It’s not my custom to make my personal shortcomings known the the general populace. That I have them is certain, and they are easily identified by those in my closest circles, but outside of those boundaries I prefer to keep my faults of character in the strictest confidence. There are some transgressions however, which once committed, cannot be amended, or undone, and in such cases the burden of conscience cannot be lifted, at least to a man of my disposition, by simply moving on and dismissing my own acute lack of propriety. It is from this cause and to the end of relieving my conscience of this burden that I turn to the public forum for my confession and exoneration. It is penance that drives me to pen this text and the near hope that absolution might possibly be mine; my good character restored, even if only in my own mind.
You see, everyone has a code: a standard of conduct by which they navigate the murky waters of social, private and intimate relationships. This code is formed and shaped by our upbringing, our society, religious beliefs and personal disposition. Often times, it is also informed by a personal reaction to the perceived values of the culture that we are immersed in. Mine is certainly shaped by all of these things, but the latter is perhaps what makes mine so important to me. Many have identified and discussed at great length, the rampant degradation of the value of personal integrity in our modern age. There has been no shortage of lament over the lack of personal accountability and any adherence to any kind of absolute notion of right and wrong, good and evil, proper and shameful. And it is not difficult at all to see that the convenience of anonymity combined with the flaccidity of reproof for any but the most egregious of offenses has led to a steep decline of right conduct in many aspects of our culture.
However subjective and existential it may be, there is a threshold in this snowballing morality below which I refuse to allow my conduct to dip. No burden of inconvenience or comfort can persuade me to abandon my moorings in this regard and it is of the utmost importance to me that I hold to that standard, regardless of anyone else’s notice.
That is, with the exception of last evening, when my actions tragically sank below that standard to which I hold myself and set in place the eventuality of this writing. The account of this is as follows:
Last evening, my wife Jenni and I were making a quick trip to our local Whole Foods to purchase some groceries. In route, there was an evident smell, not native to automobiles inherently and certainly not to ours. It smelled strongly of must and mold and the strength of the odor increased continually until it was so strong that we were forced to drive with the windows down, despite the chilly evening air.
When we arrived at the store, we parked and quickly began searching for the source of the moldy scent. It is not uncommon, being the parents of two teenage boys, to find that a spilled drink has soaked the carpet below the floor mats and soured, requiring a shampoo to be alleviated. It is also not uncommon to find a stray banana peel that has slipped under a seat, and evaded our notice until it has rotted sufficiently enough to draw our attentions. After a thorough search however, we turned up nothing that could prove itself equal to the job of creating such a profound stink as we had experienced and with time being what it was, and the parking lot of Whole Foods being a less than ideal environment for further investigation, we resolved to figure it out later and moved on with our shopping.
When we returned from shopping and started our car, the force of the scent which previously had inconvenienced us, had recomposed itself with all the sufficiency necessary to bring us both to the point of ill response and we felt it imperative that we both quit the car immediately. Convinced that we could not drive our car in this state, and even more sure of the fact that something terrible was taking place in our vehicle, we resolved to find the source of the malady at any and all costs. We again turned the contents of the car, to no avail, but in doing so, Jenni observed that the smell was most dominant near our air conditioning vents. This illumination brought forward a clear deduction and we both went to the front of our car to check the contents of our engine.
Much to our chagrin, and the further turning of our stomachs, we found a considerably sized, and much degraded, expired rat, perched on top of our engine block. An odd mix of relief, revulsion and revelry was momentarily had by all, but was quickly interrupted by the necessity of remedying the situation, and that task could, by both my values and my wife’s disgust, be only handled by me.
Knowing that we had a discarded shoe box in our trunk and still having some junk mail print advertisements from checking our mail on the way to the store, I quickly resolved to scrape our poor rodent friend into this cardboard coffin and deposit him quickly in the nearest available receptacle. I endeavored to remove him from our engine block with the greatest expediency but the heat of the engine over an unknown span of time was sufficient enough to affix his small body to itself with enough resolve to prevent my easily removing him as I would very much have preferred. Pausing to asses my strategy and remembering to shut off the turning engine, I returned to my task with renewed resolve. A little effort and a change of approach was all that was necessary to be successful in removing our friend from his almost last resting place, but doing so was not without severe consequence.
The force of the smell which initially called our attention to this small creature was, unbeknownst to us, largely contained by his being up to that point, undisturbed. Upon moving him, the full degree of his decomposition was revealed to us and this revelation was such as to make us long for a lifetime of exposure to the scent which we had previously thought unbearable. So immediate was the reaction to this, that my wife burst out in a bizarre and uncontrollable mixture of laughter and dry heaving, stopping only to exhort me in the strongest possible terms to remove the offender from our presence in the most expedient fashion.
This presented me with a genuine quandary: I could not, in good conscience, leave this horrific smell in a trash can at the front of a grocery store; possibly to be left all night before being discovered. But in the middle of the parking lot where we stood, there was no immediate alternative available. Simultaneously, the initial disturbance of the rodent which produced this unbearable scenario also proved to be but the first wave of putrescence and the conviction with which he continued posthumously to punish us was escalating exponentially.
I remembered at this point that there were public dumpsters on the backside of the store and quickly resolved to deposit him there, with the assurance that the addition of this smell could scarcely be distinguished from the native smell of those recepticals. Unfortunately, the path to this relief was a long and meandering one and could certainly not be borne on foot. In the chaos, and from my desire to resolve the wretching ailment of my wife, I quickly devised a scheme. I set the closed box on the hood of the car and quickly entered it in order to drive our package to its final destination. My wife instinctively joined me and off we went. However, in my haste I neglected to consider the wind and the direction of which the folding lid to our shoe box coffin was facing and not twenty feet was covered before the box was overturned on our hood, disturbing further our quarry and our dinner.
Stopping quickly, I righted the box and knowing it would not survive another attempt at driving unattended, I amended my plan to include driving with the box in hand, arm stretched out the window to the greatest extent possible. Unfortunately, this solution was also insufficient as the aerodynamics of our position and the disposition of our windows was such that the full strength of the offence was immediately routed into the cab of our car, prompting further and stronger gagging in both myself and my wife.
With my wits failing me, and with my wife prevailing upon me continuously to abandon my cause and my morals, I much to my own shame did resolve to leave the problem to the care of some unknown other and in the desire for the relief of my own discomfort, I dropped the box and drove on.
My guilt was immediate and though the relief for both my wife and myself was also such, I took little comfort in that fact due to the weakness of my actions and the choice that I made, despite my wife’s assurances and her humorous dismissal of my deep conflict.
After revisiting my displeasure repeatedly in the intervening hours, it was my wife’s good humor that led me to seek absolution here. And so my confession has been made. There is little that can be tangibly done to right the actions borne from my own abandonment of character, but it is my sincerest hope that this public confession would serve as a means by which I could most assuredly hold fast in the future to that standard of behavior which I have prescribed for myself. In that, I am truly grateful for your readership and your assistance in supporting the ongoing purity of my own character.
With kindest regards,