04 December, 2006

Digging Deeper...

How involved is involved?
Can we control our involvement by degrees?
I don't think we can.

I can really dig when I need to, in order to get to the bottom of something; I was able to do just that last week.

Let me know what you think...

My car got hit in a parking lot last Tuesday night. I was inside a store, oblivious to the goings-on in the parking lot at the time. When I later drove off I was alerted to the accident by a slip of paper, torn from a a spiral notebook, stuck under my windshield-wiper blade. The note read... "when I was coming out of the store I witnessed a late model Buick back into your car... license tag is: (it was listed)... I am so sorry... signed, a citizen." I had pulled into a dimly lit church parking lot to read the note; and to, then, assess the damage. I couldn't see any broken light or crunched fender, actually I couldn't see any damage at all. I drove home. Under the flourescent bulbs in the garage both my husband and I inspected the car's body, bumpers, paint... nothing. The question that kept coming up in my mind was "why didn't the citizen identify herself and leave a phone number?" She left the license tag number and make and model of the offending car. I tried to push it out of my mind, considering my good fortune at finding no visible damage. And yet, I couldn't stop thinking about it. What I really wanted to know was where, exactly, did my car get hit? Was I missing something that was potentially serious? I had to dig deeper. I went back to the scene of the accident the next day. I talked to store employees who may have known who the citizen was. I was able to piece together enough information to come up with a person's name and phone number. I called her, left a message, and waited. She called me back, it took a full two days. She was, indeed, the phantom citizen; but explained that she didn't want to get too involved. She described the area of impact to my vehicle and, luckily (after further inspection), there was nothing noteworthy to report there. But I am left wondering, how does one control involvement by degrees as a witness? By virtue of the fact that a note was left gets one involved. I suppose it was a matter of conscience for her, I understand that much. But, for me it's either dive in or stay out of the water in matters such as this; once I commit, it's the deep end. If I left a note, as a witness, it would definitely include my name and phone number; it's all about credibility. I'm still baffled by the idea of getting too involved; personally, I don't see any gray areas here. I wonder if I'm alone on this. What do you think? What would you do?

Life is Good!

9 comments:

Jim V said...

Curious behavior, sure. But consider her starting point. Perhaps she DID jump in head first based on her personality. You are someone who easily and readily dives in head first, extends a hand to say hello, introduces yourself, strikes up a conversation.

Perhaps this person never does so, keeps to herself, stays in her shell, comes from a family of people who are also closed off, and has learned in life that you're better off just keeping to yourself. If that's her personality, then this was quite the leap of faith just to leave a note at all.

A leap of faith is always dramatic in the eyes of the person making it, because they know what their starting point was. What may appear to be "falling short" to you is nothing more than someone who jumped as far as they could, but simply started from substantially further back than where you are already.

On a side note, nice detective work. If this quilting thing doesn't work out, maybe you could be a P.I.

Ancestor Collector said...

A few years ago, I was stopped at a stop sign behind a big box truck. The truck driver decided that instead of turning left as he was signaling, he wanted to turn right but didn’t have the room to do it so he needed to back up. Because I was pulled up behind him, he couldn’t see my car in his rear view mirror, and he just put it into reverse and started backing up! Because I was looking down the road, waiting for my turn to proceed and not looking straight at the truck, it took me a moment to realize that he was going to back right into me. I quickly leaned on my horn, but he kept coming. Was his radio too loud, I wondered? Before I could jam my car into reverse, he had hit me. We exchanged papers and we both had to file police reports. At the end of the week, when he filed his, he claimed that I had run into the back of his truck!!! I was furious. I called his company and his boss backed him up (no pun intended!), I complained to the police who couldn’t do anything because I didn’t have a witness, and I stewed about it for a day or so. I knew that now we would have to pay the $500 deductible and my insurance rates would also go up. This man’s lies would cost us hundreds of dollars! All of a sudden, it occurred to me that the accident had happened at noon right outside our town’s community center where parents were picking up their children at nursery school. I went to the school and asked if I could hang a notice on the parent bulletin board seeking anyone who might have seen the accident. Thankfully, they gave me permission, and the next day a wonderful woman called me and said she had seen the whole thing. She called the police for me and filed her witness report, and I felt so vindicated and so thankful that she would take the time and make the effort to help me, a total stranger. She could have ignored my note, she could have not wanted to get involved, but she did. I was so grateful.

Why do some people just walk away, pretend they don’t see those who need help? Why do others not want to get too involved, but maybe just a little? Was your witness afraid she might have to go to court and lose time from work if you sued the person who hit your car? Did she not want to become involved because she didn’t know you or the person who hit your car, and was afraid of who she would be encountering? Was it easier to be anonymous? We will never know what moves people to help and what keeps them silent. All we can do is continue to do what we feel is the right thing for us.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thread, Mz. G.

For me, getting involved would be an all or nothing situation. If I was ready to take the risk to begin with, I'd have to see it through.

But Jim V's comments make sense. It may be that there are people who have to wade into situations rather than dive (or jump).

And it may be, too, that there are degrees of conviction, of moral commitment, that the likes of us can't see.

I'm glad you posted this. Will chew on it more as the day progresses.

quiltkeemosabe said...

Seems to me that you've hit my proverbial " open cupboard door", you know, the shock(and disbelief and pain and anger) you feel when you hit your head on an open cupboard door. You've just run into someone who thinks and acts entirely differently than you do and it makes you feel the same way. But I like jim v's comments--you don't know where the person is coming from so maybe they did do all they could. Maybe in their house cupboard doors are always left open and waiting for some unsuspecting head to bump into it.

Anonymous said...

I am with you 100% and can't understand the behavior of the citizen. My goodness, why did she even bother...or was she mad at someone in the Buick and decided to get them in trouble. I would have done what you did,too. Since research is what I do for my writing, I do dig a lot...love the photo of the dog!!

Jim V said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kyle said...

I'm thinking that "citizen" did a great thing, giving you a heads up. Thankfully, no damage was done. It was completely up to her to leave contact information.

I recall a time when my mother placed anonymous calls to the sheriff's department, reporting "suspicious" activities and traffic in our neighborhood. With time and continued calls, I believe she reveled her identity but it took some time. I know the situations were different however, to your "citizen" it may be the same....

At first this post concerned me, due to the pic at the top.... Glad the post was not about Diesel digging holes...

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Thanks to all my trusty readers/commenters; this blogpost generated much thought provoking conversation! Jim and Quiltkeemosabe-- you're right when we say we don't know what the obstacle may have been that prevented the citizen to reveal herself at that moment. A.C. and Nancy, yes; there are perhaps degrees of commitment and or moral conviction that those of us who are moved to do all that we can are unable to see. Kyle, yes it's true that Mrs. G may have protected her anonymity when reporting illicit and illegal activities to the sherriff's department but that was also to protect her children, who mean more to her than anything in the world. (And rest assured that Diesel is behaving herself perfectly...) Sioux- your insight is perfect, naturally; I would say that to anyone who agrees with me 100%! ;)

Shelina said...

Having been seriously hit by hit and run driver's twice, I am so glad for these citizens who are willing to step up and do the right thing. The hit and run driver needs to be accountable for his/her actions. Surely it would have been better if she had left her information so you could prove you weren't just randomly implicating someone.
On the other hand, I understand about wanting to be too involved. There are thugs in my neighborhood, and while I would be happy to help anyone who has to deal with these thugs, I would rather not have the thugs be aware of my involvement in any of these actions. People are crazy nowadays and you can't be too careful.