My high school senior has a new job working at a children’s “gym” and was asked to work their booth at a neighborhood festival. When he came home, he showed me some notes that were left on his car. The festival drew a big crowd so parking spilled into the surrounding neighborhoods. A disgruntled resident left not one, but two notes. They read as follows:
“Are you stupid or just a dick? Why did you park here? I’m going to call in your license plate to the police.”
“To the asshole who parked here, please be more considerate of people and their property. You have created a hazard. I hope your car is towed before you have a chance to read this letter. From the person that lives here.”
At least the person said “please,” right?
My son said there were many cars parked on the street and he wasn’t clear as to why he had been singled out. There was a ticket from the local police in his pile too, but it was only a warning and said he had parked within 5 feet of a driveway. I gave him the standard parental lecture about being aware of his surroundings and choosing a better parking space in the future even if it’s a little further away. I then consoled him and pointed out that he hadn’t been towed but only got a warning.
Was it necessary for the person to be so aggressive and rude? I don’t consider myself a helicopter mom and don’t think of my children as deserving of special attention. But the more I thought about it, I was mad. In a time in our country when people seem so nasty and vicious, I was fed up and hatched a plan.
I made copies of the notes and added one of my own:
“To the person or people who left these notes on a car today:
My 17-year-old son was driving the car that was parked near/on your property and in the way. I understand that it was very annoying, inconsiderate and perhaps a hazard.
He apologizes, as do I.
The content of your note was sufficient to get your point across. To call the person an “asshole,” “stupid,” and a “dick” was unnecessary. Would you like your teenager to be spoken to that way? He is a nice kid who was reporting for work at the activities in the Village.
I believe he has learned a parking lesson for the future. Perhaps you will learn a lesson about kindness.“
My son was out for the evening and unaware of my plan.
I had an address from the parking ticket, but I couldn’t be sure it was the house that made the complaint or just one across the street or nearby. I made five copies of the notes with mine attached. Under cloak of darkness I drove to the street, parked my car in the shadows and put one in the house of the address on the ticket as well as the four surrounding mailboxes. I wanted to make sure that the culprit got my note.
I was giddy with the anticipation of serving justice.
Sure, I could have banged on doors and tried to find the author but I didn’t want to escalate the situation. I wanted to speak my mind and perhaps give the person a chance to do better the next time something irritates them.
It was the perfect way to practice what we as parents preach from the time our kids can talk: use your words and use them wisely because they matter.
When my kids came home that evening, I told them what I had done. They thought I was a little nuts but I like to think that I taught them a lesson about kindness and choosing when to engage or having to be right. My son related this to an encounter he had while at a professional hockey game the previous night. A belligerent, drunk fan gave him the finger to provoke a fight. He chose not to engage but rather smiled, waved and blew him off.
He will be off to college next year and will have to fend for himself. I hope I modeled aggressive restraint in handling conflict. If I had gotten those notes, I would have felt bad but probably wouldn’t have done anything about it.
Mess with my kid, you will incur my wrath and be the subject of my quiet, polite, vigilante justice.
Susan Margolis Stillman is a freelance writer and blogger. She has been published in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and Kveller. Her blog can be found at Let Me Tell You Something. She lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband and four children.