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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