Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Car Accident 4.23.06

Sunday was a gorgeous day here in Marina di Ragusa. With my family scheduled to arrive in the late afternoon I was excited and got up early. With Bob still asleep I threw some clothes on, bought a cappuccino "per portare via (to take away)" from Salvatore downstairs at "The Summer" coffee bar and walked along the beach, out to the rocks and sat and stared out at the sea, writing in my journal and enjoying the weather. After a good hour or so, Bob came down wearing his swimsuit! Since it was such a beautiful morning he thought I must have done the same and so decided he would join me and we could go swimming. I quickly ran back upstairs and changed, dropping off my journal and other things, while he found a spot he liked and spread out his things. The water was completely calm, if quite cold, but we waded in and played around. He was brave enough to swim. I found it a bit too cold for complete immersion but loved it anyway. Small children and teenagers were the only ones actually in the water although, as the morning wore on more and more people arrived for a day at the beach.

Around 1pm we began to feel hungry and came back upstairs for some lunch. I threw together a little pasta with fresh tomatoes and garlic and we sat out on the terrace - one of the best parts of living in this apartment on the sea. Bob then decided he would go out to see if the little wine shop or the Alis grocery store were open as we had forgotten to pick up extra bottles of wine for my family. I volunteered to do the dishes and clean up while he went off to run this errand. While I was clearing the table, minutes after Bob left, the phone rang and it was my cousin Andy, letting us know that they had arrived in Catania and would be getting on the road in a few minutes. As we were saying goodbye, I heard Bob's voice calling me from the street and ringing the doorbell. I couldn't imagine what he had forgotten or what he needed to tell me so urgently but I quickly said goodbye to Andy, excited knowing I would see them soon.

Going out onto the patio, still happy and laughing from the conversation I had had with my cousin to find Bob very serious and white as a ghost asking me to call Elio to come and help because he had just had a car accident. That shocked me into a less jovial mood and I immediately telephoned our friend and told him what happened. We owe so much to this wonderful man who did not hesitate to say he would be right there and I went down to find our cute little Toyota Yaris out in the middle of the intersection with its entire front completely crushed and demolished, liquid of some sort running down the street like blood at the scene of a murder. Bob was visibly shaken. He had been leaving Piazza Malta, heading for the grocery store when this woman came screaming across the side street and they collided in the intersection. He had the right of way and she should have stopped but she didn't. As it was a Sunday, and with the lovely weather, there were many people in Marina di Ragusa. None however were actually outside when the accident happened since it was during pranzo and everyone was inside having lunch, as we had been doing so serenely only moments before. But of course the big crash brought everyone out and we met all the people who have homes here and visit them on Sundays. There is a sweet young family just below us with two beautiful daughters, a nice man from next door who stayed with us the whole time, a family around the corner who really wanted to give us a glass of wine or a cup of coffee or a nice piece of cake, so sorry for us, so sympathetic and kind. There also was a man who seemed very interested in making friends with either Bob or the other woman, playing both sides it seemed and it turned out he was a lawyer (we tried to explain the term "ambulance chaser" to Elio but I don't think it translated). It turned out the woman who hit our car is also a lawyer and this is not, we are sure, a positive thing.

Someone called the police. Someone else thought we should move the car. Bob insisted not to until the police came. Everyone seemed to be an authority on some part of this or at least had an opinion. The other driver wanted to just share information. Bob again insisted to wait until Elio arrived as this was one of those moments when you are very aware of being a foreigner with not enough language skills, putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage. Elio arrived no more than 30 minutes after we called him, which meant he had dropped whatever he was doing and jumped in his car. The police had not yet arrived. Suddenly a young man pulled up in his car and after much conversation here and there we learned that he seemed to be saying that he had seen it all and that Bob was at fault. Shocking, since he was nowhere in sight until well after the accident occurred. The police finally arrived. We scrambled to produce all of the documents they requested. Thank god for Elio. Lines were drawn around our tires, measurements made of the angle of the car in the intersection, statements were taken from the participants: car A – Bob and car B – the other driver, as well as the late-arriving mystery witness.

No sooner had all of this taken place than my family called to say they were getting close to Marina and Elio volunteered to drive us to the point where we had arranged to meet them and escort them back here. I had wanted Elio to meet my family, we joked, but not in this way! With many hugs and kisses and sympathetic words about our situation, Bob and I piled into their giant 9-passenger van (like a small bus really!) said goodbye and many thanks to Elio we drove with them back to Marina to pick up the keys to the apartment they had rented here and begin their 3 week visit to Sicily. We had found a nice house with a beautiful view on the other side of the town for them and were keeping our fingers crossed that they would like it and it would be comfortable for them to spend some time there. (you will remember my sleepless night, worrying about how it would all turn out!) They seemed happy with the place and we breathed a sigh of relief.

Car Accident update: 4.30.06

Monday was a holiday here (similar to our 4th of July) and the body shop was closed. But on Tuesday morning the shop recommended by Elio came and towed the car to their garage in Ragusa and provided us with a loaner. Not a great car, nor one we would feel comfortable driving long distances with, but at least it is a means of transportation for the necessities and was also provided at no cost to us. We are very appreciative.

On Wednesday we went to the police headquarters to pick up the report of our accident. They were very kind and ushered us into another room where we sat on two chairs in front of the desk of the officer who produced it. He brought out this little booklet with papers stapled into it from the statements taken at the scene. We asked if we could have a copy of the whole thing and he gladly made one for us. As with all the other documenti we have received here in Italy, it contained a generous amount of rubber stamps and signatures, most unreadable. We asked if the report indicated who had been at fault and he turned to the last paragraph on one of the pages where it clearly stated that the other driver had been wrong. She should have stopped. Bob had the right of way! We breathed a visible sigh of relief, thanked the officer and went off for a celebratory cup of cappuccino! We were very worried that if they said he was at fault that we would have to pay to fix her car. In spite of our having insurance. We weren't sure how it would really work. Or that if they found that we were both at fault that insurance would not pay at all and we would have to pay ourselves to have our car fixed. We weren't sure why she seemed to prefer this arrangement but now it is just a moot point.

Once again Elio helped us by taking Bob to an insurance counseling office, recommended by his insurance agent, that provides advice and assistance to people dealing with insurance companies explaining how to file the paperwork etc. This service is provided free of charge by the insurance companies. We were impressed to hear that Elio himself has never had an accident, which is amazing considering the traffic in Sicily! It was a huge relief to have help with this process. We are very aware that without Elio this would have been much, much more difficult.

Bob faxed a copy of the report to our insurance company in Perugia and subsequently received a call from the body shop to come and sign some papers, indicating that everything was proceeding smoothly. The insurance company will pay the body shop directly and we will pick up our car when it is ready, hopefully before the end of May when we are scheduled to leave Sicily. When we stopped there to sign the papers we saw our car outside the shop with its hood already removed indicating to us that work had already begun. A very good sign.

One month from tomorrow we hope to be on our way to Verona. One more precious month walking on the beach here and enjoying the beautiful province of Ragusa. As with Perugia, we have fallen in love with this area and it will be just as hard to leave. There are still so many places we would like to explore further; so many places we have not seen. But we know also that we have made friends here that we will want to keep forever and hope some day they will come to the states to see us and we can return at least a fraction of the favors and friendship they have extended to us in these past months. I do know that we will be forever grateful.

Buona giornata,
Rosemary e Roberto

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