Hit & Run: Social Behaviour in a Modern World

Last week, I found myself charging south on I-5 at top speeds.
I made off with someone else’s car. Someone else’s stuff.
And now I was being questioned by a rookie.

How exactly did I get here?

It began innocently enough. My husband and I responded to a Craigslist ad. We planned to purchase a console table, but were unable to squeeze it into our car. The seller tried to angle it in, provided tools to dismantle and load and neighbours attracted by the spectacle even came out to offer advise and encouragement. That’s when I noticed the unattended minivan.

Did I think I could just swipe a van for a few hours and getaway with it?
Of course not. My crime was not one of larceny, but one of modern social behaviour.

When a neighbour offered up his minivan to transport the table, my jaw-dropped. I declined to impose any further on his afternoon. And while the man did not protest, he suggested that I take the van on my own! Now remember, this man is not my neighbour. I’m just responding to an ad for a table and he happened to hit me up with generosity. It was so weird. It was the kind of niceness that brings out the ugly in us. You know, when someone offers you a lift home and you immediately think abduction. I wondered if he would report his vehicle stolen as soon as I pulled out of his driveway? Or is would he accuse me of causing the scratches that were already apparent on dulling paint? Why did this person feel comfortable spending gas and mileage on a perfect stranger? These are the questions that make me a sucky person.

When I refused his assistance for the 20th time, he said Nonsense. We’ve gotta help our brothers and sisters. That’s what the book says, right? And handed me the keys.

I actually wondered if I should refuse again based on his Christian-missionary-style implication that I should be reading “the book”. That earns me a few more sucky points.

When I finally agreed to borrow the minivan, the Craigslist seller suggested that she come along. That way, my husband could drive our car and she could drive the minivan back. During the ride, the seller told me she recently went back to school and graduated with a degree in communications. She was a rookie production manager.

Like too much light on a sunny day, I was strained by all the kindness before me. I met a generous gesture with suspicion and fear. And there are so many levels to rejecting niceness. How do you convey gratitude? Will you be expected to return the favour? Accepting favours means forming a relationship and there’s a whole host of obligatory behaviours when it comes to relationships. Whatever happened to simpler times?

When we reached my home, I set my neurotic tendencies aside. I did pay it forward. The seller was sent off not only with full payment, but a bonus bottle of wine and a six-pack for her generous neighbour.

As for me, I’ve fully recovered from the experience.


2 responses to “Hit & Run: Social Behaviour in a Modern World

    • Haha! I’m still so stunned by the whole thing. Moments like that make me want to be a nicer, more optimistic person. Inevitably, some useless moron will come along, do something nasty and suddenly my nasty is switched back on. However, I must say that it’s getting harder and taking much longer to flick the switch to my nasty these days.

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