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Crash Course

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If my wife and I wanted to have an impact on the people around us, we would teach a crash course in driver's education. That's because we have been in three crashes caused by people who had an impact on us.

The first mishap occurred about a year and a half ago, when some idiot cut in front of me at an intersection because his GPS told him to go the wrong way down a one-way street. In this case, GPS must have stood for Guy Positioning System, since the guy obviously was lost and, like most men, wouldn't stop to ask for directions.

The second mishap occurred a couple of months ago, when a little old lady pulled out of a side street in front of my wife's car because, as the woman admitted, she wasn't paying attention. I can only assume her GPS stood for Granny Positioning System.

The third mishap occurred only two weeks later, when an older man rear-ended my wife's car at a red light, damaging her brand-new bumper, which she got as a result of the previous accident. His GPS apparently stood for Geezer Positioning System.

I don't know where the drivers are worse, on Long Island, N.Y., where my wife and I live and where all three accidents occurred, or in our hometown of Stamford, Conn., where you take your life in your hands every time you get behind the wheel.

But I do know this: Everyone on the road these days is certifiably insane. Except for my wife and me. And we have the insurance settlements to prove it.

To get a driver's education in the fine art of vehicular mayhem, I recently went to King O'Rourke Auto Body in Smithtown, N.Y., where my wife and I have had our cars repaired after each accident, and took a real crash course from manager Bobby Lombardi.

"The main problem," Lombardi said, "is that people don't pay attention when they're driving. Of course," he added with a smile, "it's not a problem for me because it's good for business."

There was one driver in particular who convinced him that auto body repair could be lucrative. The driver's name: Bobby Lombardi.

"I totaled a cop car when I was 17," he recalled. "I was driving a van for a printing company. There was a misty rain and this lady in a station wagon with kids in the back cut me off. I remember thinking, 'I can hit this lady or hit the cop car.' The cop had gotten out of his car to write a ticket, so I said to myself, 'I'll hit the cop car.' I hit it so hard that it slid and hit the car he was writing a ticket for. I jumped out of the van and said, 'Get that lady's plate!' The cop gave me a ticket."

After a few more mishaps, which mainly involved clipping taxis in New York City and putting a notch for each hit on his dashboard, "I decided to get into this business," he said. "I figured, at the very least, I could fix my own vehicles."

Lombardi, 53, who has been in the business for 30 years, is now, by his own account, "an excellent driver." That's more than he can say for a lot of other people.

"They drive while they're texting or talking on the phone," Lombardi said. "Some people read the paper. I've seen women putting on makeup. It's ridiculous."

But the biggest causes of accidents, according to Lombardi, are GPS devices.

"They're worse than anything," he said, adding that he once got into an argument with his GPS. "It could speak different languages. I was looking for a place in Massapequa. The GPS said, 'Do you want to speak Italian?' I said, 'No! I want Massapequa!' It said, 'No comprendo.' I was actually talking with my hands to this thing, like a real Italian. I was yelling at it. Finally, I shut it off, went to a gas station and asked for directions. I know guys aren't supposed to do that, but I had no other choice."

Lombardi and I, who are both of Italian descent, agreed that his GPS stood for Goomba Positioning System.

Lombardi, who has done wonderful work on our family cars, had this final piece of advice for drivers everywhere: "Pay attention. Don't drink and drive. And if you see Jerry or his wife coming down the road, get the hell out of the way."

Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima can be reached at JerryZ111@optonline.net. His blog is www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com.

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima

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