As I was approaching the corner of Oak and Chestnut, in the "quaint" little village of Rhinebeck, a huge, white Carryall or oversized SUV, was coming down the other way. It swung wide around the corner, and headed straight for my little car. I pulled as far over as the snow bank would allow, and stopped, but the white monster just kept on coming! Straight for me. And coming!
There is a moment of sheer panic before, and then when it happens, I can't believe it, and then I realize: it has. But we're okay, if a bit shaken, as the other car comes to a sudden stop--partway inside what had been my car.
We both get out to look, and the driver of the other vehicle, a brown young woman, obviously Mexican (I later discover she's from Oaxaca), is standing, by her car door, looking shamefaced. There was more than a lane's width of roadway to her left.
Our car's front is crumpled, hood and fender, one headlight peering up into the air. Her Carryall is hardly damaged.
"I pay for all," she says. "I am so sorry. We just do this ourselves?"
"Are you legal?" My wife asks.
The young woman hesitates, and then tentatively shakes her head.
Elizabeth turns to me. "We can't call the Police! She'll be deported!"
I'm not sure, but then a neighbor of the driver, a part-time Minister--the young woman driver lives right around the corner, apparently--comes up, and after asking if everyone is all right, takes one look at my car and says, "You've got to call the Police. They have to report this."
I realize this is true. I could get a ticket if I didn't. Just looking at where the two vehicles ended up, there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that I was totally not at fault; I couldn't have gotten my car further over to the right, and her vehicle was directly in front of it, facing it, in my lane.
Finally, after another anxious minute, I realized: New York is not Arizona. A cop is not supposed to ask about immigration status. When I pointed this out, Elizabeth agreed to call the cops on her cell phone. The Mexican woman looked worried, and her neighbor tried to reassure her.
I copied down her name and Mexican address from her Mexican license--she didn't have an American one--the first hint of more trouble--but she had Illinois plates!
Since Rhinebeck is a small village, the village policeman was there within ten minutes and took my license, registration and insurance card, and then asked for the young woman's. She handed him the Mexican license.
The policeman looked at it and shook his head. "That's no good." When he asked for her registration and insurance, she said she'd look for them. A minute later, she came back with what looked like the title.
The cop shook his head again. "That's not going to help much." Then he copied down our license plates, and retreated to his patrol car.
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