I love my car.
I wash it by hand. I never park under trees or power lines. I try not to take it out in the rain.
I talk to it. “Good to see you… Sorry about the rain.”
So when I came out of Rockin’ Jump Trampoline World and saw that my driver’s side door had been nicked down to the primer, it just about ruined my day: a white scratch in the shape of a backward’s L, clear as day.
There was a note stuffed into the crack between the window and the door.
“Sorry my door scratched your car. Please call me if you want to repair.”
The big looping letters had been scrawled quickly on the last page of a checkbook, torn haphazardly along the top edge.
The note helped. It kept me from slipping into anger. (It’s so easy to be angry at someone who isn’t there.)
I imagined a mom pulling into the space next to mine, her exuberant teenager bounding out of the car before she could stop him.
Her day ruined too.
The scratch got bigger in my mind as I drove home. It’s all I could think about. I called my dad. He loves his car too. He was able to talk me down.
As luck would have it, I already had an appointment scheduled with the auto shop to get my car serviced. I pointed out the scratch.
“Let me guess. Parking lot?” the guy asked.
“Yeah. They left a note.”
“Yup, said they’d pay for it.”
“We should do a separate invoice, then,” he said.
It was a done deal in his mind.
I pictured the mom scolding her boy in the parking lot, calling her partner to confess, going on with her day, waiting for my call, perhaps researching the cost and regretting she’d written the note, which would be a shame because it was such a nice note.
Such a nice gesture.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said to the shop guy.
I bought a $12 touch-up paint pen instead.
“It won’t look like new,” he said, handing me the pen.
“You are kind!”
It was strange, the way he said it. He emphasized the word kind, with surprise in his voice, almost like an accusation more than a compliment.
“I am kind,” I said, wearing the word like a badge.
I knew my next move.
I waited until I got my car back. The nick was actually shrinking now.
I called the number on the back of the check book and took my time leaving a a lusciously kind voicemail.
“Hello, I’m the guy whose car you scratched by accident. You’re awesome for leaving that note. It really helped a lot. So thank you for that. Don’t worry about the repair. I’m not going to ask you to pay for any of it. And no need to call me back. Just have a lovely day. One good turn deserves another.”
A $500 phone call.
And it felt gooooood.
I pictured her face softening, taking a second to quietly love a stranger, and then going back to helping her energetic teen with his homework.
This may or may not have been happening, but it didn’t matter, because this was happening:
I sat in my beloved car a few minutes longer, phone in my lap, windows rolled up, relishing what my $500 had bought me.
I rubbed the dashboard, warm from the sun. “We did a good thing.”
It’s been a few days since the incident.
I still haven’t painted it over, the nick that almost ruined my day.
Perhaps if all of us focused a bit more on receiving and spreading kindness instead of just trying to get what we’re owed, we’d be in a better place.