The good and bad of humanity

It is a truism of both religion and biology that humans are simultaneously selfish and altruistic.  The faithful say the selfishness comes from original sin and the goodness from God, while the biologist imputes our selfishness to evolution (for how better can you ensure propagation of your genes than by taking care of yourself and your kin first?); and, as for altruism, cooperation and kindness, they’re probably partly derived from adaptive reciprocal altruism evolved when we lived in small social groups, and partly from  a cultural overlay of expanded cooperation derived from reason (we now see that we don’t occupy any privileged position relative to others in society).

Regardless, I saw both traits demonstrated this week.  Last Saturday afternoon I parked my car in front of my building at work; I usually use it on the weekends and then leave it at work in case I need to use it during the week.  On Wednesday I looked out the window of my lab (I can overlook the car, which is nice) to see a huge dent in the front fender on the driver’s side. Going down to investigate, I saw that it was indeed a large, fresh dent, which I photographed this morning.

photo 140

But I also found a note stuck in my door handle.

The note said this (I’ve redacted names and phone numbers):

“Hi,

I saw the guy hit your left front fender in the snow. It was a [model and make of car redacted], with the Illinois plate [license plate number redacted].   Best of luck.

—name redacted

[phone number of person who wrote note redacted]. That’s all I saw, but feel free to call if you want.”

So while I was enormously peeved that someone had dinged me and run off, I was touched that a passerby took the time to take down the license number and description of the car and leave it for me, along with his phone number.

I called the number, which turned out to belong to a medical student here at the University. He reported that he saw the guy hit my car while backing out in the snow, and then get out of his car and inspect the damage to both his SUV and mine. At that time the student told him, “You know, you should leave a note for the owner.” The dinger said, “Yeah, I guess I should,” but the student suspected he wouldn’t.  So he took out a pen and wrote all the information down on a piece of paper, which he later put on my car when he returned and found no note from the malefactor.

I reported it to my insurance company and the University police, which ran the plates of the car that hit me and identified the owner. They also filed a formal report with the state of Illinois (I guess hit and run, even if it doesn’t hurt someone, violates some law or other).  My insurance company will fix the damage for nearly free, (I have to pay a small deductable). I don’t know what will happen to the miscreant who hit me and ran: probably nothing except that my insurance company will force his to pony up for the damage to my car.

This is about the fourth time this has happened to me in my life, and only once has someone left a note—a woman visiting from California, and the damage was so minor that I didn’t do anything about it. But it’s a truly vile act to damage someone’s property and then abscond without taking responsibility.  They do it because, of course, they think they can get away with it.  But this guy didn’t, thanks to a kind and observant student.

It’s a slow news day, so I’m reporting this, but it does show what we all know: some people are jerks and others go out of their way to be helpful. The next time you’re on the bus and an old person gets on, don’t be one of those who keeps your sit or pretends not to notice. Stand up and let the older person sit down.

If you’ve had experiences with really nice strangers, report them below (car-bashing jerks or others can also be reported).

151 Comments

  1. Nate Thomas
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    “He reported that he say the guy hit my car…” Say should be saw.

    “…wrote all the information down on a piece of paper, which he later on my car…” Which he later PUT on my car.

    • RFW
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Classic auto-elision and typographic mistakes due to “too much keying on a computer.”

      I often wonder how the Linotype operators of old attained the accuracy displayed in the text they typeset; careful proof reading, maybe? But I have seen a Linotype in operation and it was surprising how accurate the operator was. Perhaps because it’s a considerably slower mechanism than a computer keyboard, so the brain has time to do its job properly.

      In case my remark is too oblique, let me restate in other words: JAC’s mistake didn’t lie in making those mistakes; everybody (with some exceptions) does that. His mistake (if “mistake” is an appropriate word for such a great guy) was not proof reading carefully enough.

      Is this a crime against humanity? No.

      Is this a crime against catdom? No.

      Indeed, it’s hardly worth noting at all.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      And it came to pass that I once commented online about Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian bossa nova singer. (I note that the borrowed laptop I’m typing on doesn’t recognize “Astrud” and “bossa.”)

      I mistakenly typed “Astrid” instead of “Astrud.”

      A noble and honorable cyber sentinel, “Earl,” admonished me to the effect that it was “Astrud” and not “Astrid,” that Ms. Gilberto would not appreciate my misspelling her name, and further advised me that “‘Astrud’ does not have an ‘e’ in it.”

      One cannot help but bow in the direction of such omniscience. I contemplated dressing in sackcloth and ashes.

      (Oh, and by the way, a year ago someone found and returned my lost wallet, for which I was grateful. I have had the opportunity and privilege to return the favor to someone else.)

  2. Bric
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Have a nice cup of tea, you’ve done your good deed for the day

    • Bric
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      Whoops supposed to be a reply to above. Life is so imperfect

  3. Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Unbelievable! Sorry this happened to you, Dr. C.

    Good for the good Samaritan. That jerk of a medical student in his thoughtlessness has created even bigger trouble for himself. Will the University also take any action against him, I wonder? Very unbecoming behaviour, to say the least.

    • Nate Thomas
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:31 am | Permalink

      The good samaritan of whom you speak WAS the medical student.

      • Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        Yes, I realized my error, too late! Just call me BRAC to go with Bric above. Bric a Brac. haha :P

        • bric
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

          Hunky dory

    • Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      Crap. My mind must be going… sorry..
      I re-read the post and the medical student IS the good Samaritan. It would perhaps be more dreadful if a University comrade did this dastardly deed. Waiting to hear more about who it was.

    • David Duncan
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      The med student was the good guy.

      Perhaps Jerry should pray to Ceiling Cat for some sort of retribution for the jerk who hit his car.

      • Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

        Yes, thanks. I caught myself too late — hate when that happens. Have concluded I need Vit. D, exercise and fresh air, so I’m gonna go shovel the tons of snow out there!

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      “Unbelievable! Sorry this happened to you, Dr. C.”

      Sadly it is all to believable. The usual behaviour these days seems to be for the ‘dinger’ to quietly leave the scene without identifying him/herself if there was no other witness. That is quite a big dent on JAC’s car so it is really mean to not own up to that and just leave it to him to face the cost of repair but I’d say it is not surprising that it happened. It’s times like this that one almost wishes that one believed in ‘karma’!

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        that should be all too believable :-)

        • Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

          Yeah, I know what you mean, and it’s very disheartening. But there was a witness in this case too! Not that THAT s/b necessary for one to do the right thing. Regrettably, *Stoopid* comes in all shapes, sizes and stripes.

          (Oh, and Yeah, it looks like it’s gonna be one of those brain-farty days for all of us, eh, with all the typos and thinkos! :D I’m going to keep quiet after this, as I feel I’ve spoiled Jerry’s post with my earlier error. Gonna go self-flagellate and repeat “Med Student is the Good Guy, other guy is Jerky Guy”. :{ )

  4. David Duncan
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    An elderly couple live across the road from me, and their daughter and her family live five houses further down the street.

    A few years ago the daughter was backing out of her parents’ driveway and I was backing out of mine. I feared a collision and stopped. She also stopped, and I assumed she’d seen me, so I continued to back out and turn. The trouble was, she hadn’t seen me. She was looking at her elder daughter roller skating down the street to their home, and fretting about possible dangers to her. (Why? It is a very quiet and safe street.) she then continued to back out, right in to the side of my car.

    She was profusely apologetic and crying, and told me it was her fault, and for me to get the dent fixed and she’d pay the bill.

    I phoned her the next day and sensed a change in her attitude: she thought I was partly to blame! A day later, when I had reported the accident to the cops and my insurance company she would no longer pay anything, said we should each pay our own deductible.

    She was also terribly manipulative, saying on the ‘phone that she’d have to cut back on things she’d promised to her daughters (with young feminine squeals of ‘NO!’ In the background.)

    That was nearly seven years ago, and we haven’t spoken to each other since, although I still get on we’ll with her husband and parents.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      People are so unpredictable. I tend to have such a jaded view because of things like this.

  5. Mike Herron
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Seems that snow storms let people show their colors. Whenever I have been hopelessly stuck somewhere, a down and out type is usually the person who comes to my rescue.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      That happened to me as a student. We got stuck in snow in my friend’s car and these nice students came out of no where with traction things we could use. I hadn’t seen something like that since the 70s and I think these students were new to Canada so maybe someone told them to be prepared. It was very nice of them to help as we were stuck on a busy road.

  6. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    1. I had my car hit by a hit-and-run woman while I was in the supermarket (in Massachusetts). Someone called the police with a description and license # and they sent someone to her house while they sent someone into the supermarket to look for me. The officer told me what happened as I loaded my groceries into the car. Now that is instant justice! She personally paid my repair bill (her husband was furious at her).

    2. I have seen a lot of acts of kindness in south Florida, starting with the supermarket, where the baggers always offer to help push your cart out to your car and load them. This is embarrassing for me when I have to tell them I am fine doing it myself when the bagger is +/-20 years older than me (and I am 62).

  7. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    (I guess hit and run, even if it doesn’t hurt someone, violates some law or other).

    That’s certainly the case in the UK – you’re obliged to report to the police any vehicle accident which results in damage to property. Though you are given a “reasonable time” in which to report minor incidents such as you report. That’s usually interpreted as meaning 24 hours, but I don’t think that’s written into law anywhere, just a common expectation.
    Your insurance contract (it is a contract) probably also contains a clause about reporting all relevant incidents to them, even non-damage incidents, so failure of the hitter to report this to their insurance company probably also invalidates their insurance. I’ve tried to use this before against drivers who have cut me up on the push bike in order to lose them their driving licenses (driving without insurance is often a license-losing offence here), but turning a license plate number into an insurance company is surprisingly hard to do as a citizen (obviously the police can do it as a matter of routine).

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Incidentally, horses, sheep, cattle and d*gs are considered “property” ; cats aren’t.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        I’m divided about that.

        Obviously cats aren’t the property of anyone, so the judicial system made a good call.

        On the other hand their having “9 lives” is just a myth…

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          They do bounce surprisingly well though. Pretty tough animals, all in all.
          Skin isn’t as tough as a badger’s though. We tried tanning that one, but the skeleton was too crunched to try mounting.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        Yeah & I think it’s time they put animals as beyond property given research into their cognition.

        When I was about 8 years old, I witnessed a person in a van deliberately change lanes to hit my dog. My dog died instantly (broke his neck). He had gotten off his leash away from my mom to chase another dog across the street. Of course the driver kept going because he did it on purpose.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

          Yeah – I feel pretty bad about hitting a dog two days after getting my driving license. I don’t know whether it survived, but I’m pretty sure that being run over 10 seconds later by the truck following me made the question moot.
          Same sort of thing – dog ran out between parked cars on a major road so I barely had time to stand on the anchors before it was under the car. Pretty central though – so it had a fair chance and I was looking for a place I could stop when I saw the lorry make it moot. Not a lot of point after that.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

            Yeah, I fear hitting a domestic animal. In the country where I live there are a lot of animals that get hit – mostly racoons. I’ve hit a couple not being able to stop in time and I’ve seen many cats. :( That makes me sad because they were someone’s pet – people really don’t look after their pets. The country is THE WORST place to let your cat roam, not only because of cars but because of coyotes. Red tail hawks won’t bother with them but coyotes will.

          • een
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

            Late one night as I was driving up a winding road I came upon a dog trotting down, in the middle of my lane. Although i was able to slow down I wasn’t able to completely avoid him in time, and we both ended up on the shoulder of the road. So I got out to check whether I should take him off to the emergency vet. But as I approached him lying there he growled at me – he knew I’d done it! I didn’t want to push it given his attitude – and hey, he didn’t need to blame me, why wasn’t he using the footpath?

            But he got up on three legs and headed back the way he’d come, so I assume he got home sore but hopefully a little wiser.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted December 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

              A sadder and a wiser D*G,
              He rose the morrow morn.

              Coleridge-not.

        • Posted December 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          How horrible. That is surely sociopathic behaviour, isn’t it?

          And you’ll find many people here and elsewhere stopping to let a mother goose and goslings cross the road. And believe me, there’re a lot of geese here in the spring and summer.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I’d say it’s certainly someone with very low empathy to purposely hit an animal. He actually changed lanes & sped up.

        • CassieM
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

          That is so sad. Sometimes I really don’t understand people.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:47 am | Permalink

            A couple of weeks ago I was on my way back from the beach and I stopped to help a couple of girls in a car. It had blown a tiny hole in a heater hose near the end. Fortunately it was accessible enough to pull the hose off, cut it a little shorter and fit it back on.

            Last week the favour was returned. I was on the way to the beach when my motor blew in a big way – massive overheating. When it eventually cooled enough to fill with water it wouldn’t fire and when I took the plugs out and turned it over, water sprayed out of the plug holes. Something’s gone in a big way. I was fortunate, a young chap with an old van stopped and towed me all the way home, wouldn’t take any money for gas, he said he was just out for a drive so didn’t mind going out of his way.

            The most satisfying occasion was some years ago (again, at the beach) when a young chap asked me if I knew of any mechanics there, his 1970’s Chrysler Avenger wouldn’t start. There are no mechanics at Piha Beach! So I took a look myself and eventually diagnosed a cracked rotor (a very unusual fault) and as it happened I had in my little box of odd spares a rotor left over from my Ford Cortina days – which fitted. (All English cars in those days had Lucas electrics). A rather remarkable and very satisfying coincidence.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:48 am | Permalink

              Oh drat, that was supposed to be a reply to Diana at #5.

  8. Posted December 15, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    There’s always time for some adaptive reciprocal vengeance. Just tell him what Max Cady said: “With the power vested in me by the kingdom of God, I sentence you to the Ninth Circle of Hell! Now you will learn about loss! Loss of freedom! Loss of humanity! Now you and I will truly be the same.”

  9. alexandra moffat
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Last month. Good Deed! Made my Day! Was about 3 hours from home on interstate, looking for an exit to take me to a dog show (be quiet, Dr Coyne, I love cats, too) and didn’t know which of many off ramps to take. Pulled over, hazard lights, got out map….a pick- up pulled up next to me “You lost?”. “YES – looking for Dog Show”.
    “Follow me”…which I did. He drove me right to the nearby complex, with a smile and a wave. I was overcome with gratitude. It’s the little generosities that count.

  10. Posted December 15, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Someone backed into my car once, left a note with their phone number and promised to pay. And when I called them they insulted me and threatened to set their dogs onto me if they ever saw me. (I had to get the police to take over.)

    Ha! Explain that, narrow materialistic science! [/joke]

    • Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Might have been a fake phone #.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        Someone told me they once got a phone number and when they called, it was the local police department.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

          And there’s the one about the guy reading the note on his car: “Lots of people are watching me write this note. They think I’m leaving you my phone number. But I’m not.”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      LOL! This is going to be a dark story so be prepared. I once had a stalker. It wasn’t anyone I knew & he’d call me up and threaten me and say dirty things. This was when I was in my early twenties and still living at home going to school. It was also worrying that I had a flat tire – no damage to the tire but like someone let out the air and followed me.

      Being the early 90s call display just started so we caught the guy’s number. I think the real culprit was using this number and the guy accused wasn’t the guilty party. I told the police that I wanted it just to stop so I’m sure they reamed him out good.

      My dad tried to call the guy because my dad had figured out who it was and was trying to help. The guy’s wife yelled at my dad then called the cops and said he was harassing them! Nice.

      The truly scary & dark part of this story as the guy who was actually harassing me later went on to commit sexual assault & went to jail. I’m not sure if he’s out yet but he went to jail a couple of times.

      • Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        This is some crazy creepy shit! How awful. So glad you got through it OK, Diana.

  11. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    A wider view of altruism is explored in ‘Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect’ by Matthew D Leiberman.

    From the blurb on Amazon:

    Now one of its founding pioneers, Matthew D. Lieberman, presents the discoveries that he and fellow researchers have made. Using fMRI scanning and a range of other techniques, they have been able to see that the brain responds to social pain and pleasure the same way as physical pain and pleasure; and that unbeknown to ourselves, we are constantly ‘mindreading’ other people so that we can fit in with them. It is clear that our brains are designed to respond to and be influenced by others. For good evolutionary reasons, he argues, we are wired to be social.

    I guess that the person who damaged the CoyneMobile may have reacted differently if he/she thought that they were being watched.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Or, feeling watched, they might have left a note like the (perhaps apocryphal) one I heard of long ago: “The people watching me write this note think that I’m leaving my name and phone number. I’m not.”

    • Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Surely, the CeilingCatMobile?

      /@

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Ha ha! That invites a whole Batman-esque phrase: “Someone isn’t accepting evolution! TO the Ceiling Cat Mobile!”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      There have been experiments where people don’t do bad things when there is a mirror in the room where they can see their reflection as well.

      • Marta
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        Daniel Kahneman reported in his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that, to increase the amount and frequency of money deposits in “honor” boxes (you take a donut, you drop some money in the tin), a company just put a big picture of eyes above the box. To test the efficacy of the picture, they alternated eye pictures with pictures of flowers, and then kept an accounting. Weeks where the eye pictures were over the box instead of flowers saw significantly higher rates of deposits.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I think I read that one in The Self Illusion as well.

  12. Posted December 15, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Though reciprocal altruism and kin selection have been worked out by those way sharper than I, this kind of “stranger altruism” seems difficult to explain from current models. The type of kind acts that occur where there is no expectation or possibility of reciprocation seems outside the bounds kin selection or reciprocation. I wonder if the tendency towards altruism was like a recessive allele, like sickle cell disease. If you have two copies you are nice and helpful even to your own detriment. One copy means you are perhaps sometimes altruistic but perhaps not. The heterozygoous individuals benefit by having altruists in the population but aren’t burdened by always being altruistic. In other words, the allele is using itself to become more widespread. Once the allele becomes established in a population, altruism becomes the “norm”.
    Probably lots of holes in this, but seems to me that current theories of altruism fall short in explaining why people adopt or risk there life for a drowning strangers.

  13. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    A thought experiment that I wonder about is:

    You park your car in a parking garage and find a bag of cash – $100. Do you report it to someone?

    Does it make a difference in your decision if the person’s name/address/phone number is in the bag?

    Does your decision change if it is $10? $1000? $10,000? $100,000? $1,000,000?

    Does a surveillance camera change what you do?

    • Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      1. Yes. to the police (the bag implies a crime).
      2. Yes. Call the #.
      3. No for $10 on the street. Yes for the rest.
      4. For me the camera would make no difference for 1,2, & 3.

    • Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      If it’s over 1,000,000 in small bills you’ll end up dealing with the famous Dolly Problem.

    • David Duncan
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Nowadays $100 isn’t worth it, if the cash is in public. It needs to be at least 2-3 times that.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Good rationalists:

    My car was dented in a parking garage close to the local hospital right before a Yule. A note taking responsibility was from a doctor. Good Yule!

    Bad jerks:

    The next time you’re on the bus and an old person gets on, don’t be one of those who keeps your sit or pretends not to notice. Stand up and let the older person sit down.

    This happened to me the first year I was bused to high school, a half hour ride.

    Having started my growth spurt I had temporarily developed flat feet. Meaning any prolonged stand was like having knives inserted into the feet.

    One day I find myself taking the last seat, then having an older woman entering at the next stop and selecting me out for a “young man, leave your seat for your elders” treatment.

    That I needed the seat more than her wasn’t even on the horizon…

    • Larry Gay
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      When I was about 40, a tee-age boy offered me his seat on a bus in Massachusetts. I imagine his mother said to him, “now be sure to give your seat to any old people on the bus”. I declined. Today, at twice 40, I find young women open doors for me. I love it.

      • Marta
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        I open doors for elderly men, but I’m careful about it. They want to get the door for ME, so sometimes the kinder course of action is to help them open the door for me.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      OMG I’ve actually had older people be really nasty to me. I look younger than my age and I was about 30 at the time so I looked like I was maybe 20. I was in Vancouver in Stanley Park and you can catch a bus that takes you back to wherever. I had to get on because my feet and back hurt so much I was ready to burst into tears. I later found out that this is because I have severe plantar fasciitis because of having stupid wobbly ankles. So, the bus came and I got on and stood because all the seats were taken (with a bunch of older people). I think these older people thought the buses were tour buses because they started complaining that they couldn’t see because I was in their way and told me to move so my camera didn’t hit them. It was ridiculous. I was so angry at the end and I was in much worse physical shape than they were PLUS it WASN’T A TOUR BUS!

    • Michael Johnson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      I feel like this happens a lot.

      I mostly take the stairs and my university, because everything is three floors or less. But for two weeks I had a torn tendon in my foot and took the elevator. I’m in Hong Kong and students are very happy to pile in close on the elevator, but this aggravates the Western professors to no end. I heard stern sermons delivered on the elevator by able-bodied people about how you should just take the stairs if you’re going to the 1st floor (it’s HK, former British colony, so 1st floor is US 2nd floor). Who were they talking to? The students didn’t mind a cramped elevator, and the other injured people like me needed it! If it bothers you so much, take the extra flight of stairs yourself!

  15. Hempenstein
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    On reciprocal altruism, a song the Kingston Trio recorded 50yrs ago comes to mind. There’s a bit of quasi-religion in it, but I take the faith the refer to as more of a faith in (early) technology.

  16. tim
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I showed up to a friend’s house in a taxi on a day when it was raining buckets, and noticed that I didn’t have my wallet. Concluding that I left it in the cab, for which I had no information, not even the company, I called to cancel all my debit and credit cards. Less than half an hour later, I got an email from someone who had found my student ID and looked me up in my university’s student directory. Attached was a photo of my wallet and its contents and the sender’s location, which turned out to be the ice cream shop on the ground floor of my friend’s building. I had dropped my wallet on the ground right outside. (Too bad I’d cancelled all those cards.)

    • Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Similar experience: in a taxi with a bunch of students in Ankara, turkey, my travel pouch, which was in my back pocket, fell out onto the seat, and I didn’t realize it was missing. It contained over a thousand dollars, my airline ticket, and my passport, and I was scheduled to leave for the U.S. the next day. I thought I’d never see the stuff again, and envisioned a long stay in Ankara, visiting the American embassy and replacing tickets and passport.

      My hosts and I walked around for a while looking to find the cab, but the cab soon found us. The driver had been driving all around the university (where I was staying) looking for me, and when he found me he handed me back the pouch, insisting that I count the money and make sure that nothing was missing. It was all there. I was greatly relieved, pleased, and tried to give the guy $50 for his honesty. He refused it, but I finally insisted. He must have been pretty poor and the money would have been a huge sum for him, but his honesty triumphed over greed–if he had any.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        That’s nice of him. I’ve always given wallets back that I’ve found and if they have ID in there, I try to track them down and phone them.

        I did once have a nice guy find my work cellphone that I dropped in a parking lot. I went back to look for it and he was in a giant pick up truck. I remember thinking “that truck probably ran over my phone”. It was a work phone so it’s a hassle when you lose those. The guy in the pick up told me he found my phone and gave it to the store I came out of.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          I was the good guy once, and have never forgotten it. I was at UCLA (checking my memory, this means it was just after the glaciers receded from the North American mainland), and I found a wallet. The address on the license inside was for a frat house near campus, so I just walked over there. As I got to the correct address, the door was open, and I could hear shouting to the effect of “I don’t know where my wallet is.” So I stepped in, said “You mean this one?”, handed it to him, and was out the door and gone before he could even react.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

            That must’ve been surreal – like thinking about the lost wallet and identifying it as lost out loud made you materialize with it.

      • Larry Gay
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Hitch had a very similar experience in a taxi. Perhaps someone can help with the details.

  17. Steven Obrebski
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    What a glorious opportunity to brag and preen and flout my good reputation. I once dinged a car in a Berkeley parking lot and left a note with my home address and phone number and subsequently paid for the damages.

    • LB
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Good for you. I did the same thing accidently in a grocery store parking lot. I left a note with my name and number. I didn’t have much money but there was no way I wasn’t going to take responsibility for what I had done. I paid for the damage, which thankfully, was only $75.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        You know, youse guys are really upsetting any religioso out there who might be reading this, and are cocksure that the only reason people would ever be good is if they fear some sky-nazi is watching what they do and keeping accounts for a future judgment.

        • Pete Cockerell
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Well, when I was still a good little Catholic boy (≪= age 12) that definitely was the reason I’d behave, though it didn’t stop me from nicking stuff from Woolworth’s with my mates. Luckily at some point I learned about morality, the Golden Rule etc. and became my own overseer. That’s actually a more effective way of staying honest and thank God (haha) I can use those non-religoous reasons when trying to instill honesty etc. into my own kids.

          • Pete Cockerell
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

            Grr, entity fail. <= age 12, I meant.

    • Pete Cockerell
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Good for you! I’d like to think this is the more common behavior and “ding and runs” are the exception, but my observation of the number of able-bodied gits who illegally use the single handicapped parking space outside the Starbucks in which I’m sitting now makes me wonder. Interestingly, when I’ve called the person on it from time to time, he or she invariably gets hostile and accuses me off being a jerk. Ho hum.

      BTW Steven, they’re flouting the rules, whereas you’re flaunting your good reputation.

    • Marta
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      I once backed into a Jaguar. I left a note with my info. The owner, a woman, called me the same night. She couldn’t get past the fact that someone had self-reported that they’d whacked a Jaguar. It was a very expensive repair.

      My business partner, a car nut and still the only live human I’ve ever known who drove an Aston Martin, called me a cat killer from then on.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Ha! When I read “Jaguar” I immediately thought the big cat and not the car, even though the “J” was capitalized.

    • jesse
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Good for you, and for LB below, too. I would do this also. Sometimes you just know what the right thing is. Period.

  18. Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Lots of examples. A recent one was where our doorbell rang, and I opened it to a very apologetic teenage girl who had run over our mailbox with her car. I suspect she was texting, but in any case she was very sorry and offered to pay. I had her pay what she had on her (~$15, I think). This would not cover all of it, but at the moment I was not sure what her resources were, and I really wanted to reward her honesty.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      The opposite (sort of) happened to my dad. My dad was backing out of his driveway and ran over a pop can so it made a crunching sound. He came home later and the next door teenager said he hit her car. Apparently she heard the crunching sound and came running out after and figured he hit her. She wanted him to pay for some crazy amount of money for damages.

      He looked and there was nothing done to the car. She called the police and the police told her the same thing.

      How weird!

      • Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        Something similar happened to my neighbour. He backed out and made a small ding in the other neighbour’s car which was parked on the road. He correctly rang the doorbell and owned up to his mistake, and said he’s pay for the damages. Well… did he ever… jerk neighbour claimed all kinds of other damages which were pre-existing, and he got away with it! So it’s always a good idea to take a photo and get the name/number of any witnesses if possible, just in case. Big time hate going on between these two families now.

  19. Barry
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    That little toy car does not go with your cowboy boots (especially the pair with little skulls printed on they). You need a full size pickup truck.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Or he could go completely macho and buy a full-size dump truck.

  20. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I find that I experience people doing terrible things and rarely doing nice things. I think it’s because when I was young, I did a lot of service jobs where people think you are paid to take their abuse. Maybe it changed my brain somehow and I only remember the nasty things that happen.

    The latest that happened to me was that I just got my roadster. I had it for about a week and I parked it far away at a mall. I noticed later that someone must’ve put a bag (I strongly suspect a woman) on the hood then dragged the bag off because there were two scrapes the length of the hood. Who does that to someone’s car? Put their junk on it like that. The scene from Pulp Fiction came to mind. You know, this one:

    LANCE: Still got your Malibu?

    VINCENT: You know what some fucker did to it the other day?

    LANCE: What?

    VINCENT: Fuckin’ keyed it.

    LANCE: Oh man, that’s fucked up.

    VINCENT: Tell me about it. I had the goddamn thing in storage three years. It’s out five fuckin’ days — five days, and some dickless piece of shit fucks with it.

    LANCE: They should be fuckin’ killed. No trial, no jury, straight to execution.

    I paid to get the scratches out & luckily they were not deep (not into the paint) so they just wet sanded the hood.

    I’m in fear of parking at a new building we’ve moved to. A friend of mine bought a new car this summer and some jerk on hit it on her street the exact day she got it. Then she parked at this new building and someone she works with hit it and didn’t leave a note. I’ve heard of lots of cars being hit there so I intend to park far away. I don’t mind the walk in.

    • David Duncan
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      This is one of the reasons I’m reluctant to get an expensive or vintage type car: too many scumbags who either don’t care or are actively malicious. My 18 month old car already has a ding from someone carelessly opening a door in to it.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        Yeah my friend’s husband had someone key his Cadillac into the metal across two panels and the same thing happened to my dad’s friend who has a BMW Z3.

        • Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

          There is the old line:
          ‘What does ‘BMW’ stand for?’
          ‘Break My Window!’

        • Posted December 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          Some people key cars, some people do this:
          (parking lot scene with Kathy Bates from Fried Green Tomatoes)

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx0z9FjxP-Y

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            I heard of a similar real life story like that from a guy I worked with. This one woman was driving a beautiful sports car and she stole the space of someone else and when they politely pointed it out, she said “well I guess I was faster”.

            She came back out to find her car keyed right down to the metal across all panels.

            I never lip people off that know where my car is after hearing this. Not that I’d steal someone’s spot but I had some crazy teenager follow me and give me the finger in a parking lot once because she didn’t like that I pulled out in front of her and startled her from texting on her phone. I was scared she’d scratch my car, so I found a cop and parked next to him. :)

            • jesse
              Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

              I also am concerned about how nasty people can be. I have a neighbor who dumped rotten tomatoes in front of my mailbox, twice, and then dragged branches from down the road late at night so that they completely blocked the access to my driveway. I live alone and was recovering from surgery (and he knew that) and was in great pain, but his vindictive nature didn’t care about anyone else. (I’m also a woman, so in my opinion for a man to do that to a woman who lives alone is a very mean thing to do.)

              The worst of it for me was that I had no idea who was doing it, not for a couple months. I spent time with the police, I spent time calling neighbors to find out if anyone else had the problem, calling the road crew who had trimmed the trees down the road, and so on. I lost at least a half day’s work on the third time because of it. It wasn’t violent terrorism but it was terrorism none the less.

              Diana your parking next to the cop was smart.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

                Your neighbour sounds like a complete psycho. People are too much sometimes.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

                Aarrgh, that’s really creepy!

            • Posted December 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

              Good thinking on your part!

    • Old Rasputin
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Ha, “jerk on” is one of the more amusing typos I’ve seen lately. I’m guessing your brain/fingers somehow conflated “jerk on her street hit it” and “jerk hit it on her street”. But one wonders if a “jerk off” (hyphen?) is a not so nice sort of person, then is “jerk on” actually a compliment?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        Ha ha, yeah I had intended “jerk on her street” but saw the typo after and just left it for LOLz.

  21. Aaron
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    What I try to do in situations like this is imagine that the fellow who hit my car *may* have left a note which subsequently was blown away or something (hey, it’s possible). It helps me retain a modicum of belief in humanity. I find that it also keeps me from wasting time and energy on judgement and frustration, and focus on doing whatever needs to be done to fix the situation (thus, I cede less power to the potential miscreant and keep more for myself).

    But other times I just really want to plant a boot in someone’s rear. My self-control is imperfect, alas.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Yeah, read my quote from Pulp Fiction at 20 above. :) That always goes through my mind when I hear about or experience vandalism to cars or hit & run accidents.

  22. MNb
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    “and, as for altruism, cooperation and kindness, they’re probably partly derived …”
    You should wonder how this plays out for ants.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      I was reading about that. Ants are related in a colony somewhat and they also have I think 4 types of specialization to divide the labour. Now I’m going foggy on it, but I think their altruism to each other is a kin thing and the greater good of the colony.

  23. MNb
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    When I still was a student I rode my bike to the institute where I studied to become a teacher; about 13 km. Once I had a flat tire; somewhere halfway home I passed a trailer park. One of the campers

    http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woonwagenbewoner

    offered me to repair the tire on the spot. For free. Just because he could and saw that I was clumsy.

  24. Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    It is middle son’s 12th birthday, August 1990; Grandma and Grandpa have already arrived from three hours away to help celebrate it. Jake already knows what one particular present he is getting –– as older bro, Zac, had received the same thing upon his 12th: his first driving lesson with Mama. The equipment for same is the very lovely but drab – beige 1980 Dodge Diplomat station wagon, automatic transmission, and the gravel roadway miles to the north o’town out in to the remote countryside. He and I, who am never in the front passenger’s seat – side … … usually, switch places.

    Second Kiddo’s forehead barely peers over the steering wheel –– so that his feet may reach the pedals. First part of the lesson commences.

    “Now, while Henry Edmund ( the vehicle’s name: H E ) is still in park, Jake, there are a few quick but very, very important steps that always need to be taken first. Yes, the seat belt. Then the seat position, especially for the mirrors: make sure you can see well throughout all of the three mirrors. So, go ahead, change and adjust both the seat and the mirrors as you need to.” He begins to do so.

    “Okay, Ma, but there’s a cop behind us.”

    “Jake, this is serious. Please focus,” I encourage seeing, too, that his knuckles gripping the wheel over which he can barely see are beginning to whiten.

    “Yeah, but … … but wha’’bout the cop behind us, Ma?”

    “Jacob, this is important here. You need to behave like it is, too, cuz we’ll just stop right here and go on home if you can’t seem to get it together enough to take this really, really seriously.” It is his birthday; I try to keep the tone light so purposefully look away from the driver’s area catching as I do so in the passenger side’s mirror the glance of a vehicle behind ours which appears to me to be in the shape of the county sheriff’s squad car. “O, m’gaaawd.”

    “Ah, ah, ah … … Jake, ah, roll down the window. Stay silent. I’ll, ah, I’ll … … I’ll do all the talking. I’ll talk, okay?” He struggles, now shaking, to comply with the window handle. I know he is, as am I, completely certain that before he ever gets to take his first test – drive, he’s headed, instead, for years and years in the slammer.

    “Hello there, Folks. Does there seem to be a problem here?” It isn’t the sheriff ( from television news reports, I know what the county’s sheriff looks like, ‘nd it idn’t him ) but one of his deputies.

    “O. Ah, no? Ah, no. No, Sir.” I stammer managing a quivering lip movement which is not a true smile at all.

    “Hmm. O.O.O.kay then. W.e.e.e.e.ll, hmm. O, I know: he has his learner’s permit then, does he?”

    “O. Ah, no? Ah, no. No, Sir.”

    The officer straightens up, then bends down again to the window frame. Jake, totally white – knuckled now, stares straight ahead likely imaging … … prison birthdays all life long –– cuz Ma idn’t so far handling this mess too well.

    “O. Well. S.o.o.o, he is 14 years old? Right?”

    Rinse and repeat, “O. Ah, no? Ah, no. No, Sir.” Suddenly, I had a “revelation” ( magical ? of “faith” ? NOT ! ‘ust came to me as … … REASON, as reasonable and rational ! ) and continued my having ‘found’ The Truth ‘nd The Light, “No Sir, no, he is not. He is 12 years old today; it is his birthday. He has cousins who live in the country. We don’t; we don’t live there, ya’ know, the country. Ya’ know, Sir, those country cousins.”

    Immediately: I saw this recognition come over the deputy’s countenance nearly immediately ! “O ! O, yes, yes, of course ! Of course. I tell ya’ what we’re gonna do here then, Ma’am. Ma’am, you come on over here and get in the driver’s seat. On down this stretch a bit, ‘bout half a mile or so, there’s the entrance to Peterson Pits. The Pits has a huge … … big, big ol’ parkin’ lot. Ya’ know it ? Good. Good, then. … … ‘nd, and I’m gonna go on now and get back in my unit. So, so … … allya’all go on, now, and have yourselves a really nice day. O, and Young Man ? Ya’ have yourself a really good birthday there, ya’ hear ? !”

    TO … … The Pits ! Birthday happened !

    When we returned home ? ‘nd told Grandpa, a lifelong farmer and, by then, he and Grandma retired to town, the story ? Grandpa guffawed. And guffawed –––– and laughed and laughed and laughed.

    It was a mighty fine birthday celebration !
    Blue

    ps: The Deputy Cat must’ve been wearing a name tag or displaying a name on his badge. THAT is the part of this birthday of which I have no recollection, if, indeed, I had seen or known it from back then: the Deputy Dude’s first or last names. I have no idea who he is.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Ha ha! What a great story!

    • jesse
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Funny story.
      It reminded me of my first time in front of the wheel with dad by my side. In the cemetery near our house.
      Dad got a rude awakening after my first attempt at stepping on the brake. The lesson lasted perhaps 30 seconds and he chickened out. And this was automatic transmission!

  25. CassieM
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Last year, I turned into a parking spot about six inches past when I should have. I scratched the fender of the minivan to my passenger side. I waited for the owner to come to their car – longest twenty minutes of my life! It didn’t even occur to me at the time that I could have just left a note. When the owner returned, it was a mother with her two young daughters. She was very appreciative that I waited for her. We exchanged information, and I immediately called my insurance company. The “scratches” on my car came out with soap and water, and she never accepted money from the insurance company, so I assume her “scratches” were just scuffs too. I hope she used the incident as a teachable moment for her daughters :)

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      That’s good that it worked out. I bet you were worried it would be some big, angry guy! I would be. I’d prefer to wait though because you don’t know what sort of person owns the car and they could say you did more damage than you did. I wonder if you could take photos and inform your insurance company so you had proof though….then leaving a note wouldn’t bother me too much.

      • CassieM
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I was nervous about who the owner might be – some big guy or some person who would get all uppity at what was at most scratches that could be buffed out.

        This turned out much nicer than the time my neighbor across the alley and I smashed rear-ends when backing out. We didn’t call the cops because it looked like less than $1000 of damage, and we both agreed we were both at least partially at fault. The neighbor and I said we would each turn it in to our insurance companies and go from there. When my insurance contacted her boyfriend (it was his car), the first words out of his mouth were, “when are you going to fix my car?!”. The insurance company said they needed to evaluate the damage on his car to determine fault; the car was never brought in to be evaluated. Fault was determined to be 50/50, so my insurance paid the to fix my car after the $500 deductible. I ended up needing the plastic part of the rear door and the bumper replaced and painted, which was quite a bit more than $1000! I cracked the taillight of the other car; their plastic bumper was already broken and metal came into direct contact with my car. I should have called the cops to determine fault. I was about 2/3 way through backing out and had just turned my head to focus forward; no car was moving behind me the last time I looked back. My car was angled, and theirs was straight and had not progressed as far into the alley as mine. I was definitely partially at fault, but I bet the cops would have not determined 50/50 fault. Maybe you should always call the cops for anything more than scratches?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          Yeah, it’s always hard to tell how much something will cost. Here, you are supposed to report accidents as the police won’t come for minor things.

          • CassieM
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know what the official law is here about reporting – probably that you should report it. The majority of people I know don’t report fender benders where nobody was hurt. I was hit by an older gentleman going the wrong way on a one way street. He asked me not to report it. The damage was minor, but I felt his driving was putting others in danger so I called and had the police come out. They seemed annoyed and said it was my choice of whether to file a police report. I also had a feeling he would not contact his insurance so I wanted the police report. My insurance did end up having to contact him and his insurance company. After filing a police report for a wreck, I got some nice mail from a couple of ambulance chasers!

  26. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I forgot to mention one funny story. My dad once got hit by a guy that was driving at the same time as reading — what? A map? No! The Bible! :) He then tried to lie about it but luckily a cop was right there & witnessed the whole thing.

  27. Charles Minus
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Just a small quibble with Jerry’s original post. Insurance companies don’t do anything “for free.” You pay them lots of money to fix things for you. Altruism doesn’t turn a profit, and insurance companies are all about profit.

  28. RFW
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Is this another example of the sense of entitlement inherent in driving an SUV?

    • CassieM
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      I drive an SVU. My story is above…you know what they say about assumptions :)

      • CassieM
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        Uh, that should be SUV. I am not sure what SVU would be as a vehicle.

        • Texas Prof
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          Special Victims Utility vehicle

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            There was once a Saturday Night Live skit: Law & Order Special Elevator Unit or something like that, playing on Law & Order: SVU.

          • CassieM
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

            The first thing I thought of after the typo was “Special Victims Unit”.

  29. andrea jones torres
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    very similar incident happened to me a few years ago.. a friend and myself were at petsmart shopping, when we got back to the car we saw that someone had backed up and dented the front bumper.. there was also a note on the windscreen.. not from the perpetrator though but by someone that had seen the person who did it and left me their license plate number..

    called the police, they looked up the number, insurance filed, dent fixed.

    always wished I had known who had left me the note so I could have said thank you. :)

  30. Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The Catmobile has been dinged? Say it ain’t so. :-(

    I wonder if younger people are more prone to active altruism than older folks? All the instances of good deeds done for me were done by the young (regardless of my own age).

  31. cremnomaniac
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I understand the frustration and disappointment that comes from events of this nature. It has happened to me more times than I can recount. However, I do feel some sympathy for the “miscreant”. Personally, I think calling them a miscreant is excessive. Unlike the person the broke into my truck or the one that stole my bike, it wasn’t premeditated or intended. As many here are students of human behavior, it should go without saying that the person’s decision not to leave a note was influenced by many factors.

    For example, the punishment for being involved in any accident is high in this culture. Never mind being the one at fault. Even if we do the right thing, insurance rates rise for MANY years, far in excess of the cost of repair. Not only are we penalized for the accident, but also the claim itself. We pay a price even when we do the “right” thing.

    When we are the victims we’re quick to judge harshly, but if the shoe were on the other foot we might be asking for understanding. I’m not suggesting this person should have run off, but I am saying that it’s probable that this was good person that made a poor decision. What if this person is just a starving student, or a financially strapped single mother? Maybe someone who just had their best friend die and are depressed.

    Isn’t the very judgement we pass also evidence of selfishness, and altruism, at a minimum, consideration and concern for the person’s condition that would lead them to behave as this one did?

    Unfortunately, society is structured on a system of punishment and retribution. When contingencies for “right” behavior” provide reward rather than punishment, we’ll see better behavior.

    In the meantime, don’t judge too harshly.I’m certain we are all guilty of a poor decision from time to time. Cars can be repaired easily, one bad decision can follow a person for many, many years.

    Happy Holidays

    • scottoest
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Signed,

      The Person Who Hit Prof. Coyne’s Car.

      …..;)

    • Posted December 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      If this is a foreign car, this could be a bitch to fix… the entire panel might have to be ordered in and replaced. Mucho dollares.

  32. Lianne Byram
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Often the good and bad of humanity are expressed in the same person. Years ago my car spun out on a remote, icy country road and ended up stuck in a snow bank. A group of men on their way to court to appear as defendants, stopped and pushed my car back on the road. Good Samaritans all.

  33. Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Variation on the theme…several years ago I got a call from somebody claiming to be an insurance agent saying that she had a police report from her client that I ran into her car in a parking lot several months prior. None of her story made sense, including how there could be a police report for an hit-and-run collision (that’s gotta be a felony, right?) yet the first I hear about it is an anonymous phone call from somebody wanting money from me several months later…and who didn’t even have the police report number available.

    She did have a description of my car, and she called me a few days after I had parked in the lot where she said her client said this had taken place, so I’m guessing she had some means of looking up my license plate number and was just trying to scam / scare / blackmail me into sending her money.

    These days, I’d probably try to string her along enough to get contact information out of her and then sic the state AG on her. Even if she was an actual insurance agent, her attempt at extortion should have been enough to get her license yanked.

    b&

  34. Nwalsh
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    A lot of this can be avoided:I love walking and ALWAYS park at the far end of any lot at Costco or otherwise, and I always drive through to avoid backing up when leaving. It’s not unusual to see people driving around and around to find a spot within a hundred feet or so of a store. Dumb & lazy.

  35. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    About a month ago, I stopped in backed up traffic and about 5 seconds later
    I heard a ‘thud’ behind my car. I was puzzled when I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw nothing, but that became dismay a few seconds later when a wobbly motorcyclist stood up behind me.

    The kid who hit me was scraped and bit bloody on one leg, his old motorbike was pretty badly banged up and my Corolla had damage to the rear underneath the bumper (that later cost me more than $300 to fix) – he slid his bike under my car to avoid getting creamed. The kid had a temporary license on an old, worn piece of paper and – you guessed it – no insurance. He has contacted me a couple of times about making payments for the damage and I sorta think my good deed will be to just forget about it, though it does annoy me that he’s driving without insurance. Mostly, I’m extemely grateful the kid is OK.

  36. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Mine is bigger than yours. LOL

    WLC has no credentials worth debating. He is just a fast talking loudmouth who spews 8 falsehoods per minute.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 16, 2013 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      Wrong topic ;)

  37. Marlon
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    When I was a teen, a couple of buddies and I stopped and changed a flat tire for a well-dressed older man in a nice car. We weren’t looking for remuneration, but the guy gave us some premium box seat tickets for that night’s baseball game in the Astrodome. It was one of the rare times we weren’t in the cheap outfield seats.
    Also, I once found a checkbook in a parking lot and returned it to a nice grandmotherly type who rewarded me with a bag of the best homemade cookies I believe I have ever had.
    One more and I’ll shut up: A couple of friends who have been married for over 30 years met when they backed into each other in a parking lot.

  38. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of doing nice things, I’m sure you’ve all seen this West Jet Xmas present giving story by now. I bet the guy who asked for socks is kicking himself, wishing he had asked for something more extravagant.

    • Nwalsh
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      LOL. That was my first reaction also.

  39. Texas Prof
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    This exact event happened to me last week. A student dinged my rear fender. A thoughtful stander by took the license number, observed them park nearby, and called the campus police. The police came, looked at both vehicles, and noted the damage on both.

    The police later called in the offender and confronted her with the evidence. She confessed filled in an exchange of information form and received a citation (presumably she will be paying a fine now). All this happened before I was even aware of the accident.

    Turns out “she” is a student of mine. Though I have her name from the police report, based on her behavior in class, she doesn’t seem to be aware that I am the person whose car she hit.

    Now I’m trying to decide whether to mention it, or simply pass the police report to my insurance company and consider her penalized.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Oh, you must find a way to let her know that you know but subtly. :)

      I once knew a really dippy girl who had very wealthy old money parents and I suspect that’s why she went to university. She had no interest in being there and her parents forced her.

      A bunch of people were walking to a class in a building on campus and she complained ad nauseam about the course to someone she was walking with, not realizing he was the professor of the course. Duh!

      • Texas Prof
        Posted December 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        She’s a good student and majoring in my department (which means she will be taking more classes from me). The police already confronted her about her poor judgment, so I don’t feel the need to give her more “chastisement” than she’s already received. That’s why I’m hesitant to mention it.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          I wasn’t thinking chastising. Just at the end of the year somehow slipping in something that would make her realize.

          • Texas Prof
            Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            I’ll consider, thanks …

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 15, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

              I think you’re already taking the bigger route…

  40. Posted December 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Once, an old rusty muffler almost fell off my car, and was dangling by a mere bit of metal. I hadn’t noticed it until I was about to drive home from a library parking lot. A very kind gentleman saw the problem and immediately offered assistance, using his own piece of rope to harness it for me, so I could safely limp along to a service garage.

    • Posted December 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      My family and I have made sure to pass on this sort of kindness over the years. We’ve even pushed a couple’s broken down car off a ramp and into the parking lot of a mall, so they could call a tow truck or relatives. That was before the advent of cellphones for the masses.

  41. SA Gould
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    In keeping with car themes… Chicago, probably 1980, around 3pm on a nice sunny day. At the busy traffic intersection of Monroe and Michigan Ave, an out-of-town southbound motorist became flustered and tried to make a left turn too soon, and hung up the left front wheel of his car on the concrete divider.

    My group of eight was on the curb waiting to cross, and saw it as it happened. Without missing a beat, we lifted up the front end of his car and put it back in down in the proper position.

    No one said a thing. As we continued on our way, we saw him mouth a heartfelt “thank you.” We were a bunch of women self-defense instructors coming back from a great workshop in Grant Park, so it made our day too.

  42. Posted December 16, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Kinda hate to say it, but most of us aren’t strictly one or the other. Even nice people can be jerks sometimes…

  43. JBlilie
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I was struck (well, my car was) while sitting in a ferry queue in Washington State. You know those queues – inch forward one car length, stop, repeat.

    I was in a small Honda. As I was reaching across the car to receive my change (for some reason this ferry road had the booth on the non-driver’s side of the vehicle (?!)) I was hit quite sharply from behind and the car lurched forward.

    I was still dealing with the change and the attendant when a woman’s face appeared in my driver side window (it was summer, window down).

    First words out of her mouth: “We’re so-o-o-o lucky! You don’t have any damage!”

    Not “I’m so sorry” or “Are you OK?!”

    This got the conversation off on the wrong foot, I can tell you. What a moron.

    Luckily, there was no damage except black marks on my bumper (I checked inside and out before I let her go) and, though I had a little crick in my neck, it was gone within as hour. I did, however, take her license plate number.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I had a rear end collision in my car where good and bad come out.

      I was actually going to write an exam when all the traffic came to a stop. I stopped fine but the guy behind me wasn’t paying attention & was looking around on the floor of his car. He hit be at about 40-60kph which was quite a wallup. This caused my feet to slip off the clutch and brakes & my car to just tap the car in front.

      I was just lifting my head when I see the angry face of the guy from the front car at my window. I see him look at the damage to my vehicle and the guy who hit me and realize that I was hit and that’s why he was tapped. He had no damage.

      He didn’t ask me if I was okay but got in his car and drove away. You see, he had enough get up and go to exit his unharmed car to give me what for for tapping it, but not enough to help someone who had been in an accident.

      The car was a complete right off. I moved the wreck in the driveway of a very large mansion of a house and while the police officer was filling out the paper work, an angry woman came out and said to move the car right now as she *might* want to go out later. She wasn’t going anywhere now, just didn’t like it in her driveway. She wasn’t even polite but just angry at how dare such proletariats sully her aristocratic driveway.

      The nice thing was the young, calm police officer looked at her and just shook his head when she threatened to call the police & we pointed out that there was one there (I mean really, we were getting ready to load it on a tow truck) and there was nowhere else to go.

      The nice thing was 1) The police officer gave me the paperwork right away so I was able to make an insurance claim immediately. 2) My professor let me write my exam (a Classics one but I forget what class it was) later during the holidays in his office (and I aced it – and would have if I hadn’t been in an accident)

      • Filippo
        Posted December 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        ” . . . an angry woman came out and said to move the car right now as she *might* want to go out later. She wasn’t going anywhere now, just didn’t like it in her driveway. She wasn’t even polite but just angry at how dare such proletariats sully her aristocratic driveway.”

        Yep, I wonder how much she perceived you (temporarily) lowered her property value, you proletariat, you. ;)

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 16, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha! In my mind I remember her as wearing pretentious fluffy slippers but I’m sure she wasn’t as it was winter & cold. :) She was carrying a cordless phone but her driveway was so long on her property, she probably lost reception (this was the 90s).

      • Posted December 16, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        It’s a shame the cute cop didn’t get creative. Something such as agreeing on the spot to file a report, and then performing an extensive investigation that blocked off the area with crime scene tape and took hours to complete would have just about been perfect. Even better if the neighbors were interviewed — gotta be thorough, after all.

        I’ve known firemen who will go out of their way to destroy cars parked in front of hydrants when they arrive on the scene. If there’s no time, they’ll just smash it with the engine, and send the car owner the bill for the detail work to fix the paint on the engine. If there’s time, and even if there’s no fire needing to be put out, they might well park opposite the car, smash out the windows, wrap the hose around the steering wheel, and do a pressure test on the hose and hydrant. That’ll destroy the steering wheel and likely do some other really nasty damage. They might be accidentally sloppy with the hose and get the interior a bit wet, too.

        And I fully support such actions, too. An inaccessible hydrant can make the difference between life and death, or between one house burning down and the whole block burning down. People might brush off a ticket for blocking the hydrant, but, once word gets out about what the fire department will do, people stop blocking hydrants.

        Incidentally, the hydrant for the block is on my neighbor’s property, one foot from my property line. It would be a natural spot for me to occasionally park. But I never have, and I don’t remember ever seeing anybody else park there, either.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t say the cop was cute, but it’s interesting that your mind created that detail. ;)

          • Posted December 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

            Re-reading your comment…I think I keyed off the repeated use of the word, “nice,” which I now see you didn’t apply to the officer but to the way things turned out.

            <sigh />

            It’s the mind that goes second, they tell me. What goes first or who tells me, I don’t seem to…erm. Sorry. Remind me, again: who are you? And where are my pants? Oh, yes, I’m wearing them. How convenient. And what makes you say I’m panting? I’m not out of breath!

            b&

  44. Jeff J
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    This post reminded me of one of my most shameful moments. It took awhile to work up the nerve to write this:

    About 15 years ago, my girlfriend and I were returning to my new car after some shopping at the mall. Being a gentleman, I was about to unlock her door and open it for her when I saw a big ding in the door. It was an obvious case of the door of the car next to us being opened too far and too forcefully. Paint from the car (from a sloppy aftermarket paint job, clearly a failed attempt to make an older beater look OK) was etched into the dent in my car. I was livid.

    So we waited. My GF knew how proud I was of my new car, and although she had an uneasy look on her face, she silently waited with me.

    Within ten minutes, a woman approached the offending car. She was older, in her 50s or 60s, and was snacking on a box of bridge mix. I pointed out the ding to her. I folded my arms and breathed heavily through my nose. Her eyes widened and she stammered as she explained that the car was her daughter’s. Her daughter’s child was energertic. Careless, actually. The kid was sitting in that seat and must have done it – the two of them were still inside the mall and should be out shortly. The woman had been trying to talk to her daughter about the kid’s behaviour, etc. etc. I said “Fine, fine, we’ll wait.” And I waited with folded my arms and breathed heavily through my nose. My GF’s uneasy look became uneasier.

    Some minutes passed. The women waited outside too. She had an expression on her face which I interpreted to be annoyance with her daughter and grandchild. She was staring at the mall entrance. More minutes passed and she looked down at her hand and unclenched it, revealing a small handful of the bridge mix candies. The chocolate had melted all over her palm. She had been holding onto the same handful ever since she came out of the mall and saw us standing next to their car. She reclosed her palm and looked back at the mall entrance. She wasn’t annoyed with her own family. Clearly, she was distraught, and probably quite frightened by this big angry guy (me).

    I came to my senses, and ushered my GF into the car and said to the woman: “Hey.. .uh… you know… uh… forget about it, OK?” I got into the car and we drove off. I was ashamed.

    The “new” car is long gone now of course. The ding might still be in the door and it might not. Who knows, who cares? It’s just a car door. Probably not coincidentally, the GF is long gone too. I have not embarked upon anger management classes in the years since, but I do try hard to remember that getting angry is pretty much NEVER worth it. There is no point.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 17, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      It didn’t seem that you had lost your anger in the story. I would have been livid too though I tend to keep my hulk impulses in check.

  45. Posted December 18, 2013 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    “My insurance company will fix the damage for nearly free, (I have to pay a small deductable).”

    Why would your insurance, and you, have to pay anything? OK, if the perpetrator is unknown, then you could have some sort of accident insurance for that, but the whole point of liability insurance is that the insurance of the person liable pays it.

    Is US liability insurance really as broken as US health insurance?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 18, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      It works that way with car insurance in Canada too (didn’t know it worked differently elsewhere). You pay so much for you car insurance and if you use it, there is usually a deductible. If you pay more for that particular coverage (like collision for example), your deductible is lower or you can opt to pay less for a particular coverage & have a higher deductible.

      The house always wins.

  46. HaggisForBrains
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    sub

  47. lisa parker
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I am pleased this turn out well for you. However, the type of miscreant you discussed and his brethren and those who are worse need to keep an eye on technology. I read a report a couple of days ago (I was not so interested to remember the name or authors of the report, nor the statistics given, but they were both impressive.) Most people don’t pay that much attention, but between traffic cams, in and outdoor security devices, dash cams and phone/cameras, a very high percentage (as I said, I didn’t take note, but I seem to remember it was in the high 80’s-90’s) of anyone who leaves home, and even a few who don’t, are surveilled almost constantly as they go about handling their affairs. Once you get where your going and stay there, it drops dramatically depending on your job and where you are going. So remember, Big Brother is watching you!

  48. monte
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    It is not the perpetrator’s fault. He is just a product of the universe.


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