I knew just what was going on.
Picking up my son from school, I pulled into a street space marked “no parking.” But hey, I’d only be there five minutes, right? And I was going to be idling in my car the whole time.
Then I saw her: another mom, waiting across the street in her car. As I glanced her way, she brought up her cell phone and…took a picture of me, my car, and the “no parking” sign.
What the what!?
My small city has cameras posted at all major intersections set to catch you in the act if you run a red light. This woman must be some sort of undercover parking cop! Either that, or maybe an over-zealous member of the PTO, determined to get me in Dutch with the principal.
I pulled out, turned the car around, and parked directly behind her car. I was going to confront her! In a very polite, friendly, only semi-insane sort of way, of course.
When I knocked on her window, she looked startled, but rolled it down. Her cell phone was still in her hand.
“Excuse me,” I said, “I have a really weird question. Did you just take a picture of my car?”
She looked utterly baffled. “Um, I was just holding my phone out the window trying to get a better Internet signal,” she said. “Sometimes a few inches makes a difference.”
I began babbling. “I told you it was a weird question! I just thought, um, maybe you were interested in my car and thinking of buying a Toyota or something so I wondered if you had questions, ha ha ha ha.” Blushing, I made my way back to my car.
How many times do you think you know just what is going on? That guy who pulled out in traffic in front of you? Asshole who thinks his destination is more important than yours. That woman at the post office who never smiles? Hates her job, hates you, probably going postal someday. That party to which you didn’t get an invite? Clearly, you were deliberately excluded. Nobody likes you. The woman who switched seats at karate after you sat down next to her? She knows you didn’t shower that day, and she’s judging you for it.
Or maybe the stories go like this: the guy didn’t see you. The postal worker just lost her spouse. The party is a work obligation. The karate woman is allergic to your perfume.
Ever notice that the stories we tell about stuff we can’t possibly know are almost always personal, negative, even paranoid?
What would it be like if you could admit that you don’t actually know why your spouse forgot your anniversary, or what your boss means when she says “Mmmph” in the morning? What if until proven otherwise, you assumed that whatever’s going on with other people is probably all about them—not you?
Maybe it would turn out that you could take care of your business, and allow other people to take care of theirs. Maybe it would result in a freer, calmer, more open-minded you.
Crazy talk? Maybe. But not as crazy as accosting total strangers who are simply trying to check their email.