The Other Side of Nasty Car Notes


“Dear PoPville,

Let me set the scene:

I’m a 30-something car owner living in a rented Mt. Pleasant basement apartment. Despite the fact that I am ‘only’ a renter, I’m a midwesterner who considers neighborliness a duty and a joy so I have gone out of my way to introduce myself to my neighbors, to get to know them, and to live fully and civilly on my block. I’m the guy that tries to shovel my neighbors’ sidewalk when I can, I pick up litter, I put a little sweat into beautifying a neglected front yard for my neighbors to enjoy, and I try to keep a watchful eye on the neighborhood. I’m the neighbor who says hello. I’m the neighbor in the building who will bring your packages indoors to keep them safe. I’m the neighbor who will run for blocks after a truck that sideswiped your parked car, get the plate #, and leave you a note. In short, like a lot of your readers, I’m the neighbor that cares not just about the value of comprables but about the well being of my neighbors.

I also own a car that has a factory-installed, non-overly-sensitive, anti-theft alarm. As a renter without off-street parking, I must park it on the street. When I hear car alarms go off I rush to the street to make sure that my car is not the offender. It has not had problems in the past. After a restful night, four basement brick walls removed from the noises of Lamont Street NW, I found the following under the windshield wiper of my car in front of my apartment in the heart of Mt. Pleasant [photo above].

It reads:
“Please get your car alarm repaired. It’s been going off for hours. You’re very close to getting a rock through your window for keeping the whole block up.”

At first, like anyone who has suddenly been made aware of car trouble, I was met by a terrible sinking feeling. The kind of feeling that only inconvenience and repair bills can wreak. I was then also crestfallen by the idea that the car trouble I was unaware of might have kept my neighbors up. But when I got to the final sentence all of those emotions were slain by a knife to the heart. An anonymous threat from one of the very people that I care about? How hurtful, how dreadful, how eyeopening.

In light of this experience I would like to implore all PoPville citizens to attempt the following when leaving any neighborhood note:

Consider the fact that you do not fully know the person to whom you are writing, consider in fact that this may be because you, and not they, have been bereft in your neighborliness. Consider for a moment that the world does not revolve around only you and try to muster a healthy dose of introspection and objective critical thinking. Consider for a moment, that if you took the time to get to know your neighbors, you would be able to alert the subject of your note to their problems and your concerns in person and in a much more constructive manner.

In cases of car alarm malfunctions also consider that your note might be the first notice of the need for potentially costly repairs.

In short, be mindful and reasonable. Consider that it is a lot more likely that a car parked outside your house belongs to a neighbor unaware of the problem than it does to a person that enjoys annoying their neighbors. It might belong to someone a lot more like you than you think.”

149 Comment

  • This note was entirely reasonable, would you have preferred it to have a smiley face on it?

    • Disabling the speaker on the alarm (cutting the cables to it) is a non-costly way of temporarily fixing the issue if money is a concern. An owner that has a malfunctioning alarm knows that they do, it’s pretty obviously ignorance of noise pollution that disrupts a neighborhood… It’s not reasonable to ask people to bear with it until it’s fixed. It’s not reasonable to damage the poster’s car as well though but if it’s constant noise I can see how not only the note writer could possibly do something irrational.

  • Oh, this is going to be fun.

  • How about you do the courteous thing and disable your alarm?

    • Why would a person disable their alarm in DC? You must be kidding.

      • HAHAHA, Yeah b/c an alarm in DC does a WHOLE lot!… Would love to see how much your alarm does around Half ST SW and O. If someone wants something out of your car, or your car as a whole… They will take it, alarm or not. Wishful thinking though.

        • I actually saw an alarm work once. I watched a woman start to open the driver’s side door, alarm went off, she and another guy ran. I guess maybe they were going to steal something in the car and checking to see if the door was unlocked? Anyway, I was quite surprised, because I always thought of them as useless, too.

      • Because it goes off when it isn’t supposed to and therefore doesn’t serve any useful purpose?

    • +1. The OP’s note is TLDR defensiveness. Just disable your car alarm and be done with it.

  • jwetz……you’re a d^*k.

  • I wanted to be sympathetic but this letter is just ridiculously overwrought.

  • epric002

    oh for pete’s sake. and i though i overly dramatized things. just get your car alarm checked out.

  • The note would be reasonable if it didn’t threaten this person. Alarms happen and as OP said if you aren’t line of sight to your car, you would have no way to know it was your car. I’d save a nastygram like that for a repeat offender; although, I’d much prefer to call the cops for such a nuisance. Threatening someone is silly.

  • accendo

    When was the last time a car alarm was anything but annoying? Are there recent examples of them actually increasing the security of a vehicle?

  • I tend to not empathize with people who go out of their way to emphasize what a good person they are.

    • + 1. This person sounds incredibly full of themselves. Why not sympathize with the person who left the note and move on? Surely they were simply venting some anger/frustration with the “brick” comment. Wouldn’t you be ticked off as well if you couldn’t sleep the entire night?

      • +1. This guy wants slack given to him, but what about giving slack to the very tired person with ringing ears? They didn’t actually vandalize his car and they brought the problem to his attention to give him a chance to fix it.

    • I couldn’t make it all the way through the post with all the self -congratulation going on.

      • LMAO…yeah the self-congratulation made me wanna gag. Reminds me of someone who can’t post anything on the MPD 4D listserv without patting himself on the back for being so conscientious and thoughtful.

        I get that the note upset the OP, but the self-righteous tone of his description of himself kinda distracts.

        • Yes! The 4D listserve has some ridiculous actors on there. Trying to make a name for themselves as politicians, I think.
          There was one ANC commissioner who emailed a “press release” that was just a list of crime statements from MPD…

          • True indeed! There are quite a few of them, but in this particular instance I was describing someone who never expresses gratitude to 4D without congratulating himself for the itemized list of good deeds he’s performed. My wife showed me some recent posts and I know his arm must be numb from stretching it behind his neck. It gets old.

  • consider you kept an entire block of people awake for hours. the note you receive won’t be friendly.

    • A similar thing happened to my block in Mt Pleasant a year or so ago.

      Some dude’s van/SUV alarm kept going off, for 2 nights! It went off every 45-70 minutes or so and kept me up all night, and I’m sure others as well. And yeah – I thought the owner was a prick. 1

      The second night, I had had it, and I called 911 to see what could be done. The operator sent a police officer to talk to me. The police officer knocked on the person’s door (small apartment building) and had a discussion with the owner. I guess it was obvious that the car alarm was broken.

      The police didn’t tell me who was the owner of the vehicle but he did tell me which apartment the person lived in, and yes, I left a very aggressive note in large font on the building’s front door, naming the owner of the vehicle. When I got home ( this apartment building was only a few buildings away from mine), I noticed that the note was torn off, but we didn’t have a car alarm problem the next night.

  • First of all, why don’t you step down off your high horse about being neighborly. Most people try to be nice in the city, that’s normal and does not make you a saint. I also don’t under stand the quotes around only, but chill out on your apparent insecurity about your financial situation.

    Counterpoint: car alarms are insanely annoying and sometimes keep people up all night. It’s beyond annoying. You probably should feel really bad. I would consider yourself lucky that nobody followed through with the threat on the note, apologize to your neighbors, get it fixed ASAP, and move on with your life. Maybe even bake your neighbors some cookies or something.

    Being nice to your neighbors does not give you some sort of blanket immunity from people getting angry when you do something really stupid/annoying (even if it was inadvertent).

    • Exactly. If you have a street-parked car with a malfunctioning alarm, you are not neighborly. You are just another clot in the overtaxed DC road system and a frustrating nuisance. The fact that OP is irritated that he/she has to get this repaired is the final straw.

    • The rock thru the window was a bit aggressive, but I agree with this comment, to me sounds more like the OP is actually upset no one gave him credit for being the A#1 renting neighbor on the block, lobbing dollops of sunshine and rainbows up and down the street 🙂 Fix the alarm and if it makes you feel better, next time some truck swipes your neighbor’s car save your breath and don’t run the culprit down.

  • I’m also a very neighborly person, but I might write a very similar note if I’ve had to listen to a car alarm blaring for hours in the middle of the night. They wrote you a note (albeit, a grumpy one) rather than calling the police to have you towed or ticketed. Consider that a neighborly gesture and get your alarm checked.

  • The other side of nasty notes is a whiny baby who is super sensitive? The person who wrote the note was probably tired and annoyed–and assumed you would understand hyperbole. Also, I know all of my neighbors but I don’t know what cars they drive. Ugh, I’m so glad you aren’t my neighbor.

    Consider for a moment that you need to get a life.

  • i am your neighbor and it didn’t keep me up!

  • Car alarms should be illegal, and this post is a skosh melodramatic. That said, this note is the equivalent of the Internet tough guy who would avoid actual confrontation at all costs.

    • Playing devil’s advocate here- how do you confront someone about their alarm? I also live in Mt. P and can only identify the owners of about 5 cars on my block at any given time even though I’ve lived here for years and know a lot of my neighbors. Was he/she supposed to sit and wait for the owner to possibly drive her car to work in the morning to have a conversation about the alarm?

      • My issue is the anonymous threat. It comes across as someone threatening bodily harm on a chat board. I guess I’m just getting annoyed with all the notes on cars that seem to go overboard. I don’t think there are any winners here.

        • Where’s the threat of bodily harm? You’re at least the second person to say this, but it’s not there. The note threatens vandalism, not bodily harm. Still not nice, but a big difference in my book.

        • I suppose. I thought it was more hyperbole than an actual threat. But I suppose that is also similar to internet communications- tone is sometimes lost in writing. No winners, for sure, but I think the neighbors lost out on this one waaaay more than the car owner.

          Also, technically, he/she wasn’t threatening bodily harm, just property damage.

        • Good heavens, I never said the letter writer threatened bodily harm. I read the note just like the rest of you.

          • Then I don’t understand what you meant by “It comes across as someone threatening bodily harm on a chat board.”

          • I just meant it resembles the common phenomenon of individuals making empty threats online because they are anonymous.

      • clevelanddave

        While I agree that the OP got lucky the police weren’t called and the car ticketed/towed, the way to deal with it is to have the car ticketed and towed.

      • Smear Crisco or butter all over all the windows. Does no damage but it a real pain to clean off and makes the car un-drivable until cleaned, so possibly getting a message to the idiot who owns the nuisance.

    • Eh, car alarms shouldn’t be illegal. If not for my car alarm, I wouldn’t have caught a thief rifling through my trunk…

    • Dumb comment. Car alarms prevent theft.

  • The fact that the alarm went off all night and you didn’t hear it means that it is useless to you. Disconnect it and get on with your life.

  • OP should skip the histrionics and get the car alarm fixed or just turn it off. Of course the note is rude but I can cut the writer some slack if they’ve been up for hours listening to a car alarm. The fact that you are the best neighbor ever doesn’t negate the fact that your car alarm just annoyed the s*** out of everybody all night.

    • +1.
      I didn’t read the note as an actual threat to throw a rock through the window, but more like, “By God, if I was the kind of person who threw rocks through windows, I’d be throwing one through yours, because your freaking alarm is driving me up the wall.”

      • epric002

        or something like “you’re lucky you’re only getting a note from me b/c there are definitely some people on this block who won’t think twice about chucking a rock at your mother effing car”.

      • Emmaleigh504

        I read it as, “If you don’t fix your car alarm, someone is going to smash the window and fix it for you.” The window wasn’t getting smashed just for funsies, it was getting smashed to get at the damn alarm.

  • you’re not in Kansas anymore Dorthy

  • skj84

    I actually agree with the poster. The note was unnecessary nasty. Especially the threat about smashing the window in. Honestly if you are going out of the way to write a note sign your name. Don’t be a coward. Let your neighbor know who you are so you can talk out the issue like a grown up.

  • For some reason, I am fascinated with the cursive Os and As in that handwriting! They’re like little roller-coasters 🙂

  • Read the comments here and re-assess everything you’ve ever thought.

  • My mother is a saint. The most neighborly of all neighbors that ever there was. But when the dog behind her house would bark at all hours of the night while its owner slept soundly, my mother, Saint Neighbor, would call the owner’s house and bark over the phone. Even the most neighborliest neighbors of all can lose their sh– if someone/something consistently disturbs their slumber. While you’re searching the Interwebs for sympathy today, please also search for someone to fix your janky-ass alarm. HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK

    • skj84

      why didn’t she just ask the neighbor to quiet their dog?

      • I suggest you re-read brightwoodess’s post above. I think it’s plainly clear.

        • skj84

          It seems lik her moms solution was part of the problem. If she knew what neighbors house it was politely ask them to bring the dog in. No need to act immature about it.

          • “if someone/something consistently disturbs their slumber” alludes to this being an on-going affair, one that likely started with a few polite “please quiet your dog”‘s.

          • It was indeed an ongoing affair.
            Guess what, Saint Neighbor’s barking approach worked EVERY SINGLE TIME she did it. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire and stupid with stupider.
            If you all can honestly tell me that you have never in your life done something unreasonable because you were pushed to your limits, then I will revoke Saint Neighbor’s title and pass it over to you. And then send your story over to the Vatican.

  • justinbc

    This is what happens in a society full of passive-aggressive whiners who shirk any real human confrontation. Imagine if the car owner had been out of town for a week or more while this happened, what then would have happened to his car?

    • I’m guessing it’d be covered with several harshly written notes.

    • More than likely it would have been towed. Whether or not the windshields would be intact is a different matter.
      And confrontation is not always a wise thing to do. Imagine if someone confronted the owner and the owner shot them or assaulted them? Imagine.

    • The car would be towed. And then the whiny OP would write about how “It isn’t fair that I got towed and owe all this money. I was out of town! The DC government is a bunch of money grubbing thieves, wah, wah, wah.”
      I have zero sympathy for car owners who park for free on the street and then complain about all the bad stuff that happens to their car. Welcome to the Big City.

    • Are you referring to the note author or the OP? I really can’t tell.

      • justinbc

        Primarily the author, I’m personally sick of these car note leaving pricks. This to me is not as bad as the parking notes, since in this instance someone clearly observed/heard someone’s car being obnoxious. But say what you need to say without being a douche about it (which also conveys to the OP and his overly self-gratifying praises about neighborliness).

        • I agree about notes on parked cars. But in this instance, when there’s an ongoing disturbance and no way, short of staking out the car, to determine the owner, I don’t see any other option. As for not being a douche about it, the last sentence in the note isn’t a paragon of politeness, but I took it as hyperbole to emphasize the depth of the author’s (understandable) frustration rather than an actual threat. Frankly, the OP’s self-righteous “I’m such a great guy” and “it was a just a knife to the heart” struck me more grating (though I suppose it’s also hyperbole).

    • When that happened across the street from my house it was repeatedly ticketed and then eventually broken into by a neighbor who disabled the horn (the alarm was malfunctioning and escalated to the point of nonstop HONKHONKHONKHONKHONK for more than 24 hours).

  • “I also own a car that has a factory-installed, non-overly-sensitive, anti-theft alarm. ”

    Should have had it deactivated the minute you moved to the city. That way you don’t have to pay to have it fixed at all. These are just noisemakers, and a turn off once the car is started, so they don’t help.

    if you are concerned your car will be stolen, get a Club, brake pedal locks or even personal alarm pager system.

    Ensuring you do not annoy your neighbors is the BEST neighborly duty. Car alarms are nothing but annoyances.

  • Wow so many people have no problem resorting to threats over something unintentional.

    • 1) I don’t think the threat was serious.
      2) Just because it’s unintentional doesn’t make it any less annoying.

  • Turn the other cheek, Buttercup and just imagine how annoying this must have been for your other neighbors. Haven’t you ever quickly said or done something snappy when completely frustrated? Life is too short to spend your time and energy on bullsh#t like this. Fix your ride and move on.

  • That’s the awesomest thing I’ve read all day. Thanks.

  • 1. Why are you still using a car alarm? It’s 2015, please disconnect it immediately. You car will get occasional love taps on the bumper since you live in the city.
    2. As a southern boy myself, I’d stop with the neighborliness stuff. I’ve found that assumed/faux friendliness, while normal to us, can really annoy East Coast types. Just some advice.

    • Also Texan. Can confirm. Leave the fancy neighboring down south. It weirds people out up here.

    • gotryit

      New Yorker here – agree with the Texans. It’s just weird. We’re too comfortable with the word “bullshit”.

      • +1 from the Garden State. Plus, and I’m not being snarky, OP, you may want to seek some professional help if that note causes you so much angst. Is it nice? No, maybe not. But it isn’t cause for a complete meltdown, either.

    • justinbc

      As a Southerner myself I tend to agree. The same level of friendliness doesn’t exist in the District, people are much more guarded (understandably). As for why he might be using a car alarm, it probably all depends on how long he’s been in the city.

      • as a person that has lived in the north and the south, i’ve found DC to be friendlier than anywhere i’ve lived in the south.

      • clevelanddave

        Isn’t there a saying that Washington has northern charm and southern efficiency?

    • epric002

      i happen to really like and participate in the neighborliness of my neighborhood (north coheights/south petworth).

    • I’m a Vermonter, and can confirm that we do not know quite what to make of Southern neighborliness. However, it is a difference in expression rather than of underlying values. As noted by our famous poet, we believe that good fences make good neighbors, meaning that personal responsibility is paramount. The primary responsibility for a malfuktioning car alarm is with the owner. Maintaining your own fence means that you should not impose on the neighbors the responsibility of notifying you about your alarm. I would be deeply sorry if I inconvenienced the neighbors in this way. I would apologize, fix or disable the alarm, and move on. Not such a big deal, and as Lamont ST resident I am pleased to say I did not hear the alarm.

  • “how eyeopening”

    It’s just a shame your car alarm wasn’t equally eye-opening. Could’ve avoided the whole thing.

  • gotryit

    Oh grow up. You pissed off a bunch of people – even if it wasn’t on purpose. Admit it, and stop being so defensive and sensitive. The mature response is to apologize and fix yourself – not lash out on a blog at the people who alerted you to your jerk move.

  • If it’s factory, pull the appropriate fuze. No need for the melodramatics over the the cost of fixing the alarm.

  • 10 bucks says the OP is the dude who went into the Raven to play backgammon and didn’t buy a drink.

  • +1 to “fix your car alarm.” They threatened in a note to take the only step available to quiet the car alarm if you don’t take steps to do so yourself. It’s not like they threatened to stab you.

  • What’s the ratio of car alarms annoying the shit out of neighbors to car alarms actually preventing theft? Like 10,000 to 1? I hate them.

  • Dear OP:

    You’re the kind of person who feels compelled to write the neighborhood listserv an 8-paragraph defense of yourself in response to a note that nobody who isn’t you will ever read or care about.

    Good luck dealing with the rest of your life. I mean it, you’re going to need it.


  • justinbc

    I’m going to assume that all of the people saying “just disable your car alarm when you move into the city” are men, because I know several women who use their alarm as a safety mechanism if they feel threatened in a parking lot, unusual street, etc. Let’s remember that we don’t simply park our cars at home, we drive them elsewhere too.

    • niceflipflop

      That’s fair. In that case, pulling the fuse isn’t the way to go. But I would hope that most alarms have a setting that disables the normal functions but still can be activated by a panic button.

    • My car doesn’t have an actual alarm (I would’ve had to pay extra to get it activated), but the keychain remote thing has a panic button that makes the car horn go off.

    • I’m a woman and if I had a newer car, I would have disabled the alarm. Seriously, how often are you in that kind of situation with your car? Where on earth is there a deserted parking lot in DC?

      If you’re not, I really feel sorry for your neighbors. This guy should have disabled his alarm the minute he moved to the city. The note went a little too far, but overall it was justified.

  • niceflipflop

    I truly believe that these days, most people who use alarms do so because they want to know the moment someone is messing with their property. They have a unconscious fantasy of confronting the perpetrator and “stopping crime”. Well, if you can’t hear the alarm, then what good is it, anyway?

    As for traditional reasons, not to traipse over covered ground, but…

    1) If you leave something valuable in your car, it only takes a split second to break the window and grab it. The alarm accomplishes nothing;

    2) Engine immobilizers in newer cars make them virtually impossible to steal. If your car doesn’t have this tech, then just get a Club. It doesn’t have to be absolutely secure…it only needs to be more secure than the next car. Again, the alarm is pointless.

    So, don’t leave stuff in your car, and take moderate steps to prevent it from being stolen. Simple.

  • The first two sentences are civil, reasonable, and sufficient. The rest, though, ruins it.

  • Wow…the comments in this thread are kind of telling.

    OP, I’m from the midwest too. We come from a different place, and DC “forwardness” (to put nicely) can be pretty shocking. I’d be upset if someone seemingly-threatened my property with damage for something I had no idea was an issue. I think most people would be too, and I’m pretty sure most anyone in this thread wouldn’t immediately “turn the other cheek” if someone did that to them. I think too many people in this town assume that everyone else is also a jerk and live to annoy them.

    That said, if you can’t hear your car alarm, maybe it’s not doing any good. Also, posting a letter like this is in a public forum is useless.

    • I’m from the Midwest. People aren’t any different. I get tired of people portraying the Midwest like it’s some uniform Hobbiton full of simple folk. So condescending. The Midwest is Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson… It’s small towns with bigots and angry people who attack you for parking too close to them or in front of their home on public property. It’s good people, to be sure, but not any kinder than here.

      • I’m sorry if you thought I was implying midwestern folks are simpletons – I certainly didn’t mean that. Of course people like that exist everywhere. And I’m actually used to the people here after living here for a few years, however, everyone I’ve ever met from here that goes out to the midwest always always ALWAYS says “people are so polite!” So maybe kind isn’t the right word.

        • We midwesterners are polite. The common reaction from a midwesterner would be to frame the position as if they themselves were the burden, rather than the person with the malfunctioning car alarm. The OP here wasn’t polite though, he was self-righteous and self-congratulatory for how awesome he feels he is. As a midwesterner, my response to this letter would be, “Oh my god, I feel so bad that I let this go unnoticed for so long, I had better get this taken care of ASAP. I’m so glad that nobody did anything to my car” I wouldn’t make a public statement about how much better I was than all my neighbors, and shaming them for not being amazing as I am.

  • I don’t see how the OP is a jerk. He clearly didn’t realize the alarm was an issue, now he knows and will hopefully make an effort to solve the problem- the note worked. The message I got from the post: notes can be helpful, but they’re more effective if you don’t make threats in them. That seems perfectly reasonable to me.

  • This OP seems to have a very limited view of city living focused on rowhomes. Many folks live in highrises and rarely use their cars. Aside from a few very notable cars no one knows who owns which one or what apartment buried in a building they live in.

    I’ve also found, despite being a friendly neighbor myself, especially when it comes to thin walls, a lot of neighbors are not too keen to have themselves known to their neighbors who can hear a little too much of their private lives behind closed doors.

  • “I’m the neighbor who breaks his arm patting himself on the back”.

  • the correct response from OP should have been “I’m sorry”.

  • Pretty cool they gave you a shot across the bow as fair warning. Do yourself and your neighbors a favor and disable the alarm.

  • are there particular brands of cars that have more sensitive alarms than others? it seems most cars in the city have alarms, but obviously they are not all going off incessantly.

  • I’m a 30-something New Englander who has slowly adapted to this strange Southern custom of greeting everyone on the street with a “Hello, how are you?” in passing, believes in shoveling my walk as soon as humanly possible and always picks up trash blowing around the neighborhood. I also own a car which must be parked on the street, and I think this particular note is the very height of polite, neighborly, concern. I mean, its not like they actually threw a rock! What do people include with passive-aggressive windshield notes in the Midwest, a wrapped piece of candy?

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