I am around people all the time. My job involves a ton of people, I’m constantly around my kids and their friends, and I live in Atlanta, where there’s so much traffic that you are ALWAYS with someone else on the road. I love it. I love meeting people, having casual conversations with strangers, and learning from the people I chat with. Interacting with people has always been one of my favorite things to do, but I wasn’t always aware of how my interactions with people could affect me or them.
The day after my mother died I was in traffic and was trying to take a left turn. I motioned to a woman in a car across the way to see if I could turn left in front of her while we were waiting for traffic to move. She gave me this exaggerated sweep of her arm, as if saying “be my guest,” but she was also sneering at me and obviously saying things like “I’d love to freaking let you in here, lady” (but maybe not that nicely). As I mentioned, I was having a pretty bad day, so I burst into tears. That added fuel to the fire, and this woman started mocking me, rubbing her eyes and obviously saying “boo hoo, such a baby” among other things. It went on for a couple more minutes and then she drove away with a hand gesture that wasn’t really a wave.
I was so shocked by this woman’s outrage and obvious territorial need for that space in tra6ffic. What was the big deal of letting me in ahead of her? And why be so mean? I had just planned my mother’s funeral for crying out loud. My day HAD to have been worse than HER’S, right?
A little while later, after the tears had dried and I was home on my couch stewing over the whole thing, it hit me. What if my day hadn’t worse than hers? What did I know about what that woman was going through? What did she know about me? Maybe she had gotten some terrible news that day. Maybe she had lost her job. Maybe she was dealing with heartbreak and pain too and ended up at the end of her rope. I’ve wondered since then if she ever thinks about the woman she made cry in traffic. I wonder if she feels bad or if she still sneers. Who knows, but I hope that she learned something that day, because I sure did. You never know what a person is dealing with, so you should never assume anything.
It reminds me of an old expression, something along the lines of “You can’t judge a person until you’ve driven a few miles in their car.” It’s a good one to remember.
Try to be aware of others around you. Who knows? It may make traffic easier.