No good deed goes unpunished.
This was a phrase that I used all the time as a cynical undergrad. I believed it, because, like I said, I was a cynical undergrad. It really annoyed my friend Gina and finally she told me to knock it off.
So I did, because although I still believed I was correct, I didn’t want to bore my friends.
But the phrase came back to me forcibly this past summer, when I rammed my car into a parked Mercedes. How is this a good deed? It’s not. It was a stupid one, and entirely my fault. I was on the way to a job interview, driving through a part of the Bronx I didn’t know and about to be late. I made an ill-considered U turn and promptly heard the crunch that signifies trouble.
Even then, there was no good deed. I swore, and drove off, terrified of being late.
After my interview, which did not go too badly except for the part where they told me the starting salary, I convinced myself to head back to the scene of the crime. Perhaps the driver would have seen the car in the meantime, and driven it away! Then I would be off the hook. Unfortunately, the car was right where I had last seen it, and it was sporting a nasty dent on its driver side door.
I left a note not because my conscience told me to, but because I knew this was an anecdote in the making and I didn’t want to have to admit I’d left the scene of an accident without so much as a note. I considered driving away again. My conscience bothered me, but only a little bit. What bothered me was how easy it would be for me to forget it had ever happened.
The thing is, I don’t think I believe in karma. I think it’s an excuse to blame the victim. A sort of Republican mindset that insists that your suffering is all your own fault. Nonetheless, I was pretty sure that if I neglected to leave a note, I would pay for it in some way. Which argues for the idea that I do, in fact, believe in karma. I left a note.
That night I got an email. I spoke to David, the owner of the Mercedes, who seemed genuinely surprised by my note. I was apologetic in the extreme. We agreed that I would pay his $500 deductible, which I had to borrow from my credit card. I did not inform my insurance company since a)this would mean telling my parents, and they already have enough ammunition against me considering my pathetic attempts at adulthood and b)it would only raise the damn premium.
Last week I got a bill from his insurance company to the tune of $2210.76.