Friday, August 13, 2010

Traumatized by a Nutjob in a Parking Lot

You know how sometimes the things that make you unspeakably happy, terrified beyond belief, and so angry that you don't know what to do are often lost in translation when you try to explain them? I suspect that this is going to be one of those times. It's coming off sounding stupid and maybe even a little funny when I write it down, but I will never forget how upset I was yesterday.

Okay, so I went to the grocery store yesterday afternoon to get peaches (I had a craving) and Swedish fish (because Addie had a craving). I pulled into the parking lot and noticed that it was crowded. Very crowded. It's been my observation that people (myself included) tend to drive like idiots in a parking lot, so I was automatically paying close attention.

Grocery store parking lots theoretically follow the rules of the road--namely, you're on the right side of the road, you use your blinker to let your intentions known, and so on.

I was driving down the last parking section (I'm telling you--ridiculously busy) when I passed a spot on my right that I didn't notice until I was just past it ... and there was a truck coming the other way that had his blinker on. I assumed he was going for the spot I'd driven by, so I put my left blinker on and pulled into the empty slot at the end of the row of cars.

And looked into my rearview mirror to see the truck almost hit me. Evidently his blinker was supposed to serve as fair warning that he was planning on reversing into the parking spot I pulled into ... and I guess I should have had ESP to figure that out since it was his LEFT blinker and there was an open parking spot on his LEFT as I drove past him.

It scared me a little bit, but I was like, "Eh, whatever." I mean, if I got all worked up every time there was a near fender bender in the grocery store parking lot, I'd be pretty strung out.

So I'm sitting in my car replying to an e-mail I'd gotten on my BlackBerry when all of a sudden there was this pounding on the window of my car. Like, "could-have-broken-the-glass" level pounding.

I opened my window to hear this guy scream in my face (with a spit shower, which made it somehow worse), "Didn't you see me backing up? You almost hit me!"

I was shaking and scared. "No, sir, I saw you going straight that way, and I was going straight this way, so I--"

"You stupid fucking bitch!" he roared, then marched off.

And I just went to pieces. I sat in my car and cried for probably ten minutes, then I went to a different grocery store and got a peach and candy bars for my kids (since they didn't have Swedish fish). Andy called, and I let it ring because I was so unbelievably shaken up.

The thing is, if he had came up, knocked gently on my window, and said, "You know, could you try to be a little more careful next time?", I would have been okay with it. I would have disagreed with his evident impression that every driver in America has to follow a "Yield to Blue GMC pick-up, New Hampshire license plate #147 84-- because he is the king of the road" clause that I never learned about in driver's ed, but I would have just nodded, smiled, and apologized, because that's how I roll.

I hate confrontation, and I especially hate that I can think of a million things I could have done differently after the incident was over. I should have gone into the store and talked to a manager. I should have called the police. I should have made some sarcastic, cutting remark about the clause that should clearly be taught in driver's ed.

But instead I cried like a baby.

The reasons that this affected me so viscerally:

1. The man was 10-15 years older than I am. I am still young enough (heh) that I have a certain amount of automatic respect for "my elders". The idea that someone in an age demographic that has my respect just for being in that age demographic would consider my respect so cheaply just ... traumatized me. And if I were a different kind of person, it might make me reconsider that respect that prior to this I gave 100% freely. I'm me, so of course this won't happen, but it sort of made me realize why so many people in the world are bitter, suspicious, and negative.

2. I am neither stupid nor a bitch. I know what my I.Q. is (it's in the "superior range"), I have a graduate degree, and I am a teacher. I am also in general a kind, giving, self-sacrificing person (I have my faults, but those things really are true). What right did he have to insult me using such inflammatory (and, in my case, blatantly false) words? It just made me feel like vomiting.

3. Angry, violent men turn me to Jello. I spent much of my childhood scared to death of my father's anger--just to give one example, the window of our oven was broken for quite some time because my dad got so mad that he slammed the oven door. I lived in fear of slammings, bangs, and crashes when I was a kid (the fact that I've ended up with far too many violent, angry men of my own volition is kind of a warped irony, I suppose). Anyway, that fist pounding on my window was like a time machine, and I was suddenly three years old again.

Again, I know that the true horror this was for me is cheapened by words. Sometimes this is the case ... several years ago, my brother, sister, brother-in-law, and I jumped off a moving train (yes, a real train). It's a hell of a story and I usually end up telling it to my students at one point or another (usually when I'm having them write about peer pressure) and they think it's just hysterically funny. However, I've tried to write it down probably a dozen times or so, and it just doesn't work as a written chronicle (or maybe I'm not a good enough writer, I don't know ;-)).

Anyway, that's a really weak retelling of what was probably in the top five in terms of traumatic events in my life.

I will never, ever forget it.

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...