“Get your fat ass out of the way,” the teenage boy snarled out the passenger window, as I walked in the crosswalk in front of the car he was riding in. I was fourteen, on my way home from 9th grade. I don’t think my ass was actually fat back then, but I cried the rest of the way home, anyway.
“Hey, girl, you’ve got nice tits!,” yelled a guy from a passing car as I stood behind the ticket counter at the theater I worked at. I was seventeen. The movie was playing, so the lobby was empty. Again, the tears came. I felt violated, having a “compliment” delivered in such a crass and derogatory manner.
Around the same time period and place, a carload of young girls drove by and one flipped me off. I recognized her as someone I hadn’t let into an R-Rated movie about a week before, because she wasn’t with an adult.
I sincerely doubted back then, and am certain now, that had any of those rude youngsters been face-to-face with me, they would have had the guts to behave so badly; but being sequestered in a vehicle — a moving one, at that — gave courage to the cowardly.
It still does. Drive-by shootings have become all too common; we hear about it in the news all the time. Fortunately I have never encountered one myself; but drive-by shooting-off-of-the-mouth, or shooting up a middle finger, I am all too familiar.
“Bitch!” shouted the backwards baseball cap-sporting young man from his car window when I happened to be in the lane he wanted to merge into. No signal from him, or any indication that he wanted into that lane; I just happened to be in his way.
“Fuck off,” shouted the guy in his car, after I screamed and said, “Godammit!,” because he almost hit me on my bicycle. He could have killed me, had my startled scream not caused him to abruptly stop. Sorry if my cursing put him off, but it’s hard to stay composed and Rated G when you see your life flashing before your eyes.
I read somewhere recently that 85% of people avoid conflict at all costs; yet passive-aggression seems to run rampant at times, in the form of drive-by shootings, shoutings and even slappings (okay, that last one is in jest, as I live in a neighborhood with a high concentration of gays; my gay friends love the expression).
Although it would be interesting to look into a crystal ball and uncover whatever became of each and every individual that I have described here, I also realize that if they did it with me, they have done it with other people; if karma serves, either lessons were eventually learned, and/or perhaps they never amounted to much in their lives. Anger and cowardice combined, are a lethal combination; those who subscribe to it are hurting themselves as much as they are hurting others.
I take solace in believing that happy people don’t shout offensive things and make obscene hand gestures from passing cars, especially when provocation hasn’t even entered the equation. It’s a shame that it took me well into my adulthood before I realized that when anger and cowardly behavior are cast my way, it really isn’t about me.
Sometimes I am the one doing the firing, but it is only when provoked. Just this morning, as I was getting ready to cross the street with my dog Griffin after talking to my neighbor Ralph, a car rounded the corner and came barreling down the street. As it passed, I yelled, “Please slow down!” I do this at most speeding cars in my neighborhood; but this car, after passing me, slowed down and came to a stop. I walked toward my house with Griffin, and I saw the car back up to where I was. Ralph looked on intently.
The young man behind the wheel rolled down his window, and all I could do was think, “Oh, no, here it comes…Will an F-bomb come flying? Will I get called ‘Fat-ass?’ Will a bird be flipped?” Turns out, none of the above.
“Ma’am, was I going too fast?”
“Yes, just a bit,” I replied, still bracing for retaliation.
“Okay, I’m sorry,” he said.
“Okay,” I smiled and waved. “Thank you. Have a good day.”
He waved and went on his way, and both Ralph and I had the same surprised look on our faces.
Was the young man minding his manners because Ralph was standing not far away? More importantly, was I out of line to shout at a passing car? Could my actions be considered a “Reverse Drive-by,” where I feel it is safe to confront a passing car, feeling it will more than likely keep moving?
In my defense, had I run the other way, or into my house when the driver reacted, my actions could be considered somewhat cowardly, eluding and passive-aggressive. But the encounter was most civil, direct and hopefully effective.
The funny thing is I was already thinking about devoting this blog to my prior drive-by experiences, but the encounter I had this morning added somewhat of a perspective twist to my story.
Sometimes, in a world where bad things happen, it pays to focus on the positive, and even give people the benefit of the doubt. There is a lot of good in the world; knowing and experiencing that can be very healing.