A few weeks back, I spent a sunny weekend day at my community garden plot planting tomato starts I grew from seeds myself. If you’re a gardener, you’ll know that it’s really cool to actually get tomatoes to grow from seeds—especially heirlooms. I even took these little baby tomato plants with me on a recent trip to New York to make sure they’d get the proper water and light over a three-day weekend. And here they were, finally in the ground at my garden, ready to grow and thrive and make heirloom fruits all summer long. As you may appreciate, then, TWATSWIGTH, I was in a great mood.
My drive home from the garden was uneventful, save for some nervousness about not having working air conditioning on a hot spring day, and wondering if I would be able to make it through a muggy D.C. summer without getting it fixed. How much would it cost? Could I do it myself? I eyed a parking spot across the street from my house—not rock star parking, but it would do.
True, I came on the scene fast, windows down, blaring amazing 80’s music. Admittedly, it wasn’t my best parallel parking attempt to date. And yes, I nudged the oversized, white SUV in front of me trying to get my car into the small spot. But I know you know all of this because you were watching me from your house, probably fuming that your precious gas-guzzler was nudged by an old model Volvo with a driver singing off key about rains down in Africa.
Maybe you saw that I quickly threw my car in neutral and jumped out to survey the situation. I tend to think you didn’t process this because you were already beating a path to the scene of the crime screaming, “Bitch I saw you hit my car!” I’d already assessed that your bumper was fine and my Volvo was cool (obviously), but you were really intent on screaming. Do you remember whipping your head from your car to me, and then back to your car again? All the while yelling profanities at me while I held my hands up and apologized?
I admit I thought it a little odd to see someone so old ranting and raving about a car. I mean, you’ve got to be at least 70 and I pegged you for a grandmother and you were cussing and calling me names because I gently nudged your car? It’s a car. Seriously. It’s a car. Even after you acknowledged that there was no damage and that I said sorry, you kept going.
On that note, I really didn’t appreciate your accusations that I was terrorizing the neighborhood with my driving. We live in a big city, TWATSWIGTH, and a fact of life in a big city is that people drive with their windows down and music playing and sometimes they go over the speed limit and sometimes they mess up their first approach on simple parallel park jobs.
Now, I hope you’ll recall that I did my best to stay calm and help you settle down. I think I might’ve actually pleaded with you to stop yelling at me, but I can’t remember. Here’s what I do know: at some point in our “conversation” on the street, I pointed at my house and told you that I was your neighbor and that given the very minor infraction, this was definitely not an awesome way to treat a fellow neighbor. Remember what you said, TWATSWIGTH? You said that you didn’t give a shit where I lived and that it had nothing to do with the fact that I had hit your car.
And then remember what I said? I told you that Jesus would be ashamed of you and that you were going to hell for treating a stranger so poorly. And then I turned on my heels, got in my car, and drove down the street—away from you, the last words all mine.
Here’s what’s funny, TWATSWIGTH. I don’t believe in hell, nor do I have any idea if Jesus would be disappointed by the way you treated me. Who am I to say? I’m not a religious person, I’ve never read the Bible (unless a kid’s version counts), and I honestly have absolutely no clue where in me that sentiment came from. I could’ve told you aliens were going to eat your toenails and it would’ve had the same legitimacy coming from my mouth.
I guess I got so fed up with you ignoring my apologies and treating me like a criminal that all that hell stuff was the most hurtful think I could think to say to you—even though it meant nothing to me. And maybe because I used what I assumed to be your own language to hurt you, I can’t get you out or that afternoon of my mind.
It’s strange, but my last words to you feel intensely hypocriful and I’m truly let down by what I said. I wish I had been strong enough to counter your overbearing yells with steady calmness, serenity, and grace. I wish I had forgiven you in the moment and been able to walk away with love in my heart and a smile on my face at how freakin’ absurd you are. I wish I hadn’t resorted to manipulating your feelings, especially given that I imagine you to be a pretty unhappy woman, TWATSWIGTH–given how ridiculously you were overreacting to small bump in the road.
So, TWATSWIGTH, sorry again that I hit your car. Please accept my apologies for telling you that you are going to hell. And please accept my honest to goodness gratitude for pushing me into a weirdly challenging encounter that has stayed with me, encouraged me to think, and hopefully even grow a little.
The Pleasant Progressive
p.s. I think it goes without saying that you are still not my favorite neighbor.