Monday, January 05, 2009

I am not going to write about how much I hate snow.


If you know me – or you’ve been reading me for very long – you know that I am often a bit standoffish when I am unexpectedly approached by strangers in public. Call it good boundaries, or a suspicious nature, but I tend to mind my own business and let other people mind theirs.

However, occasionally it’s a good thing when strangers talk to me. It’s happened twice lately. Once was a very sweet girl introducing herself to me and Monk, in a restaurant on Broadway. She recognized us and came to our table to say hi, she was a fan of ours. She was just perfectly charming and appropriate about it, and we were pleased to meet her. So greetings go out to RhythmGirl.

The other occasion was different. Much less charming, but it definitely prevented me from doing something I shouldn’t have.

The day in question was December 30th. I had some pre-NYE shopping to do at University Village. But it seemed I wasn’t the only one. It was mid-afternoon on a work day, but still, the place was jammed with people. Or more accurately, jammed with cars. I wasn’t trying to score Rock-Star Parking (meaning: ten feet from the door of your destination) but even in the furthest reaches of the lots, there were seemingly no parking spots available, and a lot of people cruising around looking for them.

So around and around I went, getting more and more frustrated, until after about fifteen minutes, I saw some people getting into a car in my aisle. They were on my left, so I put on the turn signal, and sat waiting for them to pull out. It took them a few minutes to organize themselves, but I wasn’t impatient, I do that too. I just waited.

They eased back out of the spot, and as they did, a little car came zipping down the lane, squeezed past the emerging car so tightly I expected to hear sheet metal scraping, and pulled into the space. My space.

Now, I expect anyone who drives has had this happen to them at some point or other, and it’s happened to me before. But it’s one thing when you think that maybe the other driver really didn’t see you.

This woman did. I know she did because when I saw what she was about to do, I laid on the horn. Twice. In some cities, that might be taken as a friendly hello, but in Seattle, that’s practically a declaration of road-rage. As the driver turned in front of me, she had her head twisted unnaturally far to the right, so I couldn’t see her face, and she wouldn’t have to look at me. She knew exactly what she was doing.

And rage is an accurate description of my response. I do not think of myself as having a quick temper, and I can overlook a lot of annoyances. But occasionally…I just snap. And it was just so blatant, and so depersonalizing. I mean, I doubt if that woman would have physically shoved me aside to get ahead of me in a line at QFC. But since we were both in cars, it was like I wasn’t really a person. This kind of thing is what gives car-drivers a bad rap.

As fate would have it, another car pulled out just a few spaces down. I parked my car and got out and let me tell you, dear readers, I had blood in my eye. I looked around and spotted the other driver walking rather quickly away, and I walked after her, adrenaline surging through my body. I had some very choice words for her, and I was going to deliver them, loudly. I did not care if she went into the fanciest store in U. Village, she was going to get an earful from me. I imagine I looked like a woman who was about to Start Something, because I was.

I was closing the distance between us when directly into my path hopped a small older woman. She was dressed in what I call Bellevue Peasant style – boots, long full skirt, poofy sweater and lots of scarves and jewelry. Sort of an expensive earth-mother look.

Her voice, however, was not small.

“Oh, my dear, oh I SAW what happened, oh my goodness I can’t believe that woman DID that, that is the rudest thing I ever SAW!”

I paused, and she kept talking, in a fast New York-ish voice, without seeming to draw breath. “You were there waiting, and she just – unbelievable! I think she got her driver’s license by correspondence course or something, I mean, honestly! Did you see her face? Vacant! I REALLY think she’s not all there!”

We both looked after the offending driver, who was still within view, and possibly even earshot, given the strength of my sympathizer’s voice. She had a soft knitted beret pulled over short dark hair, and the wrinkles around her dark eyes, as she shifted her gaze back to me, made her look wise and maternal.

“And I know, I know,” she went on. “You want to say something to her, and I understand, but you know, just let it go, let it go. Someone like that, pah, an idiot, she’s not worth bothering with, really.” She waved a diamond-ringed hand in dismissal.

I made some noise indicating my unsatisfied outrage, and she continued the soothing opera of abuse. “I know, it was SO unbelievably rude, inexcusable. She’s an absolute moron. But you have to just let things like that go. You’re a better person than that.”

I took a long breath in and out and relaxed my shoulders. “All right. All right. You’re right. I should just let it go.”

She patted my arm. “That’s the best thing. Don’t let it ruin your afternoon. It was stupid but now it’s over. You’re a better person.”

I smiled at her. “Thank you for saying that, it really helps.” And it did. I was still annoyed, but I wasn’t seeing-red angry anymore. “You’re very kind to do this.”

I wished her a pleasant afternoon and turned and walked in the opposite direction. And in retrospect, I am glad I didn’t vent my not-unreasonable wrath on the other driver. I had other things to do than give driver-etiquette lessons, and somehow I doubt those lessons would have been gratefully received.

So if you’ve the rude idiot who parked your blue car in this manner on the day in question, a nice lady saved you from an unpleasant confrontation. I wouldn’t count on her following you around, however, and the next person you offend may not be as easily placated as I was. Even if you don’t care about other people’s feelings, you might think about whether you want to be inviting such experiences upon yourself.

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