Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my wife and I left a restaurant after a pleasant family dinner, to find under the windshield wiper of our rental car a piece of paper torn from a spiral-bound notebook. Someone, I thought, must have hit or scraped the car while parking and left a note—a mark of civility as universally recognized in our society today as any there is. Why, even the “Seinfeld” gang, who all went to jail in the 1998 series finale under a “Good Samaritan” statute for laughing at someone who was being mugged, devoted a whole episode to the inescapable etiquette of leaving a note in these circumstances. Who says that Americans have no remaining standards of honor or decency? So sure was I that the note had to be from some such latter-day Galahad that all I could think of as I extracted it from the wiper was the lengthy correspondence with car rental and insurance companies I was in for once I had got back home and to work...


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