Wednesday, July 23, 2008
About a year ago I, like so many other well-intentioned neighbors, picked up a green magnet (free to those who asked politely) at the checkout desk of my local Howard County Library, which said: “Choose Civility in Howard County”. Honestly, I hadn’t read the book Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct by PM Forni, but I’m fairly certain “If it was free to you, it’s free to me” wasn’t one of them.
A few weeks ago I noticed my magnet, which I had placed on the back of my car the day I got it, was missing. I displayed it mostly to let other drivers know that I’m non-aggressive, enjoy a little distance from the vehicle in front of me, and often try to help other motorists in a pickle (I let them in so lay off your horn and my a$$). I did not display it to say: “Hey, living in one of the top ten wealthiest counties in the country entitles me to tell others how to behave.” Nor to imply whoever sees the magnet hasn’t already chosen to act civilly, as if there should be a choice. But I know I could often use a reminder, and I’m not alone, especially behind the wheel.
But why would someone swipe the magnet? It is convenient. A magnet is much easier to lift than an adhesive bumper sticker that’s baked on after a year of sunshine. But your neighbor’s newspapers aren’t tied down and their mailbox is unlocked; do you help yourself because of accessibility?
Perhaps the message “Choose Civility” filled this individual (or roaming gang of magnet lifters, or politically charged censors) with such ire, he/she/they just had to pull it off my car, but kindly resisted keying my vehicle. Wow, if “Choose Civility” pisses you off that much, keep it.
Maybe you just wanted one for yourself and didn’t feel like going to the library. For all I know, reading those five words might have been your quota for the day.
And how do you answer when someone says, “Hey, I loved that book. I’ve seen a lot of those around town. Where did you get yours?”
Is it possible you were just in a hurry yet you needed the commuting world to know right at that moment you’re really a nice person, aside from the stealing? Obviously one who displays a message of civility on their bumper would understand and want you to have it.
Or someone’s just playing a prank on me, albeit a lame one.
Regardless, I think you missed the spirit of the message and have annoyed me enough to not bother replacing the magnet. I’ll continue to hope for (though not anticipate) random acts of kindness, enjoy the moments when people are nice just because and let Karma take care of the rest.