I’m not big on getting even. The older I get, the more pointless it seems. Even though I’m a Christian (and proud to be one, thank you very much), there’s something in me that believes in at least the possibility of “karma” – the “what goes around, comes around” theory of the universe. At a fundamental level, we obey laws because we know that if we don’t, something bad will (eventually) happen to us. For some people, their personal moral code keeps them on the straight and narrow. For others, it’s the knowledge that the police will, sooner or later, catch you if you do something wrong. For some, it’s the fear of the condemnation by their peers.
I was thinking of this today, when the conversation at my office turned to a discussion of retribution. While I’m not big on retribution (I think that if I work hard and succeed it will bother those that have wronged me far more than anything I could do to them), there was a time that I did indulge in “getting even.” Let me take you back to almost a decade ago. I was in my car, pulling into a supermarket’s parking lot. I like to park close (I’m lazy, in case you wondered. If I’d WANTED to walk, why would I be in a CAR?) Anyway, I spied someone pulling out, so I pulled up near them, and waited (patiently, I might add) for them to leave. This parking lot was one of those with directional aisles and diagonal parking spaces. Each asile was “one way” and you could park to the left or right. I was sitting there, with my turn signal on, waiting for the spot to come open. The car that had occupied it had to back up towards my car in order to get out. I waited (patiently) and just as they pulled away, an old man and his wife (Whoops. Sorry. A “seasoned citizen” and his significant other) came careening down the wrong way in the asile and claim-jumped my parking space. As they did it, I sounded my car’s horn – two short beeps – as I thought perhaps they’d not seen me waiting for the space.
Oh, they’d seen me alright. The driver, grinning like an idiot, did everything but flip me off, and as he exited the vehicle, he sneered and said “You don’t OWN that parking place, you know.”
Pause with me for a nanosecond, as we consider the nature of karmic justice.
On the one hand, I was really cheezed that both my parking place had been hijacked, and the jerk that did it had been rude to me.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to get in trouble, by doing something that could come back to bite me in a legal, moral, criminal or ethical sense.
I’d like to tell you that I thought long and hard about this. That I agonized over what to do. If the same thing happened today, frankly, I would just blow it off, and assume that someday, somewhere, the guy would get a good smiting by the Lord. (Take if from me…God is VERY good at that smiting thing.)
But my new-found attitude of letting those that do wrong get hoist by their own petard is a more recent development. Back then, I had to have my pound of flesh. Or car. Whatever.
Now, keep in mind that I had to figure out some kind of retribution that would:
- punish the guy for screwing with my karma.
- fit the crime.
- be something I could live with karmically.
- not get me into hot water with the police, a lawyer, or my wife (my very own personal Jimminy Cricket)
At last, I had the solution. I took out pen and paper, and wrote a brief note, folded it, and carefully slid it between the driver’s windsheild wiper and the windsheild.
I never so much as touched his car – only the piece of paper. I then walked away, and on into the supermarket.
Some time later, when I was done with my shopping, I went back out into the parking lot. The offending vehicle was gone. A rather ruthless smile played over my features. I’d had my revenge.
What? You want to know what I wrote on the paper? Ah. Quite natural, I suppose. Well, you see…here’s the thing. I realized that there was nothing I could do to his car that wouldn’t get me in trouble with someone. God. My wife. The law. So I decided to return the favor and mess with his Chi. Here’s what I wrote on the paper:
I DID SOMETHING TO YOUR CAR. GUESS WHAT?
The smile on my face was due to the realization that I’d spoiled all the fun he’d had taking my parking place, for I could just imagine his wife harranguing him all his way home, “You IDIOT! You just HAD to have that PARKING SPOT! NOW look what you’ve done! How will we ever figure out what’s wrong with our CAR! You MORON!!”
As you can see, I didn’t mess with his car at all. I simply fired a shot right between the eyes of his peace of mind.
While this makes for a pretty funny story, I can’t say I’m proud of what I did. (For the record, my wife was NOT amused.) Today, I don’t recommend that kind of behavior to anybody. And I’m sure that, in a karmic sense, I’ve been paid back several times over for my little prank.
But while I wouldn’t do it again, it sure felt good when I did it.