December 20, 2011

Good deeds gone wrong


At the risk of receiving no eternal reward for my good deeds, I'm going to shout to all the world that last week I saved someone from getting a ticket at the parking meter. When I pulled up to the tight downtown parking spot, I noticed that my neighboring left-hand meter had no time left but a car was still in the spot. By the time I lugged two sleeping toddler folk out of the car, a police officer had pulled directly in front of my car and had started to strut about the lot to find and fine violators. I felt so awesome that I had an extra dime to put into the meter to give that guy or gal a second shot at not overstaying their parking welcome and getting out of downtown without a miserable ticket right before Christmas. In my imagination, they were on the verge of losing their job and had to rush in to meet a deadline, thus ignoring their paid-parking obligations. My imagination also told me that if they had to pay for a ticket, they might not eat on Christmas day, and not one of their seven children would get candy in their stocking. Also, the penny pincher in me said that for ten cents, which equals twelve meter minutes, I could save maybe $50 on a ticket. How much is a downtown meter ticket, anyway?

Well, after an anniversary lunch at Sitar, my favorite Indian buffet in town, we strolled back out to the parking lot, where I was elated to see that my plan worked. The cop was nowhere in site, and because of my quick-parking-lot-ticket-possibility thinking, there was also no ticket in site. Until I looked to my right and noticed that the car to my right must have also had an empty meter, but because my generousness was so narrowly focused on the left, where all of my goings and comings happen with getting the twinners in and out of the car, there was a big fat Merry Christmas ticket on their window. One more dime was all it would have taken to make someone else's Christmas wish of no parking ticket come true. Then I imagined that the elderly lady parked there was probably going to visit her husband in the oncology ward of UAB. Her heart, already broken, would just wilt a little more upon receiving this ticket that, again, could have been prevented with a dime.

My lesson learned is to not get so prideful in your swell (or just one) of good deeds because you'll look to the right and see the opportunity you missed.

Another inexpensive way of being nice to people is to make way for them on the running trails, especially if they are running with their friend or their dog. I basically know zero running etiquette, but if someone is with their dog, I feel better about moving over for them than I do moving off the trail for a gaggle of twenty friends running together. Two or three friends I get. But those groups of five+ friends who are all trying to run abreast kind of confuse me and make me feel awkward. Again, I'm sure it's just because I don't know anything about running, and I only have one running friend so I never encounter this problem. Does this sound like the rantings of a jealous person who wants twenty running friends yet? Seriously, I'm ready to take running to the level where you actually make friends through running. How does that work exactly? Night running, anyone?

Back to how great it feels to make room for someone running with their dog. Man's best friend is obligated to be leashed to you on the trails, and I always get a small sense of joy from making sure that I don't startle the dogs and that I give them plenty of space. Human beings, I will run right into you and smear my sweaty elbow all over your shirt (not really, but sometimes I want to), but the dogs make giving space joyful. I think it's because you know if they are taking up all of the sidewalk or making weird zig zags or pooping directly in your path, they didn't do it because they feel entitled to that piece of sidewalk, they just have innocent doggy brains following their innocent doggy instincts. I'm not even a dog lover, but for some reason I love them on running trails. The other day, I stepped in a giant piece of dog poop at the playground, and guess who I blamed? Not the innocent doggy-brained dog. The owner who didn't scoop the poop.

So on Saturday, towards the end of my long run (16 miles!) on Jemison trail in Mountain Brook, I made a quick decision to dog-dodge by going around a tree to completely clear the path. Somewhere in the dodge my toe snagged a root, and with my arms straight out like Superlady, I slid into a landing. The nice dog owner stopped to see if I survived and claimed that she does that "all the time," which I know has to be a lie. If you really fall like that all the time, you should probably seriously consider not running. It's just really painful to scrape the whole front of your body on tiny rocks and roots, not to mention the ankle twisting. Even with her exaggeration of her own tripping experiences, it was so nice of her to stop and check to see if I was alive, and other than a sore ankle for the day and a minuscule hand scrape, I was fine. Dirty but fine, and I had learned me lesson. Never try to be nice to anyone again ever in life. Also I learned that it's much more awesome to fall in front of people you know than strangers. Anytime I fall, I want to laugh really hard about it, but with a stranger you have to brush off your wounds quickly instead of crying about them (which helps make the transition to laughing), and you can't laugh because they are so serious about checking to make sure you are ok.

In summary, tis the season to be nice, but just be prepared for a service face plant when you least expect it.