When your car gets towed, the first person to call isn't the council, the towing company, or your mum. It's Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius 121-180 AD.
My neighbour towed my car on Wednesday. A truck was blocking my driveway, leaving no option but to park on the street. We live in a busy area, and I was lucky to find a spot close by. My bumper was hanging 30cm over a driveway, access only slightly inhibited, so I pulled up. The park wasn't perfect, but with a massive truck so clearly blocking my driveway, surely any neighbour would be understanding. Nope.
An hour later, I returned to find my car towed. Those who've been unnecessarily towed will be aware of the emotions involved. The anger courses through your veins; you feel betrayed by the government, the towie, humanity. You want to burn the world to the ground.
Don't. You'll regret it.
I found the towing neighbour and confronted him. "Come on, mate," I said. "What about community spirit, buddy?" I yelled. "Where's your basic human compassion, dick?" I was articulate and in the right but I let myself down. Worse I let Marcus Aurelius down.
Nothing I said helped get the car back. It didn't pay the fine. My frustration didn't get the sausage rolls I had cooked for my son's class to school before they got cold. My anger didn't help pick up the mother of my children waiting in the rain. She's currently wearing a cast on her broken foot. I shouldn't have let emotions get in the way of that critical pick-up. My rage was nothing but a waste of time and energy. If only I had brought to mind Marcus' words.
"You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength."
We don't have the power to alter the past. We can't un-tow a car. We don't control the person who towed it. He is who he is; if that's how he wants to treat his neighbours, that's his decision. We do have the power to remain calm. We can choose to behave logically.
"Choose not to be harmed — and you won't feel harmed. Don't feel harmed — and you haven't been."
Feeling wronged, hurt or offended is a choice. Things only get personal if we make them so in our minds. As Hamlet said, "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so". Becoming offended and losing your cool is a weakness in you.
Towing a car doesn't have to be taken as an attack or an insult. Instead, treat a missing vehicle as a test — an opportunity to demonstrate your competence.
"Treat whatever happens as wholly natural; not novel or hard to deal with, but familiar and easily handled. What stands in the way becomes the way."
Eventually, I calmed down and set about solving the problem. Uber to the school with the sausage rolls, ring the council and find the car, ring a sister to pick up the injured mother, meet everyone at school, watch the kids celebrating the end of term with cold sausage rolls, Uber to pick up the car, pay the fine online, drive home, smile and wave at the neighbour who towed me, feel great satisfaction at overcoming a challenge, pour a drink.
"Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness."
After screaming at my neighbour, I regained my calm and resolved to be friendly to everyone else I came across that day. The woman on the phone at the council, the man at the tow yard, the kid complaining about cold, burnt sausage rolls. It felt good.
"The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury."
This whole adventure began with a truck blocking my driveway. I didn't call the towies. I had every right to, but my neighbours need to paint their house. The only way to get scaffolding in is by parking a truck across my driveway. That job provides employment which puts money into the community. As Professor Scott Galloway says, "cooperation is our species' superpower". My neighbour towed me for a 30cm non-blocking of his driveway. Not being like that is my revenge.
"Misfortune nobly borne is good fortune."
Life is full of annoyances, disasters and frustrations. They are opportunities for you to show character. I failed the initial test but changed course and turned that loss into victory. I look forward to my next car towing so I can demonstrate improvement. Next time I'll go straight to Marcus.
"Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one."
If you happened to be the neighbour who towed me and you are reading this, all the best mate. If you need anything, I am here for you bud.