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Dear neighbour: Quit leaving anonymous notes on my car

We've become a species of note leavers.

We're constantly sending texts and e-mails and posting comments online. When it comes to cars, however, we are decidedly more old-fashioned – we still leave hand-written anonymous notes tucked under windshield wipers.

In fact, a quick search of the phrase "note left on car" yields 277,000,000 results. All around the world, in every imaginable language, people are leaving passive-aggressive notes to strangers and neighbours. There are web pages dedicated to chronicling the best of them.

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I received one last week. "Please pull forward when you park so another car can fit behind you," it read. "We have limited parking on this street and you are taking up 2 spaces!" It came with a diagram. The top portion showed the "not cool" way I was parked while the bottom showed the "cool" way the author felt I should park in the future. Of course, the note was anonymous.

The author might as well have signed it – narrowing down the list of possible note makers isn't too hard. It was poorly handwritten with a tilt (so male and left-handed). It was written in green magic marker (a parent) and the word "cool" was used (so over 40 years old). All I have to do is find an uptight, shut-in, overprotective middle-aged dad in Toronto. That should take all of 15 seconds.

The worst part of it was that the author was absolutely right.

My park wasn't good. I'd been in a rush and should have nudged a foot forward so that a driver could have parallel parked (not that most motorists are actually capable of parallel parking). Through carelessness, I'd hogged space and was guilty of loathsome behaviour. There are few driving habits more detestable than somebody who eats up two spots when they street park.

I see it all the time, particularly on my street, and it drives me nuts when I am on the receiving end – but I've yet to leave a note because I believe that everyone slips up once and a while. Not every bad parking job is a personal affront; a plot intended to deprive me of my rightful space. I just can't get my head around "helping" someone by leaving a condescending missive.

The note-leaver was also correct about the scarcity. Parking here is limited because, back in the 1980s, everyone who was able to transformed his or her front lawn into a parking space. It was good-bye street parking. It was also a great way to destroy the environment. All those makeshift driveways are perfect for guiding polluted rainfall into the lake. Do I wish I had one? Of course, but I don't, so I reserve the right to be sanctimonious.

Note leaving is on the rise. I never used to receive dashboard correspondence and yet, in the last two years I've received three (all anonymous) and left two (signed).

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  • Anonymous notes left for me (summarized):
  • I saw someone hit your car.
  • You are parking too close to my driveway. I’ll have you towed.
  • You are not parking close enough to the driveway.

Notes left by me:

  • I saw someone hit your car – here is my telephone number and the licence plate of the offending car.
  • I nicked your mirror. Here is my number. Call me and I will pay for any damage.

None of the notes I've gotten have been especially helpful. The "someone hit your car" note was useless. If I can't cite a witness, there's no way to prove that "someone" is responsible. The "too close to my driveway" note was lengthy and not too helpful. The author tried to be nice, but I could sense a lot of rage – kill-me-and-wear-my-skin rage, frustrated poet rage. I felt like I was dealing with a radioactive substitute teacher.

The most recent note was morally correct, but legally wrong. You may not, according to the Toronto Municipal Code, Traffic and Parking., Article V Parking, Stopping and Standing, Section E General Parking Prohibitions 1 (a) "[Park] In front of or within sixty (60) centimetres of a driveway or laneway so as to obstruct vehicles in the use of a driveway or laneway." If I parked as close to the driveway (see diagram) as John Doe wanted me to, I'd be in foul.

This last note, though not profane, was hurtful because a neighbour had left it – someone who knew exactly who they were addressing. Everyone on my block knows I'm the dork who drives the black minivan. If asked to identify me, they'd probably say, "You know, the dork in the 49ers baseball cap who drives a black minivan."

If he'd had the guts to sign the note (you know, kind of like the way this article has my byline) I would have apologized. We could have become good neighbours. We could have been the kind of people who say "hi" in the morning and have each other over for coffee – You know, come to think of it, maybe he did the right thing by protecting his identity.

Sure, I took the brunt of an anonymous parking reprimand. I was called to account in bold light green letters, but at least I didn't make a friend.

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Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

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About the Author
Road Sage columnist

Andrew Clark, an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author, is Director of the Comedy Writing and Performance program at Humber College in Toronto. More


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