Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Letters from Anonymous

I've received two anonymous notes in the past week--one was from a neighbor about the placement of our bicycle and the other was directed to me as a member of the Relief Society presidency.

We've had our bicycle locked to one of the metal beams supporting our shared, covered carport. It is on the side next to another renter. Was it in the way? Was it an eyesore? Without giving the reason, we received a note on our bicycle saying "The homeowners would like me moved soon." I'd like to ask anonymous "Where do the homeowners suggest I store this bicycle?" We don't have a locking garage, we don't have a shed in the back yard, there isn't a community bike rack, and we don't exactly have a mud room. Is this request based on the season and the fact that the bicycle probably won't be ridden much until next spring? Is it based on the fact that it hasn't been ridden much in the past two months as evidenced by two flat tires? Am I allowed to resume parking my bike there next year? Or am I requested to remove it indefinitely? Was it decided in last month's HOA meeting that someone would put an anonymous note on the Fosdick's dirty bike? Or was this an individual with a strong opinion about bicycle storage? Am I going to be asked to move our garden hose next and then trim my bushes until our postage-stamp sized front yard resembles the entrance to Stepford? These are questions I'm interested in asking anonymous, and I'm willing to try to accommodate anonymous if I just knew who they were!

(Let me interject here that in my defense, the aluminum siding on the carport is dented and discolored and broken, generations of tenants have stored and abandonded bikes, basketball hoops and kid toys and scooters in the parking lot--there's a mini Jeep that has progressively turned from 1 piece, to two, and then the wheels came off and now it's in four--this is an ugly parking lot and moving our fairly decent bike did little to improve that. I don't see a note on all those trashed and abandoned objects!)

I'll spare you the details of the other letter, but am confused by the need to remain anonymous in both cases. Each person wanted something to happen, and I'm generally a fairly accommodating person when it comes to reasonable requests (Actually, the second person wanted me to bend over backwards and peel her grapes). But what if I don't have enough information? How am I supposed to know who to be seen by when I do my good deeds to society? Am I supposed to tremble in fear and paranoia because of not knowing who these people are? I better be on my best behavior in case its the next person I run into! What is the benefit of anonymity (I almost wrote animosity--coincidence?)? On the other hand, do they secretly want me to know who they are? Are they anticipating for me to analyze handwriting and compare it to outgoing mail? Or have the notes tested for fingerprints, envelopes for saliva, and the ink and paper chemically analyzed for where they were forged?

To be honest, neither letter really angered me, but I'm just baffled that people think they need to be anonymous when it comes to asking for something. Am I so intimidating that people are afraid to confront me? Do I have some mysterious reputation for biting off heads?

Next, lets consider the rules of anonymous note-writing. For example, "I love your haircut" is a nice note to get--I'd still want to know who it came from, but it wouldn't make me shifty-eyed. I think I'd leave an anonymous note to someone parked illegally if it presented a potential danger. I think if my neighbor played their music too loud, I would knock and politely ask them to turn it down. But leaving an angry anonymous note? I'm not sure there are many cases in which I would do that. What is the etiqutte? In what situations is it better to say something anonymously than to put your name on it? When would you leave an anonymous note?


Sarah said...

I would take ZERO action on the bike situation. If it really is the homeowers group that wants it gone, they will let you know with their name, not an anonymous note. People who leave anonymous, snarky notes are cowards. By your description of the garage, it sounds like you are doing nothing that everyone else isn't already doing. I just hate stuff like this. I get a few anonymous notes as apartment manager and am always kind of relieved that I don't have to deal with them because they didn't sign a name. No name, no matter in my opinion. Don't worry, Jenny - they'll get the hint when you don't move it that their scare tactic was weak.

I don't leave anonymous notes. I try to always write things that I am able to stand behind with my name and because so much is misunderstood/miscommunicated in the art of writing, it's nice to have a name there so you can clarify. Why be anonymous? Really?

Anonymous said...

The other problem with an anonymous note is that you can end up thinking perfectly good friends might be enemies. Someone in our neighborhood wrote an anonymous note to our neighbor complaining about the unmowed lawn and neglected bushes, and I fear the neighbor thinks I wrote it.

I suggest you approach the neighbor whose car is usually parked close to your bike and ask if they left the "little note" and ask for suggestions for a better parking place than the official parking lot you have been using.

In answer to your question, I left an anonymous note and an article for a community college professor once when her scholarship was completely out of date. She selected a piece of Native American literature that had been shown to be a fraud about 10 years earlier. Why did I go anonymous? I suppose I decided to be anonymous because I was embarrassed for her, so it was embarassing for me to say something and I knew she would be embarrassed if I said anything to her in person. I think I was trying to help her save face in front of me. But then, I suppose she probably knew it was from me since I was the only one in the class with a master's degree in literature.

Anonymous said...

I can think of another reason to be anonymous. Sometimes it is funny.