Could you pass the Fender Bender Test?

Sunday afternoon I was in a fender bender. Boo. I was driving my daughter home from basketball practice. We were having a nice conversation about her practice and I was looking forward to making chili when we got home. Then I was going to bake a couple of pies with the apples we picked at a local orchard in the morning. Then Normal Rockwell was going to sue me for infringing on his schtick.

I was driving within the notorious Five Mile Circle of Doom: that 5 mile radius that surrounds your home. Statistically, this is where the majority of accidents happen. As I passed into the invisible circle I slowed down because a tanker truck was stopping at a railroad crossing in front of me. Then I heard it. That telltale crunchy metallic BANG of a car slamming into another car. A moment later I heard another BANG. But this time I felt it too. I had been hit from behind. And suddenly the chili, apple pie and Norman Rockwell lay in shattered fragments on the pavement. Now Danica Patrick was going to sue me for stealing her schtick.

I pulled my car off the main drag and onto a side street. I got out of the car. And that’s when I realized what had happened. I had been part of a 3 car pileup. I was the third and final ball in a Newton’s Cradle fender bender.

Back on the main road there were two cars still intimately engaged like two dogs getting it on in public. Which is always such an awkward thing to see. Even for dogs.

After a moment the two cars disengaged and gingerly limped off the main road and onto the side street with me. We got out of our cars and remembered to first ask if everyone was okay. Then we introduced ourselves. This is one of the all-time oddest ways to meet someone new. Hey, crash here often?  How about this crashing inducing weather we’re having?

First I met the woman who hit me. I’ll call her Laura (because that is her first name, and her last name is too difficult to spell). She was driving a new grey Honda Oddessy mini van. She had a car full of humans and was finally heading home from a long day of volleyball at the high school.

The person driving the car that created the crash was a tall goofy boy who was college-dropout aged. He was odd. And he raised an eyebrow of the responding police officer who said, “I’m going to talk to him first. He’s acting pretty shifty.’ But I don’t think he was acting. That was just him being himself.

This left me, Laura, her kids, and soon her husband John (who came to help) to talk amongst ourselves as we waited. And the more we talked the more I liked them. They were nice people. Laura asked my daughter how her basketball practice was. Which was a very nice thing to ask a kid who had just been in her first accident. And it demonstrated Laura’s ability to think beyond herself, even though her brand new minivan has just been dented, gashed and bruised. And her engine was now wheezing like a junkyard conversion van. John was friendly, composed and funny. He said, ‘Well at least it didn’t happen during the Packer game.’ I laughed.

But as we talked we realized we had more in common. Laura and I had both gone to the University of Wisconsin. We quickly found several people we knew in common. And then we realized that we both work in (and love) advertising.

So there we were. Our cars dented and saddened by recent events. Yet Laura was cool, collected, considerate and humorous. Which are the traits you need to have to be successful in advertising. Because in this industry fender benders and traffic jams and last minute surprises are routine. After this surprise-round of speed networking we decided that we should meet again to talk about doing business together.

While we at The Perfect Agency Project don’t recommend getting in an accident, it does provide a valuable look at how people respond to the negative. It gives you a good look at who they really are under pressure. And if you like them then, you will probably like working with them too. Laura passed The Fender Bender Test with flying colors. Would you? I encourage you to think about it. But I hope you never know.

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Author: Adam Albrecht

Adam Albrecht is the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. He believes the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind. He also authors two blogs: The Perfect Agency Project and Dad Says Daughter Says, a Daddy-Daughter blog he co-writes with his 12 year old daughter Ava. Adam can be reached at adam@theweaponry.com.

10 thoughts on “Could you pass the Fender Bender Test?”

  1. How coincidental to read this as I conducted my own test in regards to you since we met: The Smell Test. I left the crime scene feeling oddly invigorated as I felt I met “a good one”. You know, the kind of guy who gets you. Gets where you’ve been. Gets where you’re going. So, I sought out a few that I thought may have crossed paths with you (since Milwaukee’s creative pool is an incestuous bunch). Just what I thought. Comments with exclamation points (one with 3) and even one with a winky face! If Milwaukee is small, then Mequon is a fish bowl. Wednesday night I was serving, well, shoveling food, to the freshman football team with a former co-worker of yours. I teed her up by saying, “I think I was in an accident with someone you know…” She smiles wide (real, not fake) and confirms your awesomeness to me. My Scooby Doo work was complete. You passed. And to think I’ve gone to countless networking breakfasts choking down rubbery eggs and numerous forced convo luncheons with undercooked baby red potatoes to find an opportunity to meet a creative all because a 19 year old didn’t adhere to the three-second rule in maintaining a safe following distance…must’ve been my lucky day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As the Turkish say, ’tis kismet’ (aka, how the kids met). You’ll be lucky to be in cahoots with Adam – I learned a tremendous amount about creative development, strategic thinking, and all-around fair play from the man myself!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Reading this? I sent it on to all of my people. Well, family and close friends of course. Thought they’d get a kick out of this. I have a friend that loved your style so much she’d like to set up a coffee to meet to see if she can use you for client work. Let’s talk offline to set up the meet and greet.

        Liked by 1 person

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