Yesterday, my fiance and I went out to lunch. We've found this awesome Thai place - and decided it was due for another visit. One great meal later, we are pulling out of our parking spot and this woman comes running at us from the side. She's super agitated, and at first I think she's trying to warn us about some kind of danger. Then she starts yelling, "You just hit me! You just hit me!" Still unclear what's going on. Finally I realize that she's saying that I hit her car. This seemed...improbable at best. First, I could clearly see her car in my rearview mirror, and the backup camera still showed some space between my bumper and hers. Second, I've been in accidents before and, if those are any guide, you tend to both feel and hear them. All I heard was a lady yelling, and I hadn't felt anything.
But for the sake of argument, let's say I hit her car. At about two miles per hour. Bumper to bumper. And here she is screaming at me. And I mean, it was something. She was seriously worked up. She wouldn't stop yelling. At one point her son joined in - it would be pushing it to say he was over nine years old. It was kind of creepy actually. I realized later the only way he would have gotten involved was if he had seen this kind of behavior before and decided to model it himself.
So, they're now both yelling at me. I can't tell what the point is - both metaphysically speaking and literally. What's the point of this conversation, let alone what's the point of all this yelling. So, I ask, is there damage? She says, "I don't know! I can't see!" This baffles me. Again, soooo, what's the point of this? She goes back to yelling. And at one point she says, "You can either apologize or leave. Either apologize or just leave." Well, not going to lie, the choice was pretty clear. As we made to leave, her son threw in a, "yeah, go park somewhere else." I tried not to laugh, and kept walking to the driver door.
As we pulled away, it felt less funny. This woman had just thrown around a ton of negativity. And for what? Even if I bumped her car (also, spoiler alert: if this is something you can't live with, don't move to a city with parallel parking), that's not screaming-match worthy. It's just not. And it's not worth showing your kid that kind of disproportionate response. What was it for??
I tried to imagine that she was just having a really bad day, and this was the final tiny straw for her. I'm not going to lie I didn't want to have any compassion for her, and mostly returned back to the idea that she was an odious person.
But, it reminded me of a challenge I gave myself while I was living in NYC - I found the city hard for the distance between people, for the protective way I learned to act while living there. So, I challenged myself that in every interaction with someone I would try to bring something positive and interactive - to connect - to be a tiny, cheerful force in the world. Ordering a chai latte at Starbucks? Yep. Seeing a homeless man in the subway station? Yep. Walking by a musician and his open guitar case on the street? Yep, yep, yep. It turned previously transactional interactions into opportunities to give something intangible to someone else, and myself. I don't flatter myself that I made some major difference in the days of the people I interacted with - but I hoped that in some small way, I brightened it a small degree by being cheerful and friendly and engaging with them rather than transacting with or ignoring them.
I used to work in canvassing, going door to door to raise funds or get votes or signatures - and it's scary, especially when you start. You think, gosh, seriously no one wants to talk to me. It's not an insecurity thing. It's a literal I'm-the-solicitor-that-no-one-wants-at-their-door thing. I figured people would be mean. But, not only did it turn out that people were almost unequivocally friendly, I learned something from the few people who weren't: I had to leave every interaction positively. Sure, it was the professional thing to do. And, sure, it was good for the brands I was representing. But, honestly, it was for me more than anything. By staying upbeat and kind and patient with whatever mess they were throwing my way, I was ready for the next door and confident it was going to be a good one.
It was hard to bounce back from the lady and her son. They were not nice (and also a little unhinged). It was a small thing, no argument there. But, this woman seemed to be spreading negativity all around. And, I guess there are people out there like that - And they're procreating! #theworst
But, like a bad neighborhood door knock, I realized this was positive. I felt really, really glad not to be this woman, to be so thrown by nothing, and not to be spreading negativity around. And, I realized that I want to return to my NYC challenge - and try to bring kindness and joy to all my interactions, especially with strangers (because I think we more naturally aim to do this with the people we know). I think our world needs a little bit more of that. Want to join me? Say, next time you order your coffee, learn your barista's name so you don't have to look at their name tag next time. Or, give a smile to someone you pass on the street. Or, talk to the checkout clerk about their day.