Dear hit-and-run driver, your rudeness has been noted

ANDREW CLARK – The Globe and Mail

Wednesday, Jun. 20 2012

The note left on my windshield was succinct, as such notes often are. “Chrysler Dynasty (Beige) Hit Your Back Left Wheel. Approx 11:35 a.m.” The author had listed a licence plate number but had not included his contact information. He was an anonymous concerned citizen, not quite a Good Samaritan, who wanted to alert us to the fact our car had been subjected to a parking lot hit-and-run but not become involved as a witness in the pursuit of the driver responsible.

The incident had occurred in Niagara Falls, Ont. My wife was covering a Ringo Starr press conference and had parked the car in a hotel lot. After seeing Ringo sing With A Little Help From My Friends she returned to find “the note.” Upon arriving home she offered up the evidence. To me, the situation was clear.

“Did you forge this note to cover up the fact you hit another parking lot wall?” I asked her.

I could tell by the stunned, outraged, shocked, horrified, slightly dangerous look on her face that this was not the case.

We inspected the damage. It was minimal: a few scratches on the rim above the wheel. In normal circumstances, these would not be worth reporting to my insurance company and certainly not something to bother law enforcement officials about. Had the driver left a note I would not have followed up.

But the driver of the beige Chrysler Dynasty had broken a fundamental law. When you hit someone’s car and they’re not around to yell at you, you leave a note. It’s not your place to decide whether the damage warrants reporting, that is for the person whose car you struck to decide. You simply take responsibility for the accident, no matter how big or small. That is why, as George Bluth Senior so rightly put it, “You always leave a note.”

I’d left a note in the winter. I was driving down a narrow street on a February night and I slightly nicked a parked car’s side mirror. I pulled over, took a photo of the scratch with my iPhone and left a note. It told the car’s owner that I’d nicked his mirror and it contained my name and phone number. The damage was negligible.

I never heard from him.

Just as the Chrysler Dynasty would not have heard from me, but he didn’t give me the chance to be reasonable. Like anyone who hits and runs, he decided to try and get away with it. As hours passed, I grew angry imagining the evil person bragging to his cronies about how he nicked a Dodge Grand Caravan and then split. He was dangerous. He wasn’t going to play by the rules. I considered contacting the hotel to see if they could go through the camera footage. I had no witness but did have the licence plate, make of car and time the incident happened. They might be able to provide footage.

Then I would be free to seek justice, to spend half a day stuck in traffic travelling to a reporting centre and then more time reporting it to insurance and the police. Then, perhaps, an appearance at some small claims court where stunning footage of a loser driving a beige Chrysler Dynasty hitting a black Dodge Grand Caravan would be played before a hushed courtroom. All this time and effort would be put into a person who was so low they were not even worthy of wearing my spit.

That’s not hyperbole. If you are the sort of person who hits someone’s parked car and then takes off without leaving a note, you don’t belong here on planet earth. You belong in a fiery pit spinning on a spit watching endless repeats of The Beachcombers. This is basic morality. We’re not talking Sophie’s Choice here. Just be a man (or a woman) and own up. Look, I’m not foolish enough to use the words “modern civilization” and “common decency” in the same sentence but if it were possible, this would be the time to do so.

To the person who left the note I say, “Next time leave your number. I would have called to thank you.”

To all future parking lot bandits I say, “Why not leave a note? What’s the worst thing that might happen?”

You might have to pay a bit of money for damage that you caused. Might.

The best-case scenario? The other driver calls and thanks you for leaving your details. We all make mistakes, they say, but the important thing in life is being dignified enough to take responsibility for them. You enjoy talking with this person and the two of you agree to meet for coffee. You hit it off and start dating. In a few years you marry and have three wonderful kids. You live together happily for the rest of your lives. ALL BECAUSE YOU LEFT A NOTE!

And what becomes of a person who doesn’t? Shortly after fleeing the scene it begins to dawn on him: he’s broken the law. He realizes the accident was probably recorded on video or that someone might have seen him and that someone may have left a note. There is a chance he’ll be called to account for his crime. His life is going to be a combination of the end of Requiem for a Dream and the beginning of Midnight Express. All he can hope is that the other guy is so phlegmatic he doesn’t bother wasting time pursuing the pathetic wretch who hit and ran.

That’s if he’s smart and dishonest.

If he’s stupid and dishonest (the more likely of the two) he’ll just plant his butt in his seat and drive off. A happy crooked man driving a beige Chrysler Dynasty in a happy crooked world.