My first intent with the blog was to get right into the world of online dating–there is so much content to mine there–but things happen, and sometimes you have to go off on a tangent. Today is tangent day.
Like most people, I think, I consider my car my space. What I do in there is personal and confidential and for me alone. That’s why I can sing (poorly) at the top of my lungs, and that’s why you pull up at a stop light, look to your right or left, and invariably catch someone two knuckles deep in their nose.
But that privacy is not really the truth, is it? Someone could actually hear me singing (the horror!…for them) and I do see you picking your nose. I was reminded of this yesterday as I looked for a parking spot at the local mall.
I pulled up to the stop sign at a three-way stop, waited my turn as the car opposite me pulled through (I was turning left), then pulled forward to take my turn. Instead of the smooth, sweet turn I had planned, I was forced to slam on the brakes as the next car going straight through didn’t bother with that pesky stop sign…damn it, there’s Christmas shopping to be done! I gave her the “what the hell? You blew the stop sign” hands, which she ignored as completely as she did the traffic sign itself. As I turned the corner, I discovered the car at the third stop sign was occupied by a friend of mine, who had missed neither her traffic directions nor my reaction. She stuck her hand out the window, shook her fist in the air, smiled and laughed. I returned the smile, gave a sheepish wave, and drove on feeling a little embarrassed about myself.
In the minutes that passed as I searched for a parking spot (it’s Christmas time, y’all, finding a spot is no easy task, even when you have the benefit of electric vehicle parking), I dug a little deeper into that embarrassment. If I was in the privacy of my own car, shouldn’t I be able to act however I wanted, guilt free? Is it possible to say yes to that question until we’re caught with a finger in our nose?
No. No, it’s not.
Many years ago, I remember hearing a quote that I try to keep with me and I’ve re-quoted often. I have on idea who might have said it originally, only that I heard it from someone in a multi-level marketing company I was part of once-upon-a-time (and that’s another blog post I assure you I will never force you to endure). (A pyramid scheme —>)
Character is who you are when no one is watching.
For whatever reason, I’ve imagined some kind of boundary exists around my car that negates this. A force field of glass and metal. It’s become some kind of free zone, the spot where I can’t be tagged it, or can’t be hit by the dodge ball, an excuse to behave in ways I usually wouldn’t behave. Inside my car has been the equivalent to a cheat day on a diet.
How the fuck does that make any sense? A couple of tons of metal and plastic encasing me somehow give me permission to act like an asshole? I think not. The right person in the right place has made me ponder not just my smaller action, but my overall view of myself. Do I want to be known as a guy who’s angered by a small inconvenience? Do I need to raise my blood pressure over practically nothing and pretend it’s okay because I’m alone in a contraption that’s actually designed to move me from one place to another, not to relieve me of my guilt?
Who do I want to be?
I want to be compassionate and understanding, the kind of person who realizes that people have things going on in their lives that I know nothing about. I want to be sensitive, caring, and loving, whether I know the person or not, and whether anyone else in the world knows I’m doing it or not. So to the woman who blew the stop sign, who I’ll never see again and who will never read this blog, I apologize. And to my friend who saw me, I apologize. To them and all of you and everyone else, I promise to be better.
Thanks, Amber, for reminding me who I want to be.