You don’t know what they’re going through.
The Holidays are hard for me. No Family in Town – or the Country. It’s Christmas. It’s Hanukah (and my very recent Ex-Fiance is Jewish, so I’m attached to that too). It’s New Year’s. It’s winter, and it’s summer at home.
Most of my US friends are headed to Thailand for a wedding over Christmas, which I can’t attend because I can’t travel on my visa and come back. Also, I just got an email from my biggest income source to say they’re closing in three days for the holidays. What holidays? Freelancers like me don’t have holidays…
Or income, until Jan 2nd, Apparently.
So I nearly didn’t drive the 45 minutes to my friend’s birthday party, but then I did, because I figured I at least had gas. On the way, I listened to a compilation CD my friend Carrie made me. It was called “relaxation”, but it was really sad. This was comforting. In my sudden downswing, anyhow.
And then I saw that orange light: GAS. Running out. Shit. Traffic. Shit. After struggling for a couple of miles, I hoped I had enough in my debit account to feed my tank. I began to change lanes near the first gas station I saw.
That’s when SHE rolled down her window.
She was an ordinary, middle-class white woman in a new Beatle. I could see exactly what she wanted to do (make a left turn into her street). But I was trapped between cars at this point, and not, I have to add, in a “keep clear” area. Just you know… changing lanes…
I rolled down my window too and shouted: “Sorry, I can’t move”
“You selfish bitch!” she replied
I replied: “Okay, have a nice day”, in the snarky way we do when someone road rages for no reason, and began to roll up my window, but she was still screaming, so I succumbed to curiosity. Oh, curiosity. It’s a killer.
“Some of us are trying to turn, and you’re just SITTING there”, she said. I considered calling a helicopter to airlift me out, but hey, I can barely afford gas. I noticed the disabled sticker on her orange Beatle (the new kind).
“I don’t think it’s such a big deal, and I can’t move right now. I have to get gas, I just ran out” I said, still trying to reason with her, but not nicely. “Please, don’t be awful. I’ve had a long day and so have you.”
She looked me dead in the eye, paused and said:
“CUNT”. I rolled my window down and waited for traffic to move so I could get out of her way. But as I moved off, I began to cry, about a whole bunch of stuff.
I made it the 800ft to the Gas Station. $20 left. Thank goodness.
I wasn’t nice, in that situation.
I know that. I was annoyed that she was objecting to me doing something that wasn’t aimed at her, so I snarked her, knowing that saying “Have a nice day” would be like telling an upset person to “calm down” – the worst thing to say. Superior. Judgmental. Cruel, even.
I thought, as I drove off sadly, about how she had no idea what happened in my day, and about how I had no idea what happened in her day – or her year. Maybe this is the year her legs stopped working. Maybe today her husband (or wife) left her. Maybe that disabled sticker is for her kid. Maybe it’s fake. Maybe she doesn’t think about it anymore, and she’s just having some kind of hormonal issues. It doesn’t matter – she needed kindness, not my judgment.
I’m going to be nicer, next time. I promise. At this time of year, we all should try a lot harder – not cause we’re religious (I’m not) – but because the festive season is a marker in life, a time of year when all kinds of crises, past and present, come into focus for all of us.
End of sermon.