Monday, May 15, 1995

Being There

Most people who know me would describe me as easy going, easy to get along with, easy on the eyes, usually good natured, and just a little bit dim. So the following might be an indication how badly a certain young chap is in need of a vacation.

Last Monday, I arrived in the parking ramp around 6:45 and was circling to my usual spot. In this particular ramp, the circulars have the right of way and the coming ups and going downs have to yield. As I was turning around the corner, a car came up, and without pause, proceeded to scoot to an empty spot. Narrowly avoiding him, being so alert at that time of morning, I hit my horn. Granted, it was an after the fact honk, not a look out warning as an accident is waiting to happen honk, which I guess can be taken as a sort of mechanical expletive, but it isn't like my horn is one of intimidating tone, nor was my honk particularly lengthy.

I parked my car on the next level, walked to the skyway, and slowly headed to my office. I wanted to see the other driver, yet these days you can't be too careful, not knowing who might pull out a firearm if offended, so I figured while I wanted to have a "discussion" with the other driver, if we didn't meet, no big deal. I strolled slowly when I heard a voice behind me call out, "Hey! Did you honk at me?" And I said, "Why yes, I did. Do you know what yield means?"

I sized him and the situation up. The man, like most men was a bit larger than me. If we were to get into a fist fight, I would have to rely on my wits and quickness to survive. Quite frankly, it also looked as if this gentleman might have enjoyed a cocktail or two the previous night judging from the redness of his nose. The man again repeated his profound statement, "Did you honk at me? You don't honk at me..." as if I had somehow committed the highest degree of offense known to him.

Me being razor sharp as I am, also repeated my witty barb, "Do you know what yield means?" And in case he didn't hear the first two questions, I repeated it again. No backing down now, the air between us certainly took on a rather tense thickness. He continued on, looking straight forward. I walked head cocked in his direction (looking much like Sergeant Carter yelling at Jim Nabors, during the theme song of Gomer Pyle), not wanting to give it up. I figured I had merely followed the procedures I had been taught in driver's ed class all those years ago: you see someone violate a traffic code, you are well within the protocol, almost expected to, give them a beep on your tiny foreign car's horn. This is especially true to avoid an accident the result coming from either ignorance or indifference.

Not to give you all the wrong impression either; I was not looking to improve on my fight record. The last physical fight I was in was back in the second grade when I defeated Mike Evigen, who has in recent years made a name for himself in the local boxing scene. Lest you are impressed with my ability to defeat the area's former light heavyweight champion, Mr. Evigen was two years younger, we were in those days of fairly equal size, and few punches were thrown, just a whole lot of wrasslin'. My fight record might be impressive, but deep inside beats the heart of a flaming frightened pacifist.

I think this particular gentleman was surprised that I was standing up for my right of way rights. We reached the point in the skyway where we were to part ways. By this time, I knew a fist fight was not to happen, and several people were looking at us sheepishly, the clatter of our voices having disturbed their usual morning solitude. "Grow up," the man said. "Learn how to drive," I replied.

I walked quickly to my building, up the stairs to my desk. A gray Monday morning 7:00 in the freaking a.m., and there I was already steamed, with blood pressure nearing boiling point. I had a whole ten hours of work in front of me that day and I had let a non-yielder get the best of my honker. Upon reflection, I thought of all the things I should have said, knowing had I said any of those things, the escalation of the moment would have surely exploded, and I might have now been sans my glasses. The anger and aggresiveness of the moment turned to reflection and self doubt. Perhaps the fellow was right, perhaps I needed to grow up. Part of being an adult is learning to relax, forgive and forget, let bygones be bygones.

The rest of the day I cringed at the thought of leaving at the end of the day and either running into the fellow again, or going out to my car to see all four tires missing or something. Fortunately, my departure was nothing out of the ordinary. I climbed into my car, cranked the tunes. Another day done. Nothing hurt besides my sanity... And I'd certainly been there before.

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