Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Damage We Do...

My car was towed last night. My trunk doesn't always latch properly--it looks closed but isn't actually latched tight--and it eventually triggers the car alarm. I always double-check the trunk when I close it, but apparently on this occasion it slipped my attention. I parked way out of hearing range of where I'm staying and the alarm was apparently going off from 11pm until 1am, at which point it was towed.

So this morning I walked out to the car and found it missing. It took a while to figure out where I've got my new license plate number written down (a harder problem than you might think) and more time to figure out who I was supposed to call to figure out where my car was.

After waking up Aaron and getting a ride to the tow yard I retrieved my car and found the following left on my windshield:

(click to see a bigger version)

The letters are excessively ugly, vindictive, and mean. I was stricken by their ferocity and cruelty. I found them deeply troubling and they made me quite sad.

I shook my head in shock. In the meantime a man who worked at the tow yard was cleaning the wax pencil markings off my windshield. He looked over and without a moment's thought he kindly offered: "Some people just don't understand" while he continued to clean my windshield.

I think he nailed it. You don't even have to articulate what it is that they don't understand. They just don't understand.

As horrifying as the ugliness was before me, it was almost as equally reassuring to hear this man's simple, easy acknowledgement.

I decided that something needed to be done, or rather said, about this.

I'm going to be leaving a letter for each resident of the nearby buildings that includes copies of the two ugly letters. I don't know if anyone will read it or get anything out of it, but the effort is worthwhile regardless. I don't know if the people who wrote the letters will see it, but at least a few of their neighbors will see the letters they wrote.

The text of my letter will read as follows:

To my neighbors,

I apologize for the disturbance my car alarm caused Sunday night; there are few things more annoying than a car alarm blaring all night long. If I had been within hearing distance of it, I obviously would have dealt with it immediately. Please accept my sincerest apologies.

To the people who left the notes on my car,

Again I apologize. It was an accident that resulted in an immense annoyance for you which I deeply regret. But do realize that there was no malicious intent to personally offend you or anyone else. There was no laziness or oversight on my part. I live a number of buildings away and simply could not hear that the alarm had been triggered.

The towing and release fees for the car amounted to $184.15. That’s more than an entire day’s take home pay for most people. I hope you’ll agree that this is a just penalty for the disturbance the alarm caused. I bear no grudge about this fine. I would have had the car towed if our roles were reversed (and would have done it much sooner than waiting until 1am).

But what I would not have done is leave the angry, vindictive letters that you felt justified to leave. While I understand your frustration with the situation, I do not accept your cruelty and ugliness.

Let the punishment fit the crime. Being fined $184.15 is appropriate; wishing that I flunk out of school is not. You could maybe argue that I was a “dumbass” but certainly not an “asshole” since I wasn’t being rude – I simply wasn’t within hearing distance. “Inconsiderate” almost works but still isn’t quite applicable. As for “shit-for-brains,” well… that’s just lovely.

The damage that we do to each other unintentionally is regrettable. But the evil that we do to each other intentionally is sickening. I have included copies of your letters so that you and your neighbors may reflect upon this theme. I’m not being pithy here. I’m serious. Life can be difficult enough without adding more poison to the well. Learn to recognize the difference between an innocent mistake and a personal affront and deal with each situation in its due measure.

I am honestly sorry that my mistake ruined your evening. Be assured (or gratified, if you prefer) that the vindictive ugliness of your letters has ruined mine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - that SUCKS! Bob always tells me to imagine the experiences they've had to make them the bitter mean a-holes they are. To which I respond, "A crappy life doesn't give you carte blanche to behave like a dick It violates my whole do-the-right-thing for reward, or do-the-wrong-thing and get punished. Where's the punishment?! People that do bad are supposed to be punished!"

Then he says, "Then imagine that somewhere down the line, somebody is going to respond to their venom with a lot less tolerance than we nice people do. They're going to piss on the wrong person, and they're gonna get theirs." And I settle back with a vague smile of satisfaction...

Way to go in sending that letter - whatever makes you feel better.


Tue Jul 31, 02:54:00 AM CDT  

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