I clipped your car when pulling into the spot beside you. There’s no damage other than a scuff, but people are staring so I want them to believe I am leaving you my insurance information with this note.
Sorry about that.
My best friend from college wrote this note. When he confessed the incident in a dorm room that he first swept for wiretaps, I sat there dumb-struck. I withdrew a big breath and bowed my head. I looked up, met his anxious gaze, and uttered slowly, “That is the most brilliant thing I have ever heard.”
This note represented a new benchmark in ingenuity and problem solving. My husband, G, thought it signaled a new low in bad judgment and thought my friend should have hired a defense attorney and a gondolier to ferry him through Hell’s waters. He also makes no secret of his belief that gondola should hold a second bench and some antiperspirant for my questionably principled self.
It’s not that I don’t aspire to higher ethics. I watch those movies in which the protagonist does something self-sacrificing and pious, like stand between a wounded goat and a crew of teenagers throwing rocks at it, and wish I would respond as bravely. Have you noticed that the most compelling scenes are always in foreign movies? The citizens of other countries must have a more tightly wound moral compass than Americans. Or a strong reverence for goats. It’s not that I hate goats; I certainly wouldn’t want to hit one with my rickshaw, but I’m not likely to intervene in an adrenaline-fueled goat pelting session. I would call the police if my cell phone hadn’t been left behind in the market I’d just been to, but let’s face it, it would have been and retracing my steps through goat-execution terrain sounds unappealing.
I suppose I’m saying that even though G and I are both American, he’d assimilate well in a foreign country because he’d intercede to save that goat. He’d probably even do it in a way that would have the attackers shake their heads in remorse before they all shared a round of imported beer raised in a toast to goats around the world. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t turn my back completely on that goat. I’d be the one to hide out in an alley until the goons were gone. Then I’d bring that broken goat back to my house to live in our yard. While I wouldn’t demand a cease-fire in the heat of the moment, I’d be the asshole putting a plate of G’s beef tenderloin out for that goat and organizing a public speaking tour to raise awareness for the plight of goats.
I am not a beacon in an altercation. I become as silent as Charlie Chaplin when matters become confrontational. Once on an airplane that was approaching the runway for landing, a man in the row of seats in front of us made a call on his cell phone. G requested that man hang up the phone immediately. When the man tossed him a glare and a snide remark, G stood up righteously, like Denzel Washington in every movie he ever stars in, and demanded he hang up his phone in consideration of the safety of all the other passengers onboard. People clapped for him while I cowered in my seat with the realization I would have chosen death by fireball and crushed fuselage over confronting that man myself. Instead of words of gratitude, I muttered, “Fasten your seatbelt and return your seatback to its full and upright position, for God’s sake.”
I dread the occasions that G accompanies us to the store because it is without fail that I or one of the kids will open our car door too forcibly, sending it crushing into the side of the neighboring car. My door-dings are never quiet transgressions either; They have a domino effect by which my door slams the car beside me, which then slams the car beside it, and so on until every damn car in the lot has been dented. Fearing the owner of the car will hoist a large crossbow from his trunk and shoot me at close range, my reaction is to load each kid back into the car seat, drive quickly away, and vow penitently to never return to that market. G, on the other hand, would probably have the car owner paged over the loudspeaker while I plead in his ear, “We have a red car. They have a white car. That makes pink…which is…happy! Everyone loves pink because it makes them happy. For the love of Christ, let’s leave! Happy!”
I backed into a MAC truck while attempting to parallel park recently. When striking a truck that weighs more than a herd of elephants, you can safely assume the only vehicle that received damage is yours. With that kernel of wisdom and physics, I began to cry violently while scrambling for the gear shift to high-tail it out of there. G hissed something about being a role model to children and forced me to wait until the truck driver returned. When he did arrive, I tried to explain, but only a croak and the word ‘Monsieur’ came out of my mouth. Evidently I believe truck drivers like to be addressed by formal French titles when being begged for forgiveness. G finally came to my aid with his command of the English language. He explained that his wife – and he used the word ‘wife’ like I was a mail order candidate gone horribly wrong - hit his truck upon attempting a parallel park – and he used air quotations around ‘parallel park’ as though to signal that only those equipped with a penis should attempt to perform this maneuver. The burly truck driver looked me up and down, while I bowed my head and said “Monsieur” one more time, and snickered.
“I don’t see a thing.” He winked at me, “Never happened.”
As I crawled back into the passenger seat, swearing to never drive again, I looked at G smugly and said, “An anonymous note of contrition with no insurance information would have been easier.” As he pulled away he gave me that ‘your gondola to Hell awaits’ look he has perfected.