Ethical Question: Is This A Situation Where It's Okay To Touch A Stranger's Parked Car?

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There’s very few hard and fast rules in life, but one of the best-known and most enduring ones is that One Doth Not Fuck With Another’s Ride. That means you don’t get to fiddle with someone’s parked car, no matter how interesting that car is. I just recently broke this rule, but I think it’s a rare situation where what I did is justified and right. But I figured it’s worth asking you, the greatest collective automotive hive-mind in the known universe, to see what you think and to, yes, probably call me names.


Here’s the situation: I was walking my dog, Abby, when I remembered that I saw a green Alfa Romeo Spider driving in the neighborhood earlier that day. I tugged Abby in the direction it went, forcing her to re-direct her urine stream, and we walked down the street until I saw it.

It was lovely! An early Alfa Spider, with the lovely tapered boat-tail rear, and apparently in excellent shape. I’d guess it was a ‘68, based on the little marker lamps, but I’m not certain.

The road it was on is in a weird little set of streets in my neighborhood that, for whatever reason, aren’t “official” city roads, and as such are in pretty shitty repair, with lots of potholes and bumps.

That may explain what I saw when I looked closely at the car:

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As you can see, the clear plexi headlight fairing—one of my favorite details about these cars—had been jarred loose, popping out of its tabs and only held in place by gravity and that lone screwed-in tab at the bottom.

I figured those things aren’t cheap (I just checked, and they’re almost $300 on eBay) so I just popped the cover back into place with my hand.


That was the act. I did technically mess with a stranger’s car, but I was doing something helpful. The cover was quite loose, and I could easily imagine how on the trip back out, over that bumpy road, with none of the tabs in place the cover could easily swing off or crack or something, and I didn’t want that to happen.

Was I justified in what I did? I think I’d want someone to do the same for me if they noticed a piece of trim or something worked loose from my car.


Then again, not knowing the car, it’s possible I could have done something wrong and caused some damage, if there was some quirk I wasn’t aware of. It’s definitely a gray area.

I also realized I’ve done something like this before, turning off headlights in a parked convertible in the daytime when it was clear the owner just forgot to turn them off, and likely would come back to a dead battery.


I’m a multiple possible offender, here. Our own David Tracy said what I did wasn’t wrong, but I should have left a note, which would have been nice, but I didn’t go walk the dog with tools to produce any correspondence.

So, what the take, here? Is it okay to commit some minor futzing-with of a parked car if the goals are altruistic, and the actions fairly simple? I have no idea if this car owner even knew what I’d done at all, which, I suppose, is what I’d hope.


Let’s figure this out. And for the record, if something’s popped off my car when you walk by it, feel free to pop it back on.



What if you broke it trying to reinstall it though? I would have gone with a note to the owner to check his headlight fairing.

Edit: I’ve shut off people’s headlights in the past though.