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Blissfully oblivious
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Blissfully oblivious

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Bill Perkins

I traded vehicles several weeks ago, winding up with a black SUV in exchange for the sedan I’d driven for the last few years. I like that the SUV is smarter than I am. For instance, I don’t have to unlock the door. The vehicle sees me coming and unlocks the door with a chirp when I touch the handle.

It took me a while to get accustomed to a different vehicle – not so much the driving part, but there’ve been several times when I got to a parking lot and had a momentary rush of panic when I didn’t recognize the ride as the one I’d left there earlier.

A few days ago, I pulled up to the post office and went inside to pick up my mail – the latest New Yorker magazine. As I turned to leave, my phone chimed, alerting me that a text had arrived. I fumbled for my glasses, juggled the phone and the magazine, and kept heading for the door. Between the humidity and my face mask, my glasses fogged as I attempted to read the text from my old schoolmate Doug Mann. Studying the phone screen, I reached and pulled the car door open, and thought, “Hey, where’s the chirp?”

Instead, I heard, “EXCUSE YOU!” and felt an opposite force yank the car door shut. I looked up and was surprised to find a man sitting in my car using a cell phone. I stared at him for a second without really seeing him, then stepped back to survey the scene. It was a black SUV, but the wheels were different. I looked at the space just beyond, and there was another black SUV – mine. Different models, different manufacturers, but black SUVs are pretty interchangeable to a distracted person. I mumbled an apology and shuffled sheepishly off to my own car under the glare of the other driver.

I wish I could say it was the first time I tried to get into someone else’s car. Several years ago, Bettye had driven us over in her red sedan to Kiwanis Park to walk along the trail. As we were headed back to the car, I slowed because I’d seen some people I knew gathering supplies to feed a colony of feral cats in the woods near the park. We were shouting greetings across the parking lot when I stepped up next to the car and pulled on the door handle. The door was still locked, so I knocked on the window and made an “unlock” gesture, but there was no response.

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I looked in the car to see what the hold-up was, only to find a strange woman staring at me as if I were the slasher from Halloween. Beyond her, in the next space, I could see Bettye seeing me trying to get into some poor woman’s red sedan.

As I walked away, I pointed to the red car I was supposed to get in and mouthed “Sorry!” to the woman I’d scared half to death. I doubt that made her feel any better; a strange man had tried to get into her car at the park. That’s the beginning of any horror movie; it made little difference that I was just an inattentive dolt.

But I don’t think it’s inattention. It’s more like oblivion. I saw what I expected to be there, and was oblivious beyond that. How was I to know the black SUV I was trying to get into wasn’t the same black SUV I had gotten out of?

OK, so maybe there is a bit of inattention at play, but not completely. I was multitasking, and lost in the moment. Had the black SUV been moving, I think I would have noticed, regardless of whatever else I may have been trying to do.

So to the woman at the park more than a decade ago, and the guy at the post office last week, I offer sincere apologies. And if it’s any consolation, the encounters left me shaken as well.

I’m going to find some fuzzy dice to hang from the rear-view mirror so my own black SUV will be easier to identify.

Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at

Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at


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