Touched by the Crumple Fairy

One of the oddest things that’s ever happened to me happened this afternoon in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland.

Brief background: In May 2020 I bought a new Outback. It was the first actually new new car I’d ever owned. Just a month or two later, my friend Ron called my attention to the right corner of the rear rubber bumper. Its pristine newness had been marred by a grapefruit-sized dent smack in the crumple zone.

Either I’d backed into something without feeling it, or something had hit the car when it was parked. The Subaru dealership told me the crumple couldn’t be pulled out with a suction device. The whole bumper would have to be replaced, at a cost of $1000 to $1200. But the car was perfectly functional, and I decided to live with the crumple. After all, every new car gets its first ding sometime. Mine just happened sooner than expected.

Today I met my friend Kathleen for lunch. I found a parking space at the corner of SE 13th and Miller, outside Nama Ramen, about half a block or so from the place where we were going to eat. The car was parked in the last space at the end of the block, with the crumpled bumper facing the street.

After a lovely long lunch, Kathleen and I strolled back toward my car; she had parked nearby. As we approached that intersection, I joked about how I can always tell my car from the million other silver Outbacks in Portland by looking for the crumpled rear bumper. Kathleen had reached the car before me and was standing behind it. “There’s no crumple,” she said.

It was definitely my car. Not only was it where I had parked, but it had my custom Yakima roof rack on it. And my plates. But Kathleen was right: there was no crumple. The right rear corner of the bumper was now smooth and rounded, with just a couple of tiny, all but invisible scrapes below where the crumple had been. (The scrapes had appeared at the same time as the crumple.)

I was thunderstruck. I knew the crumple was there as recently as this past weekend, because I had looked at it, wondering if I should get it fixed after all.

“Maybe some change in air pressure . . . .?” I speculated based on nothing.

Then Kathleen pointed out what I had failed to see: the rear of the car was pretty dusty. I hadn’t washed it since a recent day trip down some dusty roads. The bumper was dusty, too–all except that right corner, which was spotless. Someone had clearly wiped it clean and then, apparently, removed my crumple. Did they use magic, or a suction device they just happened to have in their car, or what?

We looked all around for a few minutes, wondering if the fixer would make an appearance, but nothing happened. Eventually I concluded that I had been touched by the Crumple Fairy of Portland and went gratefully on my way.

Crumple Fairy, in the extremely unlikely event that you see this, please accept my heartfelt thanks. In your name I gave $20 to a homeless man on the way home.