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“Doing the right thing” or “How to get burned”


I'm telling you, I was here first!

 

I didn’t kill anyone. This is what I’m choosing to focus on at the moment. I’ve come to realize that life is all about perspective. So I’m committed to having a positive one on my most recent mishap.

I had my bi-annual melanoma check-up this week. (Btw, in case you’re a grammarian, I am consciously choosing to keep the “m” word in lower case in order to illustrate it’s powerlessness and insignificance.) Good news though. I’m eight years free of the despicable disease that claimed my father’s life 11 years ago. Feeling relieved and almost invincible, I carefully pulled my tank out of its tight parking spot while being ever so careful not to hit the tree on the rear passenger side. I almost succeeded until I inadvertently clipped a poor unsuspecting Acura on the front driver’s side and dislodged its bumper completely.

I have to admit, I wanted to drive away and pretend the whole thing never happened. But alas, that’s never an option for an uber-responsible neurotic like myself. After scribbling out four versions of an apology note, I finally settled on one and placed it on the crippled car’s windshield.

A few hours later I received a call from the owner, we’ll call him John. He sounded worried and distraught. “This isn’t a tragedy,” I told him. “It’s just an inconvenience. I’m really sorry. But we’ll make it right.”

In the time between leaving the note and talking to John, I’d received a barrage of feedback from friends and family:

“Why did you admit guilt in writing? You should never do that.”
“Did you take photos? I hope you took photos.”
“You really should have called the police. What were you thinking?”
“You’re in big trouble. This guy’s gonna take you to the cleaners.”
“Did you forget all about the Brett MIchael’s affair?”

I should probably explain that last one. About a year and a half ago I was in a minor fender bender with the Rocker’s now wife. There was no damage but in attempting to do the right thing, I insisted she take my name and information. A few hours later, all kinds of vehicle issues emerged that required several thousand dollars worth of repairs. It was a nightmare. And one that I brought upon myself by trying to do the “right” thing. I suddenly shuddered thinking I’d done it all over again.

But after speaking with,John, I realized that he had likely received similar admonitions about trusting an anonymous stranger who was promising to make things right. We were both navigating in unsafe waters. Welcome to America, where doing the right thing is terrifying because it turns you into a potential target for every scammer, swindler and con artist out to ease their own economic woes by taking advantage of yours. It’s really pathetic.

I remembered how my dad used to make business deals with handshakes. Most of the time they went well. The few times they didn’t weren’t enough to sour my dad on the human race. He kept believing in people and trusting what they said.

I guess that’s kind of where I net out on all this. Sure, I could get screwed. The guy could claim everything from a busted carburetor to a bruised hip bone (which would really be incredible since he wasn’t even in the car.) Weirder things than this have actually plagued us these last few years.

But John seems like an honest guy. So I’m gonna trust him and try to repair the damage I inadvertently did. You can’t walk around protecting yourself from everything. Sure, you might get burned once in a while. But I’d rather spend my energy believing in the goodness of the human spirit, even if you have to shake off a few charred ashes now and again.

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

One response to ““Doing the right thing” or “How to get burned”

  1. seaholta

    There are a lot of things out there to make us bemoan the fate of the human spirit. Wierd that a little thing like leaving a note helps restore the faith. But it does. You did the right thing!

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