I blame Catherine Tate and her cantankerous character "Nan" for the fact that one of my favourite sayings is "What a liberty!"

This expression is most apt when someone has helped themselves to an asset without seeking permission. It's an another way of saying: "Who do they think they are?" To take a liberty is crass. It's thoughtless. It's shows that, according to your world view, your agenda is the only one that matters. Here are five examples of people taking liberties with a variety of items.

1. Cars

Last week a Sideswipe reader wrote that "an up-himself stuffed-shirt leapt out of his gleaming new Beamer to quite aggressively reprimand an elderly lady for resting her jacket on his bonnet while she unlocked her door".

As payback, the reader put the remains of his or her lunch on the man's car and "within no time there were seagulls, sparrows and mynas leaping and pooing all over!"


Gosh, remind me not to upset that person. Now I would never berate anyone (let alone an elderly person) but I do think that lady could have chosen a better place to rest her jacket.

Since she was unlocking her door, she must have had a car, which must have had a bonnet so maybe she could have .... I don't know .... let me think .... rested her jacket on her own bonnet.

My philosophy is that you shouldn't touch another person's car unless the owner has asked you to clean it or service it (or invited you to get in it, in which case, you have permission to touch the door handle). So I wasn't thrilled to once discover a man leaning on my car as he chatted to someone in a supermarket car-park. Conflict is not my style so I would have pretended not to notice him while silently speculating whether it was ignorance or rudeness or both that had enabled him to take such a liberty.

2. Rubbish bins

I've occasionally had a parking receipt or sweet wrapper in my hand as I walked down a footpath punctuated with household rubbish bins. Despite the temptation, I could never bring myself to dispose of even these trivial bits of rubbish in someone else's bin. My rationale is straightforward: it's not my bin and I haven't been given permission to use it.

In a recent Rant section David was "[m]ost unhappy that a lazy dog walker would choose to dump their smelly doggy poo bag in our empty recycle wheelie bin on the street in Northcote Point.

"We only put the bin out once a month. Should we have to live with that distasteful smell and mess because of their lack of consideration?"

I agree with David. What a liberty that person had taken. (It's lunchtime so let's not even discuss whether dog poo belongs in a recycle bin in the first place.)

3. Water

At a horse competition a couple of months ago, my horse was tied up beside our truck as I shampooed his legs. (Yes, horse people are as nutty as dog people.)

The man who had parked next to us must have had water-hose envy because a little later he came over with a bucket and proceeded to fill it up with water from our truck. This stranger said something like: "You don't mind if I take a bit of your water."

Well, we did mind actually. We didn't like his attitude. He didn't have our permission to take our water from our tank in our truck with our hose. Of course, that impotent blend of surprise, politeness and being averse to conflict made us all mute. But honestly: what a liberty!

4. Windscreen wipers

It's annoying to come back to your car (that has been parked legally in a car-park or on the street) and find that advertising material has been tucked underneath a windscreen wiper.

As covered in point one above, it is rude to touch someone's car without permission. It's even poorer form to use those bad manners to hawk your wares or services. Sometimes I don't discover the unsolicited spam until I'm driving along. In such cases, the only way to safely remove the material impeding the driver's view of the road is to switch on the windscreen wipers. It's not environmentally-friendly but it usually eliminates the offending matter within seconds.

5. Car windows

One gentleman, in an attempt to drum up some car valet business, tucked his business card down the lower edge of the driver's window while my car was unattended. (Again, please refer to rule one.) When I returned and tried to remove the business card, it slid down out of sight and out of reach.

It is now permanently, invisibly, embedded somewhere in the depths of my car door. Thanks for that, Car Valet Guy. Let me get this straight. In the process of promoting your services to make cars nice, you gave my car an impossible-to-remove souvenir. This person is sending all the wrong messages. He doesn't really care about cars. He just cares about himself. What a liberty!