Did I miss a day of etiquette school growing up?
September 21, 2018 8:43 PM   Subscribe

The one where you learn you must respect inanimate objects belonging to others as a direct extension of their person. Or is it particular to certain people and their cars?

A couple recent 'incidents' were triggered by me leaning on/setting a small object on another person's vehicle. No damage was/could have reasonably(?) been done, but the responses were rather.... threatening/aggressive, instead of a polite "could you not..?" like I might have expected. Is light physical contact without express permission disrespectful enough to warrant this?

It did not help when I responded to the exclamation "How would you like it if I did __ to your __ ?!?!" with a shrug.

Growing up, I guess I learned to immediately pick up your dog's poop in someone else's yard, but that it was also OK to occasionally skirt their property line as a shortcut. Maybe that's just the neighborhood we lived in.
posted by rocketbadger to Human Relations (67 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
No, these responses don't sound remotely reasonable.
posted by typify at 8:50 PM on September 21, 2018


Back in the teenage deep time, I did a stretch pumping gas in the deep sticks of Canada.

If someone rolled up in a precious-looking car or on any kind of motorcycle bigger than a moped, I learned to ask the customer if they wanted me to pump their gas, and if they did want me to pump their gas, I needed to be extremely careful.

So yeah, I learned early that there are people who are sensitive and snowflakey about their vehicles. I don't have a lot of empathy for them -- I've got an idiot in my family who got angry when his vintage Chevy got ticketed for parking in a handicapped spot, he thought he was entitled to the space because it was wider and reduced the chance of door dings. But they do exist, and to be overly familiar is to invite confrontation.
posted by Sauce Trough at 8:55 PM on September 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Some people are weird about their cars. They’re the weird ones, not you.
posted by samthemander at 8:59 PM on September 21, 2018 [20 favorites]


People are irrational about their cars; see also the public outcry when someone proposes building something - like converting a house into a two unit duplex - that might, potentially, occasionally, reduce the ability of someone to store their car in the most absolutely convenient place possible for free. (Seriously, 90% of public complaints about development are about parking).
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:01 PM on September 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


different people have different thresholds of 'could reasonably damage' -- is it possible that your 'reasonable' is not theirs? i actually *have* seen someone dent a car hood by sitting on it, and i watched a friend put a nasty scrape on their trunk lid just by setting a cardboard box on it, something i'd never have expected to happen; it's possible that your actions were a little riskier than you realised or that the person who owned the car had had similar bad luck in the past.

i don't have a car, but i really don't like it when co-workers sit/lean on my desk, because it's 'my' desk and it feels like a line has been crossed. the desks are not as expensive or fragile as a car, and they belong technically to my employer, not to me. but i would not sit on someone else's desk, and i also wouldn't sit on their car, damage quite aside.
posted by halation at 9:06 PM on September 21, 2018 [57 favorites]


It's pretty easy to scratch a car by leaning on it (rivets in jeans, zippers on cargo pants, etc.) or setting stuff on it, depending what it is; and scratches are not necessarily easy to fix.

Also, cars can be more like personal space than like possessions. I can't really think of a situation where it would be ok to just lean on someone else's car, tbh. It seems like such an unusual thing to do that I can understand it being seen as provocative.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:11 PM on September 21, 2018 [83 favorites]


Yea some people are particular about things, and particularly particular about their cars. They like to frame it as "we take care of our belongings and you don't," which also doesn't make it sound any better.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 9:12 PM on September 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


I would not take offense if someone leaned against my vehicle, but I also would not do it to someone else's because people have different boundaries and you never know.
posted by ahundredjarsofsky at 9:13 PM on September 21, 2018 [28 favorites]


My car isn't fancy or expensive, but I wouldn't appreciate some rando setting something on it or leaning against it. Honesty, I don't really understand why you would need to do either?

I wouldn't get aggressive about it but I definitely would prefer you just not do it.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:23 PM on September 21, 2018 [69 favorites]


My father taught me that if you're gonna check out someone's cool car up close, put your hands in your pockets so they know you're not gonna touch it.
posted by 4th number at 9:25 PM on September 21, 2018 [29 favorites]


On a rational level, people don't like to put their cars at risk of scratches and dents, but also don't like them getting smudged and smeared.
On another level, you spend a lot of time in there moving through the world inside it. It can feel kind of like your exoskeleton.
posted by nantucket at 9:34 PM on September 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


Alright, so the solution to this problem, like most of my problems, is to stop being unbelievably lazy. Thanks for your comments!
posted by rocketbadger at 9:35 PM on September 21, 2018 [17 favorites]


I will second the opinion that a) it's quite unnecessary to lean against, or place objects on, someone else's car, and b) it's provocative, it pushes boundaries, it's aggressive.

Your overall attitude also seems privileged and dismissive of other people's feelings, which might explain the strong reactions you've been getting. Really, not touching other people's possessions, especially expensive ones, without their permission seems like pretty basic etiquette and common sense.
posted by Umami Dearest at 9:40 PM on September 21, 2018 [64 favorites]


Cars are pretty expensive things and some people put a lot of their paycheck towards them. Unless its an obvious beater I give some respect to something they may have worked hard for, small dents and scratches can cost unreasonable amounts to fix.
posted by N-stoff at 9:48 PM on September 21, 2018 [15 favorites]


If I were, say, walking in a mall parking lot and my shoelace came untied, I wouldn't think anything of leaning against someone's car while I retied it. These are objects designed to survive high-speed collisions, they're not going to shatter into a million pieces if you breathe on them.

However. This is one of those things that a certain portion of the populace are completely nuts about and can't be reasoned with about. Better not to give offense if avoidable.
posted by praemunire at 9:53 PM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


These are strangers right? They’re being aggressive because they think that you’re messing with their car because you’re about to start messing with them. Strangers just don’t touch each other’s cars for non-nefarious reasons.
posted by bleep at 9:54 PM on September 21, 2018 [13 favorites]


My initial reaction to your post was “do not touch my car” but I am very territorial. It’s almost like my personal space.

And no, under no circumstances would I touch a strangers car. Or be casual about a friends car

As for reasonable response, I wouldn’t be rude but I would be assertive about it.

Yeah maybe someone over reacted, but best to take note and assume most people are ‘nuts’ like me from now on.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 10:12 PM on September 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


Yes, this would really bother me regardless if the age or brand of my car I own. It’s that if anything goes wrong with my car, I’m responsible for fixing it, and a stranger leaning in or setting stuff on my car is just doing what he wants and isn’t going to have any responsibility for the outcome, or damage.

It’s that it’s another person’s personal property. Would you, say, brace yourself on someone’s laptop while you were speaking with them? Lean on or put your coffee cup on their briefcase?

Now take something that costs thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

If you were a friend, I would probably say, “could you not do that?”

If you were a stranger, I’d be really worried. I’d be wary of being overly aggressive because I’d worry about the interaction escalating into violence because a person treating my car as his furniture is already doing so as a boundaries-pushing power play.
posted by deanc at 10:17 PM on September 21, 2018 [34 favorites]


I wouldn’t do this - you don’t want to scratch their paint. So I’m a hard no.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:20 PM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


+1ing DingoMutt word for word.
posted by greermahoney at 10:22 PM on September 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Car is often livelihood. And sometimes even older than the family pet. And more reliable. Or more understood. You basically mess with someones child/family.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:29 PM on September 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Nah, you want to be mindful of other people's property, especially cars, which are expensive to buy, and expensive to repair, especially out-of-pocket.

Leaning objects on cars = no. You could scratch the paint or even dent it. (I've learned the hard way)

Placing objects on cars = no. You could scratch the paint or even dent it. (I've learned the hard way)

I'm not sure if I would get angry about it, though. I would ask you to remove whatever object you had placed on my car.
posted by JamesBay at 10:30 PM on September 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


i am extremely careful about personal space and while i wouldn't freak out if someone touched a car of mine, i would not touch a rando's car unless i was about to throw the fuck down with them, frex if they almost just ran me over in a crosswalk. for many many people, their cars are a super weird extension of their own physical personal space and i have as much interest in breaking that boundary as i would having my own broken, which of course is none.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:18 PM on September 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't label it 'super weird'. It is an extension of personal space that we take into the wider world every day.
posted by mannequito at 12:56 AM on September 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


If it doesn't belong to you, isn't public property and you don't have permission from the owner, you shouldn't be touching it, putting things on it or walking on it.

Getting aggressive about it may be an over-reaction but if you're touching something that doesn't belong to you without permission, you're definitely the one in the wrong. I also don't think its ok to take short cuts across someone else's property
posted by missmagenta at 1:40 AM on September 22, 2018 [15 favorites]


I'm from a small town in the Midwest where people used cars as an identifier. "Do you know Bob Schmidt?" "I don't think so." "He drives that red Camaro..."

Many people definitely view their car as personal, private property that is not to be fussed with by others.

Thou shalt not mess with other people's cars may as well been the 11th commandment. You just don't. And if you do by accident you definitely apologize just as if you'd accidentally bumped the person themselves.
posted by jzb at 1:58 AM on September 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm not a car person, but I think there is something about cars that is more than just property. Learning to drive a car, or even getting used to a new or larger car, is about learning to move through space as an object that big - so effectively, it's about extending your sense of self/your body to include the car. When people have a car accident, they will often say 'You hit me!' not 'You hit my car with your car!'

So it makes sense to me that people would react to you touching their car in ways that are more 'respect my personal space' than 'don't touch my personal property'.
posted by escapepod at 2:52 AM on September 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


I would not touch or place something on another person's car without asking unless I knew them pretty well and thought they were a chill person. I thought about this just now and realized that it would never even cross my mind as an option, in the same way that it would never cross my mind to, say, stroke someone's hair without asking. Touching their car is way less of a personal space violation, but it still kinda seems like one on some level.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:40 AM on September 22, 2018


This all falls under the principle of being respectful of other people, which extends to being respectful of their possessions. Things like cars are a bit unusual in that they're almost always "out in public" and frequently unattended. But I wouldn't lean on someone's car just as I wouldn't lean back in someone's dining room chair.
posted by slkinsey at 4:57 AM on September 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


When I first read this question I thought it was your friends who were freaking out on you and was totally on your side (though you should still ask if it's just out of the blue, they might also be kinder), but if you mean strangers' cars yeah, don't touch those. (Exception: in a very icy lot, you may stabilise yourself briefly if necessary. Try to aim for family-type vehicles like minivans, and never do it to a pickup because the potential aggro just isn't worth it. Be prepared to apologize in any case.)
posted by teremala at 4:59 AM on September 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


I had to check your profile to see if you lived in Los Feliz in LA because I’ve had friends move my car at 6pm on a street without parking restrictions because it was parked in front of another resident’s house. I’ve also gotten notes on my car because it was parked an inch too close to a driveway - not blocking it, just too close. People are very territorial sometimes!

That said, I would never put anything on someone else’s car in a parking lot, etc., so everything everyone else said.
posted by jbenben at 5:31 AM on September 22, 2018


I never touch a stranger’s car. What if they have one of those awful alarms?
posted by galvanized unicorn at 5:46 AM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


If I were, say, walking in a mall parking lot and my shoelace came untied, I wouldn't think anything of leaning against someone's car while I retied it.

This is ridiculous. Do not do this. This is incredibly disrespectful and I would lose my mind if I saw a stranger doing this to my vehicle.

Short story: yes, you missed this day. Do not treat other people's vehicles as you would a giant boulder. It is not an object for you to lean on, sit on, place things on, or really do anything to that you are not given express permission to do by its owner.
posted by King Bee at 5:47 AM on September 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


Would you feel a little bit weirded out if a stranger was leaning against the front door of your house or apartment? Same principle, and it's a lot easier to accidentally damage a car.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:05 AM on September 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


I dislike cars. I dislike most car culture. I dislike most people I know who care a lot about cars.

But, I think it’s rude, obnoxious and entitled for strangers to lean on or set things on my car. Friends and acquaintances, sure, but generally you don’t touch a stranger’s stuff.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:17 AM on September 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


After reading the last wave of answers I want to add to my comment understanding that people don't like their cars touched: Although I get why people don't like their cars touched I also really do understand why someone would have a different sense of this, and I do not think it necessarily shows entitlement, or any negative personal character trait at all in the leaner or place of little object on hood. I remember actually looking out a restaurant window and seeing some college kids leaning on, and one sitting on, my car. Yes I was irritated but I smiled when I asked them to move, which they did with a surprised look. I don't think they were "entitled" people. They were just seeing cars as part of the landscape, like the sides of buildings which also belong to someone but which we certainly lean against without a thought. Now after this explicit encounter they presumably know a car owner might ask them to get off, like now the OP knows it bugs people and why, but I'm sure they were probably perfectly nice people.
posted by nantucket at 6:36 AM on September 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm sure you know this, but please stop shrugging your shoulders when someone is being earnest with you/setting a boundary with you, even if you feel embarrassed or don't understand the boundary. It's really infuriating and invalidating.
posted by superlibby at 6:46 AM on September 22, 2018 [37 favorites]


Is light physical contact without express permission disrespectful enough to warrant this?

It's rare enough that there is a good possibility they thought you were hanging around and scoping it out to steal something from it. It's just one of those social norms (who knows how it came to be) that, no, people don't lean on or set small objects on strangers' cars.

As far as this goes:

It did not help when I responded to the exclamation "How would you like it if I did __ to your __ ?!?!" with a shrug

The reaction of the car-owner is a bit over-the-top in my opinion, but again, this is a social norm that so rarely gets subverted by adults that I suppose they didn't really know how to politely express their shock and dismay.

...instead of a polite "could you not..?" like I might have expected


On a second reading, it looks like you knew enough to know that the car owners would not be pleased about your behavior, so didn't you know the answer to the etiquette about this situation already? Why is it okay to do something you know displeases someone else as long as it doesn't provoke any angry reactions? That is not "a day" of etiquette school, that is basically day one of etiquette school.
posted by sevenofspades at 6:57 AM on September 22, 2018 [10 favorites]


I don’t care about my car at all, but I would be worried if I saw a stranger touching it. It’s a violation, and I’d wonder what else that person was going to do. I’d think it likely that the person was going to break into it.

You don’t touch strangers’ property in public. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, strollers, purses. You just don’t. If your shoe comes untied in a parking lot and you need to lean against something, walk to the nearest light pole or literally anything else that is there for the public. It’s not a question of possible damage. It’s about respecting personal space, which is the only way to manage living among vast numbers of strangers.
posted by FencingGal at 8:18 AM on September 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


I ride a bicycle. I have been taught that I'm not supposed to knock on a car to get a driver's attention when they get so close to *my* personal space that my life is literally threatened.
posted by aniola at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Which says to me that this is specific to cars.
posted by aniola at 8:23 AM on September 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Car culture in America is nuts. As you see from the above answers, there's something about a car which makes people irrational to the point of being dangerous. The answer to your question is: no, why would it be a problem, cars are everywhere and they are just big metal tools so the idea that a small scratch or dent is worth getting angry about is insane.

It's not disrespectful of a *person* to touch their car. But for some reason most peoples' identities are tied up in their cars, so they see it that way. I share your attitude: how would I like it if you walked in my yard / leaned on my door / sat on my desk? I wouldn't care, why would I? But obviously many people do, so people like you and me just have to follow the norms that exist if we want to get along.
posted by dbx at 8:30 AM on September 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


The "how would you like it....?" is a rhetorical device that's a call to be empathetic, not asking someone to engage in a debate about property rights! When someone says that, you apologize and move on and stop doing that thing.
posted by superlibby at 8:39 AM on September 22, 2018 [12 favorites]


It’s really not irrational to think that if someone is hanging around your car like they own it to think that they’re about to do something worse as if they own it.
posted by bleep at 8:40 AM on September 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


...instead of a polite "could you not..?" like I might have expected

On a second reading, it looks like you knew enough to know that the car owners would not be pleased about your behavior, so didn't you know the answer to the etiquette about this situation already? Why is it okay to do something you know displeases someone else as long as it doesn't provoke any angry reactions? That is not "a day" of etiquette school, that is basically day one of etiquette school.


Literally right before that sentence the OP says "the responses were rather.... threatening/aggressive." I read "like I might have expected" more as "If someone was displeased with something I did, I'd expect them to respond politely rather than with threats and aggression" not, "I expected it was a breach of etiquette."

OP, these people being threatening and aggressive are out of line, but it's common for people to feel like someone is invading their personal space by touching their car. I wouldn't do it myself, and although I wouldn't be aggressive to you if you touched my car, I'd notice it and think it was a bit presumptuous.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:52 AM on September 22, 2018


I wouldn’t touch someone’s bike or balance my coffee cup on it either. I also don’t put my bag on empty seats on the subway. I think it’s just kind of basic respect.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:53 AM on September 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


In the US, and probably in many places, cars are symbolic of status, sometimes of manhood. I have heard people judge others based on their car. I've known people who risk their financial stability to have a car they consider impressive. Look at the way cars are designed - function is frequently secondary to form. It would not surprise me if people who buy cars t indicate status are especially territorial and protective.

Hwever, you may want to protect your own standing by responding with a polite apology, but maybe some side-eye or raised eyebrow.
posted by theora55 at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


These are strangers right? They’re being aggressive because they think that you’re messing with their car because you’re about to start messing with them. Strangers just don’t touch each other’s cars for non-nefarious reasons.

Yeah, this is where I think some of the answers focused just on cars as status symbols may be missing a bigger point ... Leaning or resting your stuff on a stranger's anything seems possessive/overly-familiar/atypical enough that if I were the owner I'd start worrying about myself, not just the car - if you were willing to ignore a "don't touch other strangers' stuff" norm I'd wonder what other norms you might violate. I mean, I'm still just trying to picture what these scenarios look like. Are you still leaning against or using the car as a shelf as the owner is approaching? You must still at least be pretty close to it, if people are exchanging words with you about it - ?

On the more benign end of the scale I'd wonder if you were about to ask me for money. Depending on the circumstances (such as whether it looked like you could block me from entering; whether other people were nearby; whether it was daytime/nighttime, etc.) I could envision a situation where someone leaning against my car (or still hanging around very closely after leaning against) could make me feel threatened or unsafe.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:42 AM on September 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


Yes, you missed something most of us (in the US) learned early. Yes, many to most people are utterly and illogically insane about their cars and will happily shout at actual people because of a thing they will, in all likelihood, only have in their life half a decade or less and that they leave sitting about in public like street furniture.

Regardless of anybody's opinion, it's an incontrovertible fact that there will be conflict in your life if you lean on cars that you aren't immediately responsible for.
posted by wierdo at 9:53 AM on September 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


right. As DingoMutt points out, in addition to the practical considerations of scratches etc, the bigger issue is that you're ignoring the social norm that lets people interact safely and politely in public. If you're my friend, I might ask you not to lean on the car if I'm afraid it'll get scratched. But if you're a stranger doing that, in a parking lot, I'm going to assume you are trouble, probably a panhandler; or worse.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:54 AM on September 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


A couple recent 'incidents' were triggered by me leaning on/setting a small object on another person's vehicle. No damage was/could have reasonably(?) been done,

Just to chime in here - both actions could have damaged the car. It is possible to dent panels and scratch paint surprisingly easy and it is NOT cheap to fix. Those rivets on the back of jeans are a prime culprit, dirt on the bottom of a coffee cup etc can also do it. I would no more lean against a stranger's car than fly in the air. And it is wildly disrespectful to use it as a shelf. I can't think of a reasonable argument at all for putting your own stuff onto some else's car. It is a large, expensive piece of property that, yes can protect from a big impact, but also can be relatively easily cosmetically damaged. Using a car as a leaning post or a holding spot is akin to some small claim of ownership (because you're implying it is yours to use as you see fit) and that pisses people off. That is completely understandable to me. People take pride in their possessions and keeping their car clean and scratch free is an extension of their own sense of self in the exact same way as weeding and mowing their front lawn. Leaning on the car is exactly as disrespectful as throwing trash into their yard.

Yes, some people can get overly aggressive. Some people ARE overly aggressive, but either way you're in the wrong. Some people may politely ask you not to throw trash in their yard, some people may threaten you with a baseball bat or a gun for doing it. The second people are arseholes, but they're not in the wrong, they're just reacting badly.

Also, how the hell do you not know this? How have you not seen a hundred scenes in TV and movies where the character is walking back to his car and KNOWS he is in trouble because the local bully/bad guys/mob enforcers are leaning against his car waiting for him. They don't portray them as standing next to it, they are always leaning on it or sitting on it and everyone knows that a fight or confrontation is about to occur. It's a clear signal that the bad guys are already disrespecting the character before the interaction even begins, and we don't need a scene setting period of watching the guy lovingly polish it for hours to understand it before it happens.
posted by Brockles at 9:55 AM on September 22, 2018 [21 favorites]


FWIW, I was totally surprised to come into this thread and find that this was a general thing. I have had a few encounters where people got aggressive (screaming and cursing, threatening to "come down there and..." etc.) because I had walked too near their cars, but I always assumed that was just "don't do this or the crazies will get you" and not, like, a general convention that normal people subscribed to.

Maybe a product of living exclusively in major cities where most people can't afford cars and the rest either park in garages or resign themselves to the damage.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 10:02 AM on September 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just because my car is a piece of shit doesn't give other people the right to treat it like a piece of shit. It's more important to me than a rich person's Mercedes, because it's all I've fucking got and I can't go out and replace it or have it repainted or whatever.

It's like the Lesson of the Widow's Mite in the Bible: the two coins the poor widow gave were actually more important than the larger sums given by the rich, because they were a larger portion of her total income and she could afford to lose it less than the others could.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:07 AM on September 22, 2018 [13 favorites]


Adding to the chorus: It’s incredibly rude to lean on someone’s car or place something on it. Perhaps the car owners overreacted, but what you’re doing is so far outside the bounds of sociability that you should expect some rudeness.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:30 AM on September 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


Before I bought a house a year ago, my car was the single most expensive thing I'd ever purchased. Of course I'm trying to take good care of it! I'm also determined to drive it into the ground before I get another car (I've had it for 13 years and am aiming for 20), so that means being particularly careful about trying to avoid dents and scratches--nothing that will let it rust faster than life in New England already does. I'm also broke AF (see: home ownership) so I really can't afford more than basic maintanence on my car.

So yeah: I don't take kindly to people who think it's ok to treat my car like a park bench, or a dumpster, or like something I shouldn't care about. Frankly, I think the people who are all "why should you care about your car, it's just an object" are assholes, and likely wouldn't respond the same way if I were careless with, say, their laptop. And yes, if a stranger is lurking around my car I take it as a threat, much in the way I take the stranger who decides to sit next to me when there are only two of us in a subway car, etc. I take it as a stranger trying to force a confrontation. If it's a friend, I expect my friends to be responsive to my wishes.
posted by TwoStride at 10:49 AM on September 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


Wow, this continues to generate a much stronger response than I expected. To clarify, the situation was a shoe-tying lean, and my previous intuition was that after a car is left parked in a public place, it ceases to be extension of that persons personal space and becomes part of the public landscape.

I now understand this to not be the case, and that my actions can be interpreted as a type of aggressive, boundary-pushing power play. That is clearly not my intent, and I will work on being respectful of this. Sorry!
posted by rocketbadger at 11:32 AM on September 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


Car culture in America is nuts

This has nothing to do with America, you'd get the same reaction elsewhere, possibly more violent.

This is enough of a "thing" to be a plot point in numerous movies, tv shows and books where someone picks a fight by sitting on or messing with a car. I don't see how anyone could not understand that's not ok.
posted by fshgrl at 12:05 PM on September 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


To clarify, the situation was a shoe-tying lean, and my previous intuition was that after a car is left parked in a public place, it ceases to be extension of that persons personal space and becomes part of the public landscape.

Yeah I don’t think that’s the case. I was thinking of other things that get set down or are around in public: bikes, strollers, wagons, a gym bag next to a bench, a cooler on a public beach, etc., and I have a hard time picturing someone using any of those as aids to tie a shoe where it’s not a vaguely aggressive act. Even a shopping cart I’m using at the grocery store.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:16 PM on September 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Wow. Great question. I would never have guessed in a million years that so many people would react so strongly to touching a car. There are so many things that can happen every day to a car, such as a door ding in a parking lot, a bird, tree sap, rock dings while driving etc. To think that just touching a car signals that I might intend them physical harm is new to me.

This is enough of a "thing" to be a plot point in numerous movies, tv shows and books where someone picks a fight by sitting on or messing with a car.

It's a movie. I never would have guessed people would take that seriously. There are all sorts of sappy fictional tropes in movies that I hope people don't interpret as real life.

But I've learned something new today, for sure.
posted by JackFlash at 12:56 PM on September 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


To think that just touching a car signals that I might intend them physical harm is new to me.

I'm absolutely certain I'm not the only woman on this thread who has had her way to getting in her car--and thus getting away--obstructed by a man who wants something (sexual harrassment, proseltyzing, fundraising, pamphleting, etc).

And: since we cannot control rock dings (though I don't park under trees precisely to avoid tree sap) and other acts of nature, it makes even more sense to want people to control their actions and respect someone else's possession.
posted by TwoStride at 1:32 PM on September 22, 2018 [20 favorites]


the idea that a small scratch or dent is worth getting angry about is insane.

I used to feel this way, but some helpful knowledge: it's actually really expensive to fix small dents - and as for scratches, you can't just paint the scratch, you have to basically repaint the car if you want to fix it, apparently, which is also super expensive.
posted by corb at 3:06 PM on September 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Unless someone was actually blocking my way into my car, staring at me menacingly, or putting a cup on my car that proceeded to tip and spill, it wouldn't bother me in the least. And the idea of a rivet causing a noticeble scratch seems ... Well I guess I'll have to try it on my car to know for sure. But it does seem a little absurd.
posted by serena15221 at 4:16 PM on September 22, 2018


If you were leaning on my car as I walked up to it, I would be confused and potentially terrified. I know women with little eye gouging keychains and pepper spray/mace who would be very frightened indeed that you were already helping yourself to their personal space/property. If you're at my vehicle, you're quite possibly blocking my ability to leave the parking lot. One gesture and you've crossed boundaries I've been taught to maintain my entire life to maintain my safety/physical integrity. Stranger danger and all that.
posted by RainyJay at 4:33 PM on September 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


my previous intuition was that after a car is left parked in a public place, it ceases to be extension of that persons personal space and becomes part of the public landscape.

One of my neighbors or their guests must think this way, too. Because they used the hood of my car the other day as a seat or a shelf, and now there’s a huge scratch on the hood that’s about as long as my forearm and it can’t be buffed out, it’s too deep. Getting it fixed means repainting the entire hood of my car. That’s a few hundred dollars (at least! probably soooo much more though) that I didnt want to spend on a car repair. I have insurance but making a claim for this will drive my premiums up, and I don’t want to pay a higher premium because someone else was careless.

I know, I know — car culture is stupid, I’m stupid for expecting strangers to respect my property in public, I’m stupid for buying a car at all, I’m stupid for not living someplace where my car can be garaged. But... how hard is it to just have basic respect for others? Maybe I AM stupid, maybe I deserve to have my nice things ruined by strangers because that’s just how the world is, but it really doesn’t seem that hard to just not fuck shit up for others out of carelessness or juvenile malice.
posted by palomar at 7:38 PM on September 22, 2018 [19 favorites]


This has nothing to do with the United States. Or some macho idea of "respect". Or the fact that some people who own cars are assholes. Or that cars are usually parked in public spaces. Or that car culture sucks. It might be exacerbated by the fact that cars are most people's most expensive possession, and they're surprisingly fragile, but really this has nothing to do with cars.

Imagine you return to your locked bicycle and find that a stranger has put something in the basket while they tie their shoelaces, or is resting on the seat. Or you're swimming at the beach, and you come back to your umbrella and find a stranger underneath it enjoying the shade. Or you and you child return to your stroller to find someone has left their backpack in the seat while they stand next to it and make a phone call. None of these situations is likely to result in damage your property, but in all of them the absolute best case scenario I'd imagine is that I was dealing with a strange but ultimately harmless person with some boundary issues. In any event I'd try to keep the interaction as brief as possible, my spider sense would be tingling, I can easily imagine getting angry if I didn't feel in danger, and I'd be relieved when they left.

Don't touch a stranger's stuff. It's intrinsically threatening for many people because you're invading their space. Even if they don't care about the object or don't consider it an invasion of their personal space because they're chill about their car or whatever, it's still frightening to some because it indicates to others that you either don't know or (from their POV perhaps more alarmingly) don't care about norms related to physical interaction with strangers. And while I said this wasn't about cars: especially don't touch to someone's most expensive possession.

And here's some general advice I feel compelled to offer given the tone of your question and the smug shrug you tell us you gave when someone called you out: if people keep getting angry with you when you're out in public then, like the person who meets assholes every he goes, you should consider the possibility that you are the problem.
posted by caek at 10:28 PM on September 22, 2018 [16 favorites]


[Quick note: if you have further helpful info or thoughts for OP, that's fine, but please do mark that they have updated the thread to say that their understanding of the matter has changed, so let's avoid piling on unnecessarily, especially in an insulting way. Thanks. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:25 AM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


I actually think that "hey there are a lot of people weirdly possessive of their cars" opens into an even larger answer for you. If a stranger is touching, sitting on, or interacting with my car knowing full well that it's a huge no-no for a lot of people, that sets off a much bigger red flag for me. It shows that he (or she, I suppose) is either socially 'off' enough to be worrisome, or they feel like they are the alpha dog and want to make sure that anyone in the vicinity knows it.
posted by amicamentis at 2:10 PM on January 11


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