Friday, April 02, 2004

All Keyed Up

I witnessed something yesterday evening I'd never seen before, and I hope to never see again. And I'm unsure at my response.

My son, Brainyboy (v8.1) had soccer practice yesterday afternoon. As my wife and I were both coming from work to the ballfield, we were in separate cars. After practice, we decided to go to a local restaurant to eat. I took off in my car with Gigglegirl, she with Bboy.

I arrived first, and in searching for a parking place saw another car, an SUV, straddling a line between two parking places - effectively blocking both. One of my pet peeves is people doing this exact thing, on the off chance their car door might get dinged or some other such reason. As I passed it by, I mused backing my car in so the passenger door was almost flush to their driver's side - I could get myself and my daughter from the back just fine, but the SUV driver would have to climb in through his or her own passenger side. Har har har. I drove on.

Parking, G-girl and I began to make our way across the parking lot. I noticed another car drive through looking for a space. I noticed the driver glance at the SUV taking up two places and frowned. He went on and parked a few spaces away.

Now I thought nothing of this really. I noticed my wife pulling into the lot from the street, so I decided to wait on them. As we waited, I noticed the guy who had been driving around looking for a spot walking from his car toward the restaurant. He altered his course slightly and, walking by the drivers side of the SUV, nonchalantly keyed a big scar across the door, from under the rear view mirror to the seam of the door.

I gaped, not really believing what I was seeing.

The sound drew my attention initially - a high pitched squealing sound. It was over in only a second, and as he continued on I wasn't really sure if he'd actually done it. He glanced around easily and we made eye contact for an instant. He ignored me and continued on across the parking lot - keys in hand - and headed not for the restaurant but for the home and garden store next door.

I truly had no idea what I could, or should do. My 4-year-old was with me, so that immediately ruled out any direct confrontation. I thought of leaving the SUV owner a note that I had witnessed what had happened with the fellow's license plate number written down, but I couldn't recall which car he was driving exactly. I didn't know who the SUV belonged to, nor did I know for sure if they were even in the restaurant.

So I did nothing except relate my incredulity to my wife when they walked over. I had to explain to my son what a despicable thing it was, that it was vandalism and illegal. I didn't think you could actually go to jail for it, and told him so, but that you'd probably have to pay a fine.

I still find it hard to believe I actually witnessed it, that he saw me and continued on as if he'd done nothing wrong.

What's wrong with you people out there??? Is your comfort and convenience so important to you that a perceived violation of what you think of as your precious "rights" warrants such an extreme response?

I'm glad my daughter wasn't even watching.

I know this pales next to what happened in Iraq the other day. Keying a car is nothing compared to burning, hanging and mutilation of bodies. But even in situations like those - while inexcusable - sometimes mob behavior is difficult to handle and control. But on a cool night in March in East Tennessee, where the closest discomfort is a gathering evening meal hunger pang, such a willful disregarding of other people's rights and false elevation of your own is a signal that we still have a long way to go - all over.

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