I was backing out of the parking lot at work and I didn’t feel a thing, but I heard a sickening crunch. You know that sound: your vehicle just contacted something. Vehicles aren’t meant to contact anything, ever. Except maybe a nice cuddley chemis.
Couldn’t see anything in the side mirror or the rearview, so I got out. Ah. Crumbs.
There lay a pretty silver scooter on it’s side. I glanced around to see if the owner was sitting at one of the outside tables at the coffee house below my office. No. In fact, there was no one, absolutely nobody in sight.
If you’ve ever hung out at Priscilla’s you will understand what a bizarre thing this is. Besides the coffee house, there’s a dry cleaners across the street, and the sidewalk and parking areas are usually abuzz with activity.
I’d be lying if I said that just getting in my car and leaving didn’t flit through my mind. I’d like to say that, but if I realized that there were absolutely no witnesses to my crime, I must have at least acknowledged the possibility.
But you know, if you do something rotten that no one else knows about, it’s you who has to live with the disappointment you’ve created in the world. You and your victim, and whomever they need to share with.
I went into Priscilla’s and asked if anyone there drove a silver Kawasaki—who knows why I said Kawasaki, because my brother owned one a billion and seven years ago?—but there were no takers. I went around the shady side of the building and asked the people at the outside tables. Nope.
I was about to go back into Priscilla’s to leave my information, figuring the person would go there to find out if anyone had said anything, and almost ran into a man coming out. It was his bike. It wasn’t a Kawasaki. It was a Yamaha scooter.
Here’s where it gets really good. He goes and sets up the bike, all the time saying, “It’s probably not a problem. It’s been knocked over before, it’ll be knocked over again.”
There’s me, pointing out the scrapes and scratches. There’s him, saying it doesn’t matter.
“Take my information anyway,” I said, “You’re going to feel terrible if you find something wrong and you feel like you were just too nice about it. I’ve done that.”
He shrugged, “Okay. You’re probably right.”
I tore a sheet from the back of that pretty little notebook I showed you a few days ago and started writing on the trunk of my car. I could hear Dodger crooning, “Oh… oh,” from the front seat. (He’d come to work with me for the day.)
“Thanks so much for looking for me,” my victim said, “That was really decent of you.”
“Hey, I work here. I hang out here. This is like my yard.” You know. The place you don’t defecate in.
He asked about the vacancy sign in the window, and I told him it’s always there. But there might be something available. It’s not a good place if you have very many clients coming and going because the parking is nearly impossible. I told him that the place I work does script research and it’s almost entirely done through e-mail, so not many people have to visit.
“Oh, like clearances and that sort of thing?”
“Yes!” I’m astonished. No one knows about this. 98% of people working on shows don’t know this. “You must be in the industry.”
“I’m a screenwriter.”
He has a couple of projects going all the time. He gets that we are only helping him and the production company not get sued. He doesn’t feel terrible when he has to change a name because there’s only one guy by that name in that town.
I give him all the important numbers: phones, driver’s license, insurance, plates. I apologize again.
“Hey, if I minded it getting scuffed up, I wouldn’t park it in the city.”
“That’s a great attitude.”
“Someone let me off the hook once when I scraped his car. It was such a relief. I figure I can do the same.”
I headed home feeling so good. And just think what misery I could have caused. It would have been so awful if he’d come out and found his scooter lying on its side. He would have felt bad about it for days, maybe longer. Because he’d have been denied the opportunity to be nice about it.
That happened to me once years and years ago, when I parked my beat up Honda Civic in Hydra’s employee parking space outside the Fort Wayne Performing Arts Center. Some one scraped it and didn’t come inside to say anything about it. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t have asked for any money or even been angry about it, but I wasn’t offered the opportunity to be a nice person, and that still feels like a gyp.
And guess what? The guy even called me a couple of hours later.
“I’ve been driving all over for the last couple of hours. Just thought I’d let you know, there’s no problem. Didn’t want you to worry about it.”
I told him I would have worried a little for at least three days and thanked him. Astonishing.
Of course, there are times when a person really can’t let you off because the stakes are too high or they just aren’t able to deal with a nasty surprise. But it still pays off inside your head if you can do the right thing.
And thank you for bearing with me on this long story.