Sep 14, 200912:00 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Errol Laborde: The Incident, Part 2
I got quite a reaction to my blog a couple of weeks ago about a scam incident I faced in a supermarket parking lot when a woman holding a baby tried to claim that she was hit by my car while it was stalled in traffic. (The original article is here.)
Here are some updates:
• To date, I have not heard from the woman. I did explain the situation to my insurance agent, who said he thought I had little to worry about since we did not exchange numbers. “These things usually end with a letter to the insurance company making a claim,” my agent said, “but when they don’t know who the carrier is, it’s like finding a needle in the haystack. They are blind.”
I should add that if you are in a legitimate accident, especially if it is your fault, do exchange information. But in the case of an obvious scam, or at least in my case, it was better that no information was exchanged.
• Among the blog responses was the suggestion that I should go to the supermarket and ask about the tape (actually digital images) from the outdoor surveillance camera. If it came to a challenge, the images could help prove a non-accident. I did just that the next day. I spoke with a Rouses manager who said he thought that the images were kept for about 40 days but that the view of the parking lot would be very wide angle. If it came to the point where I needed to gain access to the images, he said I would have to go through the Rouses corporate office in Houma but added that it was probably something that an attorney would have to do.
• Another blogger, identified as Kit, offered some great suggestions including:
… If someone attempts a hustle, simply say, "Let me take your picture," aim your cell and photograph them and then the license number of their vehicle if possible. They will depart in haste. …
I especially like the picture idea. My cell phone does not have photo capacity (I am about five years behind technologically), but I think I could have faked it. I would have loved to see how they would have reacted.
• Several of those who wrote reported similar incidents. There are, unfortunately, many stories to be told. In too many cases, insurance companies wind up writing a check, though they know better, just to close the case.
• A few people were critical of my having called 911 rather than dialing the police accident line. I stand by my decision, though. To me, what had happened was an emergency because the woman in the SUV had talked about calling the police. For all I knew she might have already called 911 reporting me as a hit and run. I wanted my side of the story to be recorded on the police record. The fact that the 911 operator took time to explain the legalities to me did not suggest that I was inappropriately using her time.
• Finally, there’s the issue of race. I did not make any racial reference in my initial article, yet it became part of the discussion. In the world of blogging, where people are unhindered by having to identify themselves, when the discussion is about race, it tends to get increasingly mean-spirited and nasty.
Such discussions miss the point. The issue is not about race; it is about class. It is not so much skin color that people react negatively to but behavior. Frequently that skin color is linked to behavior but not entirely. No black family would mind having Drew Brees as a neighbor or Tulane President Scott Cowan or a solid white family. Conversely, any white family would be pleased to have Chris Paul living next door or Xavier president Norman Francis or a solid black family. What neither side –– nor any of us –– wants are neighbors whose presence suggests criminal activity or a disregard for the neighborhood. ( I know because in my racially mixed block, we once had neighbors like that, and they were white.)
Just as Caucasian people speak critically of “white trash,” all races have slang for people within their group whom they regard as a less desirable class. Poverty alone does not create those people but rather a whole set of maddening social circumstances. Such people are not inherently evil. They are just individuals that society has somehow failed.
In the case of my incident, the women who perpetrated the fraud were of the same race as the 911 operator who responded so professionally and of the nearby security guard on whom I would have relied for legal protection if needed.
I keep thinking about the kid in the woman’s arms and my hope, indeed belief, that he will grow up in a better world.
I hope it will be a world in which when people talk about race they will actually understand what they are talking about. Better yet, it will be a world in which there will be no need to talk about race at all.
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Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at email@example.com or (504) 895-2266.
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