I dread Friday the 13th.  I have done so ever since April, 1971, when on a Shakespeare exam at Queen’s I faced a compulsory 45 mark question on three plays I hadn’t read.  Then I reeled into a Canadian history exam and had forgotten pretty well everything by the fifth hour of the six-hour ordeal.

It’s not that I’m overly superstitious.  No, my fear of Friday the 13th comes as the result of a lifelong series of catastrophes on that day, many of which have had a built-in ironic component which makes my head spin.  The mysterious case of the runaway Bronco is a good example:


I was in the shower, a bit late for the drive to school, when I heard a loud crash.  Bet shouted, “Rod, somebody’s hit your truck!”

I stumbled outside.  There was my poor 4Runner, huddled against the curb, one back wheel driven up onto the lawn.  The left side had been creased and scratched and the mirror was nowhere to be found.

Just past my truck a Ford Bronco had wrapped itself around the hydro pole which grows at the edge of our driveway.  Coolant gushed from the radiator and perfumed the air around the wreck.  I checked the cab.  No driver.  What’s more, the interior of the truck was tidy, locked up, and with no keys in the ignition.

A Smiths Falls Police cruiser arrived. The officers looked as bewildered as I about the absent driver.

About this time a little guy strolled up the road from Quattrocchi’s vegetable warehouse, a block further down the hill.  “I’d just got in with a load a’ potatoes from New Brunswick when I saw those poles and wires-a-dancing, so I left my truck to come up and see what’s happened.”

Constable Jim Ecker asked, “Sir, did you see the accident?  Did you see anyone running away from the vehicle?”

“No, all I saw’s the wires, but they were really jumping around there for a bit.”

The stranger walked over to the wrecked SUV.  “Say, now, that’s a 1986 Ford Bronco.  I had one a’ them.  Thing kept jumpin’outa park whenever I left ‘er parked on a hill.  Finally it got away on me out front o’ my sister’s house and it rolled into a swamp and we never did find it again.  Brand new tires on’er, too.  I missed those tires.”

Constable Alison Smith piped up:  “Sir, are you suggesting that this vehicle might have been parked up the street, and that it jumped out of park and rolled down the hill until it hit this pole?”

The man looked at the wrecked Bronco, looked up the street, considered the slopes, the distances, the angle of deflection off my Toyota, and nodded his head in the affirmative.  “Yep.”

Constable Ecker ran the plate and discovered that the Bronco was registered to the pastor of his church.  He called and interrupted the clergyman’s breakfast.  He promised to come right over, and soon parked his Crown Victoria behind my stricken 4Runner.

“I lent the Bronco to my daughter to use while her husband is out of town.  They live in an apartment up the hill,” gesturing up Church Street towards the town hall.

“What’s her name and phone number, Reverend?” Smith asked.

“Would you mind not calling her?  She worked the night shift and is probably just getting to sleep now.  Why don’t I call my insurance company and the tow-truck and we let her sleep?”

The officers decided that this would be all right, so a genial and very knowledgeable tow truck owner soon arrived and separated the Bronco from its splintered adversary.

It fell to me to notify my insurance company of the accident.  The local answering machine referred me to another in Kingston, into which I dictated my message.

“Dear Sir, Madam, or machine:  This morning at approximately 7:30 a ten year-old Bronco got away from its owner and ran down the street, plunged through an intersection, sideswiped my 4Runner and killed itself on the hydro pole in my driveway.”

I left my contact numbers and soon a smart and very competent woman called to guide me through procedures. The repairs were soon done to my satisfaction, the rental Ford went back, and I thought I had heard the last of the matter.

Then, three months later, a letter arrived from the insurance company:

“Dear Mr. Croskery   re:  Animal Collision, April 13, 1997.  We hope that you have found the repairs to your vehicle satisfactory…”

Animal collision??? This left me in a quandary.  The nice lady on the phone couldn’t possibly have mistaken a 1986 Bronco for a horse.  So was she joking?  I couldn’t tell, and worse, I didn’t know how to respond.  Do I clear up her “misconception” and make myself the butt of the joke, or do I let it go? Torn by indecision, I finally wimped out and said that everything was fine.  Maybe that gave her the best laugh of all.

When I told the guys at the Marina about this, my Newfoundland friend Les said that he had the same thing happen when he hit a moose with his Blazer.  About three months later a letter came, this one about a “collision with a flying object.”

“Well, that moose was a’flyin after I ran into ‘er, but maybe they’d used up all the animal collisions in Ontario and gave us what was left over.”