Protecting What You Own

By Leah Dailey

I helped my daughter move recently and I rented a U-Haul truck. When the truck was not full of her belongings I proceeded to “rag on it”. I was driving in a way as to test the speed of acceleration and accuracy of the automatic shifting. The thought occurred to me that I would not be driving my own truck like this. In fact, if I borrowed this truck from a friend, I would not drive it like this. But because I was renting this truck for a day, short term, I wouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of the long-term engine abuse that I was contributing to. Now, I know I paid money in exchange for the use of the truck, and the future costs of repair is factored into that price, so I don’t feel that bad. But it got me thinking about ownership. The theory is that a person will care better for an item that they own rather than an item that belongs to someone else. If we’re honest I think we can all agree. This is, partly, why there are security deposits for rented items. Incentivized care.

As a kid, in a hotel room, what’s the first thing you did upon arrival? You jumped on the bed. You were even allowed to, because you were not allowed to jump on the bed at home, with reason. That mattress had to last till you were 18. Certainly, this theory also pertains to our regard for our own children over another person’s child. I’m picturing the age-old thought experiment: if my child and some other child, were both drowning in a swimming pool, of course I’m going to save my child over the other. It’s a terrible thought, I know. But it’s human nature to protect what belongs to us.

What about the city I live in? I own property in my city, which in fact entitles me to a sense of ownership. I certainly refer to it as my city. (Maybe some day I will run for Mayor).

I live in a small city in Southeast MI, in the SW corner of Big Bad Oakland County. I love where I live. In my city we have two main grocery stores, Busch’s and Kroger, and outside of town there is a Walmart. I was involved in an incident at my Kroger in May 2021. It was a Tuesday night, around 7pm. Not peak shopping hours but the store was not empty either. I was in the produce section when I heard a woman speaking loudly to the gal behind the meat counter. All the nearby shoppers turned in her direction. She was not only speaking loudly, but also using rude language. She was saying something about having to ask for help 4 times and she was demanding to speak to a manager. My daughter had worked at this Kroger the year before and right then I pictured this woman talking to my daughter in this manner. I felt my face flush as my Mama-Bear instincts rose and I decided to lean into it. My stomach dropped into my vagina as I steered my cart toward the altercation at the meat counter.

I kept my cart to the left of her, putting a display of imitation crab between us, in case she got physical. I matched her volume and said, “Can you not talk to her that way?” She escalated further while trying to justify her grievances. I told her she was rude, and she should take her business elsewhere. She proceeded to tell me that she was a nurse and she had been working all day. By now my stomach had migrated to my throat and I meant to say that this meat counter gal was also an essential worker, but it came out, “This is my local Kroger girl,” and something about how she doesn’t deserve to be talked to like this. She eventually called me a “cunt,” and we went our separate ways, the manager had shown up by then. I left the meat section with a bunch of meat I did not intend on buying., it turns out I was trying to play it cool while my adrenaline was spiked and had loaded up my cart with a plethora of sausages during our exchange.

What’s the point of my story? The point is, that this is my Kroger, and this “lady” was talking to my girl all wrong. If I had witnessed this interaction at a Kroger elsewhere, would I have been so bold to speak up? Maybe. What about at my local Walmart? Probably not.

This is also how I feel about the city I live in. It is mine. I love it and I want to care for it. But this could be said for my neighbors as well. They own it too in this regard. I see this as an example of shared ownership. Shared ownership can be tricky. Standards of care can vary from person to person. For example, I have shared ownership of my house and property with my spouse. If it were up to me I would just throw my used cigarette butts in our yard, it’s my yard. I can do as I please, but my spouse does not prefer it, so I make sure to use a receptacle for the butts. I find that most people would not appreciate it if I threw my used cigarette butt in their yard or driveway. (I’ve actually been scolded for spitting in someone’s driveway). But what if I threw out my cigarette butt on your street, or the nearest intersection to your house, would you be upset? It is littering after all.

What if I do not care about the length of my grass or leaving my garbage can at the end of the driveway for days at a time? It turns out my neighbors do care, so I abide. (No HOA either).

My libertarian mind asks, “where do I draw the line?” I think the answer is here, “how well do I want to get along with my community?”

When Libertarians get together and talk about the subject of shared ownership or urban living, the conversation goes down a rabbit hole which typically leads to the prospect of homesteading, self-reliance and even prepping for disaster. All good things, I too want this for myself. But for the time being I will choose to go along to get along. I will continue to test my limits to be a good neighbor, citizen, and Kroger shopper.


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