The latest support group taking over the world is a bit of a crash-course in handling trauma from minor automobile accidents. A growing number of motorists is finding solace in the Official Fender Bender Support Group (OFBSG), which takes its name from the informal American term for a minor road accident. The OFBSG began just two years ago in Sydney, Australia and has since spread to over 100 cities in mostly First World nations.
Psychologist Phil Gaffney, PhD, says that automobile accidents account for about half the problems in society today, and not a few of these are so-called fender benders. He has written profusely on the subject, and served as counsellor for the Official Fender Bender Support Group’s founders. “If it weren’t for Phil, I don’t know where we’d be now,” says cofoundress Lisa Lokee. “I mean, we might be in someone’s garage or something. He explained to us early on that garages can bring back memories of the accident, and it’s better to meet somewhere like a school, which has less association with vehicles. Plus they usually have places to sit.”
If you’ve ever been in a “fender bender,” you know how it feels. The tingling of the spine, which might have been jarred not so much by the impact of the vehicle’s bumper as by the fear of the scratches on the hubcaps or the stainless steel tailpipe; the headache caused by the sound of metal on metal, just like when old Mrs. So-and-so dragged her fingernails across the chalkboard in the primary school classroom; the knowledge that you are losing at least an hour talking to the idiotic motorist who had the nerve to cut you off in rush-hour traffic, when you could be home watching the telly. That sort of trauma is on par with burning yourself with the very coffee you just paid £3 for.
But now, instead of being locked in isolation, ruminating over your misfortune every time you push the button for the 13th floor in the lift to your office, you can find comfort in your mates at the Official Fender Bender Support Group. Every week, you can meet with 12 or 13 peers in your small group, and monthly with the larger city-wide group. These are ordinary people like yourself, who have lived through the same ordeal, with whom you can share your story, and who will lend you their ears like the friends, Romans, and countrymen for whom you always longed.
Our roving reporter Ryan Rocifero recently went undercover and crashed one of the Sydney OFBSG meetings and found 12 or 13 whimpering, snivelling, sobbing, but finely-dressed persons sharing their stories of scratched bumpers on their brand new Lexuses, windshields pitted by stones kicked up by other vehicles, and dented doors that still function perfectly well but “look like the ones on my old car.” Rocifero noted that the victims in these and similar stories still had perfect physical health, but obviously little left of their mental health. The support group does what it can to bring them back to their senses, but it is clearly a difficult journey for most.
“I can’t stop thinking about it,” said one young lady. “It’s like, the paint job will never be the same. If I decide to resell the car, who’s going to buy it? I just can’t live with the knowledge that I’m going to lose at least AU$100 because of this accident. And besides, it was loud. Very loud.”
Another person, a male of about 42 years, recounted a story of stopping at a traffic signal, when “some idiot” in the next lane decided to swerve for no apparent reason, not contacting the man’s car but causing him to break out in a sweat, for fear he might be hit from the side. “I almost died of fright,” he said, “and to this day I sweat every time I see a blue Toyota.” He went on to say he had written a letter to Toyota asking them to stop making the blue ones, but never received a response.
When Rocifero was asked to share his own story, he made up something about a beer truck and a driver with a shady smirk, who stopped too fast, causing Rocifero to skid several feet and hit the beer truck’s bumper. The support group ate it up, and offered to buy him a beer as a sympathy gift. We’re still waiting to hear whether he accepted the gift.