Opening Letters

COLUMN: Just a Bump in the Road

our minds often convince us of the worst when it may be the best

Samantha Kobs, illustrated by Caitlin Plaisance |

It was a typical weekday morning, and I had just left my house for another monotonous day in the office. I made my way through the intersection of Margaret and Harding, turning with both grace and appropriate speed. Just then, my car lurched forward with a sickening crunch.

My eyes snapped to my rearview mirror just in time to see a vehicle veering out of the lane directly behind me. Where it came from, I had no clue. Truthfully I had been fantasizing about my breakfast, which was sitting on the passenger seat. My eyes were on the road, of course, but my heart and mind were with that steamy egg burrito. This couldn’t have been my fault, though. I had a green light, hadn’t I?

I swerved into the nearest business – Trubilt Collision Center. I had no time for ironic laughter. Instead, I was running through the multitude of scenarios that could come next. What if this was my fault, and the other driver was about to sue me for all I was worth? Surely 10 people had recorded this and posted it to TikTok by now. My thoughts turned darker. What if the driver was about to pulverize me, growling “You’re gonna be dead meat!” as I ran circles around my car to escape their pugilistic fury? I could probably clutch my neck and fake a whiplash injury. Or maybe just call up the Nicolet Law guy instead – he had pretty good commercials. 

My hatchback rolled to a stop, and I knew I needed to be the first out of my car to show dominance.

Samantha kobs


My hatchback rolled to a stop, and I knew I needed to be the first out of my car to show dominance. Within seconds, I was standing at my back bumper inspecting the immeasurable damage. Except I couldn’t find any. I had no idea where my car had been hit. All I saw were tasteful bumper stickers, wheel well rust, and a small black scrape barely the size of a pack of gum.

“Oh, gosh!” a cheery Midwestern voice called out from behind me. “I was blinded by the sun!”

I whipped around and locked eyes with an older gentleman climbing out of his minivan. He resembled an older Anthony Hopkins with golden dental crowns. His eyes were kind, and his body language suggested we were not about to square up. Plus, he had just admitted fault, and he had what appeared to be his loving wife and grandchildren watching from their seats. The fight was off.

We both looked back to my car, squinting away the bright morning light. Up until now, I hadn’t really noticed how beautiful the weather was. In fact, this was the first day of sunshine after weeks of gray skies and frozen temperatures. 

“I, uh…. don’t really see anything,” I confessed, running my hand along my bumper and side panel for dramatic effect. I wasn’t entirely confident that the mystery scrape was a result of this underwhelming traffic accident – it might have even been there when I bought it.

Our gazes shifted toward his minivan. We cupped our hands over our eyes, searching but finding nothing save a few light scuffs. 

“Hmm,” he said. “Went right through the red light, there! Gosh, that sun! I couldn’t see a thing!”

A moment went by, then another. We both looked at each other and shrugged. 

“I’m not worried about it if you’re not worried about it,” I said, hoping that didn’t equate to insurance fraud.

“Sounds good to me,” he smiled back.

Around us, black-capped chickadees called to their sweethearts, ice ruts slowly melted into puddles, and the city bustled with energy. We said our goodbyes, then climbed into our respective vehicles, ready to take on the day.