There is a small bit of passive-aggressive warfare occurring in the parking lot of my townhome complex.
Background information: Each unit in my complex has one single-car garage and one marked, open-air space. Visitor parking is limited, and according to our by-laws, residents aren’t supposed to use those spaces for more than maybe 2 hours at a stretch and never past 10 pm.
Several units, however, have three cars or use their garages for storage instead of parking their car (the latter which doesn’t make sense to me unless you’re one of the unlucky ones whose garage is a trek from your unit, in which case I can understand the appeal of the visitor spots; then again, I also have a low tolerance for scraping snow off my car). This means that more often than not, the cars in the visitors’ spots belong not to visitors, but to residents.
Another neighbor noticed this too, apparently, because this morning the windshield of a transgressor’s car bore–still bears, actually–a note that I can only guess is intended to shame the transgressor into compliance. It goes something like this:*
The visitors’ spots are meant for visitors, not residents! You’ve been parking your car here (blah blah) . . .
The rules CLEARLY STATE residents should not use the visitors’ spots past 10 pm!
(More exclamation-point riddled copy with occasional ALL CAPS thrown in)
Move your car!
An anonymous neighbor!
Now. The thing about passive-aggressive displays is that they don’t work. As I mentioned, the letter is still on the car. The car itself hasn’t moved, even though this neighbor’s designated parking spot has been car-free since at least 8:00 this morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if the neighbor is leaving the car there deliberately, in a passive-aggressive reply to the initial passive-aggressive letter. Passive-aggressiveness only serves to irritate people, even if they’re in the wrong. When it’s “anonymous” like this, it robs the receiver of the chance to respond and to act like a decent human being. The wording of such passive-aggressiveness also implies that the receiver is not a decent human being and can’t be trusted to mend their annoying, parking-lot-violating ways.
Life tip: If you want someone to change something/do something differently, implying he or she is rude or evil or incapable of being civil is not the way to go about it.
What would be more effective:
Transgressor-neighbor: (opens door) Yes?
Non-anonymous neighbor: Hi there! Look, I know we don’t talk much, so this is a little awkward. But I noticed you’ve had your car parked in a visitor’s spot overnight.
Non-anonymous neighbor: Parking here is pretty limited, and I had some friends over last night. They had to park way across the street in that other complex because all the visitors’ spots were full.†
Transgressor-neighbor: Oh. Sorry about that. I have problems finding a spot sometimes, because I have three cars to manage.
Non-anonymous neighbor: Yeah, it’s a little annoying how our garages can only fit one car. But we’re all limited on space. Also, you may not know that our HOA by-laws say residents aren’t supposed to use the visitors’ spots at all after 10 pm. I personally don’t care about that one too much, but do you think there might be a way for us to work this out, so the next time I have friends over, they’re more likely to find a place to park?
This is what we were told about in preschool and kindergarten. People often call it “using your words.”
Confession: My default is passive-aggressive, especially when it comes to people I don’t know too well. This same transgressor-neighbor for awhile was using my parking space without asking. It’s honestly not too big a deal; I don’t often use my spot. But I do use it, and it’s common courtesy to ask before parking in it overnight. I came thisclose to leaving a passive-aggressive note myself (though I would have worded it more along the lines of, “Hi! How long do you think you’re going to need my spot for? Because I need it for X”). But then the car left my spot, and I spent a few days parking there immediately after work and sometimes leaving my car overnight (as long as there’d be no snow) in an obvious “Get off my lawn!” statement. I haven’t had problems since.
But because I’ve had no problems, that’s a sign that transgressor-neighbor is a decent person. It would’ve been better for me to knock on the door and use my words. It’s something I’m trying to get better at.
So, like much of the advice dispensed on the Internet, do as I say, not as I do.
*Belatedly, I thought about taking a picture, but then was all, “But what if someone sees me take a picture?” That, plus laziness, means I never did.
† Or some other true reason depicting why the undesired behavior is a problem, stated in a non-accusatory manner.