shot off two to letters (no email back then!) to my two best friends in Japan, Yoko my former homestay mother, and Paul, your father.

The responses from both we’re good. Yeah x 2!
Yoko invited me to stay as long as I wanted to, and your father said he would be in Osaka during the same time so we could get together.

Fast forward to January 1995, and I find myself in Osaka Japan. I wanted to get together with your father and catch up on things so Yoko invited him for dinner and drinks. I forget exactly what day that was.

At dinner I was talking to your father, and I mentioned, “Hey, remember that rich dude, Mr. Iwata? He said I could borrow one of his cars.”
“Oh really?”
“Yea, I’ve never been to Kobe so I was thinking about driving down there this weekend.”
“Oh.”
“Yea, you want to come? You can ride shotgun.”
“Oh, no I have to study. . . . . “ your father resisted, but as usual I twisted his arm, and as usual, he capitulated.

I’m not sure which day it was but that weekend we hopped in Mr. Iwata’s car and headed to Kobe. I remember flying down the road with your father and giving the finger to all of the speed cameras. Mr. Iwata was rich, he didn’t care about speeding tickets.

I’m not sure how we found the bar, I think it was a suggestion from Mr. Iwata’s daughter. I parked in the no parking zone in front of course. I remember walking in. It was more like a jazz club, and there was some live entertainment. It was mostly empty.

There was a big table with two girls sitting in the middle. Your father started to walk the opposite direction, but I pulled him back, “hold on mate, over this way.” We sat down at the table with the two girls asking, “Hey do you mind if we sit here?”
They replied with funny looks on their faces, “sure.” After a few rounds we were all talking to each other and laughing. I think your father was sitting next to your mother, and me and your mother’s friend we’re on opposite sides. I remember that your mother and father hit if off right away. I guess it was love at first sight. I talked to your mother’s friend, but there was no chemistry. :(

I don’t remember much more about the rest of that night. About two days later Kobe was hit with a major earthquake. I felt the tremors in Osaka (another story there!). I remember that your father came to Yokos and we called your mother to see if she was ok. She was. Your father, always the galant gentlemen, offered to go to Kobe to help, but since the roads in and out were closed down, we abandoned that idea. The bar/club where we had met was completely destroyed by the earthquake.

Hold on tight, turning up the time machine… booorrrRRRoom….ok, back to 2018. Paul and Laura have been married for 20 years, and they have some awesome kids. I can say now that I sure am glad that guy hit my car!

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