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Someone left a note reading 'THANKS FOR taking 2 parking spots' on Andrew Clark's dashboard.

Andrew Clark/The Globe and Mail

A parking ticket. That was my first thought when I spied a sleeve of paper pinned under one of my wipers. I’d visited a friend I hadn’t seen in 18 months and as we walked to where I parked on her street the telltale sign loomed into view. Perhaps I’d missed something? Had I not seen the signage? Closer inspection brought relief. It was just a handwritten note from a neighbour chastising my parking. It read: “THANKS FOR taking 2 parking spots.”

As far as notes-on-windshields went, it was subdued. The author had eschewed profanity and gone with a Canadian classic: clean, crisp, passive-aggressive “thanks.” Whoever had written it, had gone to the trouble of trimming a piece of lined foolscap down so the words fit aesthetically on a smaller rectangle of paper.

It showed commitment.

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Of course, it was anonymous. They always are. Parking notes are the original Twitter – anonymous reprisal and venom in 40 words or less.

That’s the thing about driving. It gets personal very quickly. It gets under the skin. It’s easier to release anger on a car than a human being. No one is going to pin a note on someone who walks too slow. Leaving a note on an empty car, however, appeals to the crank in us all. It’s not just passive-aggressive motorists who get in on the action. The more expressive notes contain anatomical directions, maps, explicit descriptions of ways in which the note recipient can insert objects normally not known for their “insertibility.” In the grand scheme of car notes, mine was very nice, really.

You my be wondering whether I deserved the note in question, and the answer is an emphatic “kinda.”

When I parked, I made sure to leave room between the front of my car and a driveway. But now I realize I had overcompensated. Had I parked right at the edge of the driveway, there might have been enough space for two cars to park. If I’d left just two feet of space, maybe another car would have fit – a very small car. In the bad parking scale I would say I hit “jerk” status (a six out of 10).

A note like mine can leave you in a shame spiral. There is no way to right the wrong. I don’t know where to send my apology. There is no redemption from the car note. What has been done cannot be undone. You can end a marriage. You can quit a job. You can disappear and create a new identity but you can never unpark the note-inducing bad parking job. I could rent a megaphone and drive down the street proclaiming my contrition but that might anger more people and I’d get more notes.

It’s a different story when you’re in the right. Here’s one I received in 2012.

“Hello Neighbour.

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On the weekend I asked you nicely not to block my driveway.

Next time I will call to have your van ticketed.

Please do not park so that your vehicle crosses the sloped part of the curb this much.”

In this case, I had not blocked the driveway and done nothing wrong except park on a public street. The author placed their note in a Ziplock bag to keep it dry. That’s the sort of obsessive attention to detail that is deeply worrying to those close to you. I was so mad I wanted to leave a note. But where to leave it?

But the most puzzling notes are the “anti-notes”. The writers go to the trouble of leaving them but you have no idea why.

Someone once left a note on our car that read “Chrysler Dynasty (Beige) Hit Your Back Left Wheel. Approx 11:35 a.m.” The note included a license plate number.

Seems useful, right? The author, however, did not include any contact information. So, I could take the note and go to the police and say “Someone driving a car with these plates hit my car.” The police might then reply, “Who saw them hit your car?” To which I could reply, “The person who wrote this anonymous note.”

To which the police would retort, “Goodbye.”

I don’t leave notes. If I’m angry, I don’t want to give the negativity any more oxygen. Why let the poor parker garner any more attention? I left one once, when I dented someone’s car. It included my contact details and my offer to pay for the damages. When you receive this kind of note, the normal reaction is “Well, at least he left a note.”

All of which leaves me in the aforementioned ethical predicament of all note-receiving offenders – with no way to reply. If I had the chance, I’d explain that I was trying to leave enough room for the owner of driveway. I just misjudged the occasion. I’m sorry, the slight was unintentional.

Sadly, that chance will never arrive. Car notes are a one-way street.

Next time I will be more careful. THANKS FOR the reminder.

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