Blame It On Brett by
(207 Stories)

Prompted By Close Calls

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My car radio is always tuned to an NPR station, so I stay informed as I drive around, though in my daily life, my driving tends to be limited.

On the day we left Martha’s Vineyard in 2018, the US was embroiled in the Brett Kavanaugh debacle. I packed everything as quickly as I could. We were on an afternoon ferry, so I watched with rapt attention as Christine Blasey Ford described her assault in detail, the most chilling point being the derisive laughter of her tormentors. She was calm and dignified after all these years.

Brett Kavanaugh, on the other hand, stood out for his bull dog aggression toward some members of the Senate Judiciary committee and for blatantly lying under oath (yes, we can all google the “drinking” terms like “boofing” or “devil’s triangle” he was asked to define). I am significantly older than Kavanaugh, didn’t go to a fancy private high school, didn’t drink at all in high school and not much in college. Weed was our drug of choice when I was that age, and despite some of the antics I’ve described on Retrospect, I have always liked to be in control. I rarely did anything to excess, so his boorish ways were foreign to me. His demeanor during the hearing did not endear him either. He was playing for an audience of one: the biggest boor in the US and the orange Cheeto liked his performance and bore down on his loyal minions in the Senate.

We came home later that day as the debate raged all week. My life continued while the “investigation” went on. I saw friends from back home in Michigan, who visited for a few days, then I prepared for two upcoming weddings, one on Sunday in Boston, then on Monday we would take off for England; a chance to visit David, but the real reason was a wonderful wedding with a rehearsal dinner cruise on the Thames, then bus out to the Cotswolds to an incredible farm for a magical wedding on that Thursday. I needed to get my hair cut and colored to be ready for the festivites!

Heading into Boston on the Mass Pike, I turn into the tunnel under the Prudential Center, a sweeping curve that takes me to my exit, ending right by the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and very close to my hair dresser. I had taken my favorite Core class at my gym, had a quick bite of lunch, shower, then off to my 2 pm appointment. I was on time, not rushed. But I listened to commentary on NPR about the whole Kavanaugh appointment and investigation. I became increasingly agitated, my hands gripped the stirring wheel ever more tightly. Perhaps I even shouted once or twice. I was distracted as I approached the first curve.

I have driven that stretch of the Mass Pike thousands of times but on that particular day, it did not have my undivided attention. The commentary on NPR did. I was really riled up; I bounced my right front tire off the curb of the highway, probably doing around 60 miles/hour. The force of the hit propelled me sideways into a large delivery truck to my left. I scraped against him, demolishing my left front tire and wheel well, then scraping the whole left side of my car. He was MUCH bigger than I was and could absorb the blow of my car. We hung up together for a moment, then he pulled out in front of me and we came to a stop. I was shaken, but unhurt. I turned off the radio immediately, called 911. The operator said it would be handled by State Troopers, not the local police and she would call them; stay in our vehicles. Damn straight. I would not get out with cars whizzing by at 60+ mph!

I reached across my front seat and got out my license and insurance info, then buckled my seat belt again. The truck driver got out of seat, came to the back of his truck, pulled it open and called out to me to see if I was OK, which I was. He seemed fine too, as I could see that he was moving well. I apologized to him. The accident was clearly my fault. I called the hair salon to say I would not make my appointment and would call to reschedule as soon as I could. They were kind and concerned.

Traffic backed up. The trooper arrived, along with an ambulance and fire truck. I rolled my window down, she leaned WAY over (perhaps to smell my breath). She asked what happened. I described it as I did above (minus the part about being aggravated about Brett Kavanaugh). She asked if it was my fault. I acknowledged that it was. She took my and the truck driver’s info, wrote it down herself to exchange with each other. The medical team asked if we were injured. We both declined medical attention at the scene and they moved on. I got a ticket and waited for a tow truck. With the flat front tire, my car couldn’t be driven.

About 15 minutes later, Perfection Towing, from Watertown, showed up with a flatbed. We’ve used them in the past and they are good. The driver was friendly and Watertown is one town over from Newton. He gets off the Pike at the same exit I use to go home. I asked if he could possibly drop me at home before taking my car to his lot. He wasn’t supposed to. Dan was at Brandeis for the afternoon. I would have to Uber home. The driver was slightly past the exit when he relented, turned around and drove me home. SO nice of him. It took him 15 minutes out of way, but I SO appreciated it. It also gave me a chance to look at my car (up on the flatbed) and take photos of it. I saw it one last time, in the body shop in Ashland, 45 minutes away.

The first estimate came back just under the amount to “total” the car, but once it was opened up and they found internal damage as well; it was a goner.

I was able to get an emergency hair appointment for color and cut on Saturday, just before the first wedding, so looked great on Sunday and flew to London on Monday. That trip was glorious; both excellent time with David and a sensational wedding in London and the Cotswolds. Here I am, dressed and ready for the wedding procession to begin.

Oct 11, 2018
Cotswolds, UK
Sami’s wedding

Eleven months to the day after the accident, I received a letter from an insurance company, claiming the driver of the truck had incurred an injury and was suing me or my insurance company for damages. Funny ’bout that. He turned down medical attention at the scene, was not hit from the front or rear, I bounced off his big truck, he was well enough to get out of his seat and check on me. Could it be because he was a young kid in his 20s and I drive a BMW? I responded with the my original accident email report to my insurance agent, denoting that I had scraped the side of his truck and haven’t heard anything since.

I now turn off NPR as I drive the turns of that tunnel. I pay close attention and reduce my speed and stress. Brett Kavanaugh was a done deal and I didn’t have to invest so much of myself into the story. But that’s who I am. I care about people and the path this country is on.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Much enjoyed the story, Betsy, for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that I know exactly where that exit is — and, yes, it just keeps curving around so I have to remind myself that I am actually headed in the right direction if I follow the signs.
    Beyond that, I felt sure that the other driver’s immediate assurance that he was OK would not be the end of the story of that. Our automobile insurance system at work — for better and worse! I assume that your carrier was able to handle it from there.
    But, of course, the best part of the story is exactly what you say in the title: blame it on Brett. That is the exact reason that I usually do NOT have NPR — or even CNN — on while I am driving; I know it is likely that there will be something political on that will really tick me off. Call it “non-road rage,” maybe. I tend to listen either to classical music or one of the comedy stations on satellite radio. However, every now and then there is something so funny on the latter, I fear I will lose myself in a gale of laughter and fail to pay attention to the road. If so, like you, I don’t plan to tell the trooper exactly what happened.
    Thanks again for sharing your story. And if you need a lawyer to sue Kavanaugh for your accident, just lemme know. We could take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, John. I could have used you when I fought the ticket a trooper gave me for “crossing the lanes illegally” when I hit black ice and smashed up an even nicer BMW 540i and MYSELF in 2001 (I was going to write that story, but didn’t find the photos until a few days ago and this story was already written). I did fight that ticket in court and won, but was really aggravated, as I saw the trooper stash the ticket in my bag while I was put in an ambulance and dashed off a nearby hospital.

      I frequently listen to practice CDs for up-coming choir concerts while driving, but I do like my local NPR station. It isn’t all news. We get “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, repeats of the Clacker Brothers, “Fresh Air with Terry Gross”; all sorts of great shows, so I’ll stick with that for now.

      As to the insurance claim, I never heard anything back, but was telling this story to friends recently (at the proper social distance, of course), and Dan chimed in. He’s seen a $60 charge show up on our insurance, he didn’t know why, perhaps that was the settlement. The claim had been for $1,100, so that outcome would be OK with me.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Betsy, I could so relate to your close call accident. The Brett Kavanaugh hearing made my blood boil. If I had been listening to it in a car, there’s a good chance I would have crashed like you did. So glad your story had a happy ending. You looked great and had a wonderful time at the wedding. By the way, the same thing happened to me after a fender-bender. The driver of the car I gently hit from behind claimed whiplash months later and our insurance paid it. Not worth their time to contest it, they said.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I think the hearing made lots of people angry, Laurie. Thank you for relating to my situation. As for the insurance settlement, I just would have liked my company to let me know the outcome. I think they owed me that much.

  3. Marian says:

    Ow, I feel your pain and am glad you came out of this OK. What is it about the insurance part, Betsy? I was hit by two racing cars once (don’t ask), and my insurance wouldn’t even pursue getting my deductible back because the other guy’s insurance had deeper pockets. I changed insurance companies. A minor scrape I had occurred when I moved from a middle to a right lane on an expressway and all of a sudden there was another car there. I calculated that she must have made a “California stop” and roared into a right turn, but I couldn’t prove it and was faulted 100%. Very frustrating.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, dealing with insurance companies can be frustrating, Marian. We’ve been pretty lucky. In an earlier, more serious accident, it was the State Trooper who was a total jerk, claiming I was at fault (I hit black ice on the Mass Pike one January day in 2001 in a VERY nice BMW, wearing a mink coat…think the trooper had it in for me?). I was lucky to survive that one. As I was loaded into the ambulance, I notice he slipped a ticket into my bag. I asked with incredulity, “You’re giving me a ticket?” (I had bounced off two guard rails, three times, crossing the skidding across three lanes of the Pike, coming to a halt facing in the wrong direction.) He said, “Someone has to pay for the guardrails.” The ticket was for “crossing the lanes illegally”, a $75 fine. If I’m at fault, my insurance pays, if not, the state has to pay for the repairs. I went to court, fought the ticket and won.

  4. Suzy says:

    Betsy, as others have said, the Kavanaugh hearings were infuriating and made me want to hit something. But preferably not a guardrail or a truck! I always listen to music in the car, and now you have proved to me that it is a bad idea to listen to news – especially since, in the last 3 1/2 years, the news has almost always been bad!

    Glad you were able to get an emergency hair appointment (you look fab in that picture!) and the insurance company took care of the rest. But I like John’s idea of suing Kavanaugh for causing the accident!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Well, Suzy, sometimes I listen to the practice CD for an up-coming choir concert. And NPR isn’t always about current events. It depends on the time of day. As I noted in my reply to John, there’s a lot of other great programming on WBUR (coming from Boston University). Occasionally I’ll listen to music, but with my new car, changing the radio station is a pain (ironically, technology has NOT made it easier). So now, I just turn the radio off as I approach the tunnel to make sure I can REALLY focus.

      I’m glad John would take the case if I sued Kavanaugh. I think I’ve got a good one, right?

  5. How about a class action suit against Kavanaugh and we can all join in? (John??) Reminds me of something I read about Monica Lewinsky urging her Twitter followers to join in mailing stool samples for Covid analysis directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Sorry, but it IS funny, right?

  6. As always Betsy, your recall of dates and details is amazing, but did you have to remind us of the Kavanaugh travesty, altho it pales as we go from outrage to outrage.

    But to your accident – we’ve all had a few. Many decades ago when I was working as a school librarian with summers off, I took a job for July and August at Oceanside Free Library on Long Island. My friend Ricki was the adult librarian there and she had recruited me to fill in while she, the childrens librarian, the young adult librarian, and the reference librarian each in turn took a 2 week vacation.
    The only negative was I was living in Westchester at the time which meant a long drive to Oceanside, and I also had to work some nights.

    But I loved the job and didn’t mind the commute,. Then one rainy night driving home I hit another car badly damaging both vehicles . I don’t remember the details but thankfully no one was hurt, I think I was able to drive home, and the case was eventually settled.

    There were no cell phones then to distract me nor did I have the radio on.
    But propped up the steering wheel was a copy of Rosemary’s Baby that I meant to glance at only at red lights, altho I guess my eyes kept wandering to the page.

    So blame it on Ira Levin.
    (NB – I’ve never told anyone this, certainly not my spouse, so please keep mum!)

  7. Your story evoked another spark of fury, such a familiar feeling these days, about just how completely these arrogant plutocrats have saturated our lives. Loved your last paragraph!

  8. John Zussman says:

    I had heard this story but not in the exquisite detail with which you told it here! So glad you were okay. So many of us were enraged that week.

    Patti and I have concluded that we have to pay attention to what we’re doing and can’t multitask the way we used to. But as your experience with Rosemary’s Baby teaches us, I’m not sure we ever could!

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