By Vince Basehart
Two motor vehicles have collided
on Wilshire Boulevard. Nobody is hurt.
No airbags have deployed. But there
is glass in the street and a Prius
with its front bumper torn off.
The hump-backed hybrid, its blinkers
seemingly flashing in outrage, blocks
traffic in the right hand lane. Bits
of Prius dot the blacktop and a pool
of liquid has formed beneath it.
The offending vehicle, a large, dark
blue pickup truck with the logo of
a construction company on its driver's
door, is parked guiltily at the curb.
There is a cream colored smear –
the color of the Prius – on
its front bumper. Beneath the caked-on
grime there is no other evidence the
truck has collided with anything but
The Prius driver is a young woman,
wearing one of those tight fitting
midriff exposing tops, pajama-looking
pants and flip-flops. She's a looker
in a sun-drenched, California sort
of way. She's standing in front of
her wounded car, barking into a cell
phone and gesticulating wildly with
her free hand.
The truck driver stands beside his
vehicle. He is a sullen-looking young
Latino, lean, and covered in concrete
dust. But for a hardhat, boots and
kneepads, he could be a giant loaf
of artisanal bread. His construction
company T-shirt clings to him in the
muggy, late summer afternoon heat.
An older man, probably a supervisor,
stands at his side and puts a fatherly
hand on the young man's shoulder.
They are not ten yards from the work
site. It appears to be a half-built
office building with a cavernous square
hole where subterranean parking will
be. Construction workers have assembled
on one of the lower floors of the
skeletal structure. It is lunchtime
and this is their afternoon entertainment
as they open bags from a burger joint.
There are laughs and whistles and
yells and calls down to the truck
driver, who pretends not to hear.
Another hard-hatted man, either out
of instinct or a genuine attempt to
be useful, has taken to directing
traffic around the Prius, shooing
a Mercedes, then a lumbering city
bus, around the stopped car, as if
without his listless waving vehicles
would inexorably pile into the back
of the Prius.
A police car pulls up. On go the strobe
lights. The officer is out and talking
to the woman. She is off the phone
and now has both arms in motion. She
is suddenly a one-woman kabuki theater,
demonstrating with wild movements
the manner in which filth-belching
construction trucks swooping out of
nowhere to mangle helpless, earth-friendly
hybrids. When her voice raises too
much, the cop shakes his head, stops
her with a motion of his hands, and
walks over to the truck driver and
the supervisor. He's done this a thousand
A shirtless homeless man staggers
by pushing a cart. He stops and bends
deep, peering hard at the battered
end of the Prius. He looks around,
says something to nobody in particular,
and moves on. An elderly man shuffles
past, not taking his eyes off of the
sidewalk in front of him.
Later, the Prius woman is standing
next to a scruffy young man, apparently
her boyfriend, who has his arm around
her awkwardly. Her arms are crossed
at her chest.
The offending pick up truck is now
gone, as a tow truck is backing up
to the front of the Prius. The errant,
sullen dust-covered truck driver himself
is now waving traffic around it all,
avoiding the glares of the young woman
and her beau.