“Nice parking job, Asshat! What a jerk! When you park like this, it makes it difficult to get out of the parking lot! You’re an Asshole!”
That was the note my friend found on the windshield of her car last week, which was parked after-hours in the Durango Arts Center parking lot on East Second Avenue across from Steamworks.
First, let me excoriate my friend for her parking job. As you might have guessed, there was nothing nice about it, either in technique or location. The spot she parked in is more of a non-spot on the end of the row, and any car that is parked there makes the thorough way one car-length smaller, but not unpassable by any means. Would I have parked there? Probably not. But that’s because I’m a people-pleasing rule-follower. Would parking there make me an asshole? I’d like to think not. (I happen to think my friend is one of the kindest, loveliest people I know.)
But that is not the point here. The point is the note, and the fact that it was written and placed on the windshield. There are two issues I have with it:
1) The note-writer takes one negative action – the perceived poor and selfish parking job – and responds with anger and further negativity.
2) In calling my friend an Asshat and Asshole, and in the act of leaving a nasty note on a stranger’s windshield, the note-writer becomes the thing he or she is calling someone else, using poor behavior to combat (perceived) poor behavior.
I have to wonder what this person hoped to accomplish with such a note. That my friend would never, ever park there again? That she would feel bad about herself and what she’d done? If it were my car that got the note, it may stop me parking there again, but instead of feeling bad for parking poorly, I’d just walk away thinking that some people in the world are angry and hurting and are looking for outlets for their anger and hurt. My parking would disappear as the issue.
I’ve seen this approach all too often of late in the news: People taking legitimate issue with how a newspaper reports a story about violence and sexual assault by using assaulting behavior and threatening violence in response; stories of people shutting down speech while protesting in the name of free speech and open views; people advocating for inclusive viewpoints by specifically excluding certain viewpoints.
If we want to change something in the world, we can’t become the precise thing we’re trying to change, no matter how righteous we think our principles are.
I don’t take issue with the note-writer taking issue with the parking job. I don’t take issue with leaving notes on windshields. But why not write a note that says: “Hi, I had a really hard time getting my vehicle out of the parking lot tonight because of how your car was parked. I don’t think this is a sanctioned spot. Peace.”
If I got that note, I’d be more likely to change my behavior and even feel remorse. I believe everyone responds better to kindness, even those with whom we disagree or take issue with.
A few years back while entering a mall parking lot, I encountered one of those intersections where the entering cars do not stop, while the other three directions have stop signs. They can be notoriously confusing for the drivers who are supposed to stop. As was I was entering the intersection, a car with a stop sign pulled in front of me. I slammed my brakes, honked my horn, and shouted enough to fog my windshield. The offending car stopped close enough to my car that I could see the driver. I expected him to return my anger and frustration and shouting. Instead, he clasped his palms together and mouthed, “I’m sorry.” I was close enough to look into his eyes and saw only kindness. That simple de-escalating gesture broke me. It not only evaporated my anger, it made me want to be kinder and more empathetic.
All I can say is that I hope we can all put down our swords. Let’s meet anger and the wrongs we perceive in the world with kindness and empathy. There’s negativity all around us. We don’t need to create more.