I yelled at a truck driver the other day. Not just a “hey, buddy” sort of thing, but a get-out-of-my-car and stomp-my-foot sort of thing; I can almost imagine steam coming out of my nostrils. That’s not like me. And I feel really bad about it.
It was mid-morning on a cold and spit-rainy day, and I was heading home after taking the Mighty Belle to the dog park then running some errands before I had to turn the car over to my husband for the rest of the day. I was tired and achy after having worked a 16-hour day at the polls the day before, and doing yard work the day before that. Even though it was still morning, I felt absolutely drained, and to top it all off I had an annoying headache that had me yearning for a cup of coffee and a few minutes to myself to sit in silence with my eyes closed.
The drive around town that morning had seemed even more annoying than usual: road construction projects had me deviating from my preferred routes, utility work had cut off lanes in other areas snarling traffic. Turning down a familiar one way street I found myself facing a suddenly closed road one block ahead that necessitated me detouring down another one way street back the way I had come; I had to sit through three more lights before getting back to my original starting point. Other drivers seemed incredibly timid or incredibly aggressive or incredibly self-absorbed and I found myself sitting at light after light, or following someone driving a fraction of the speed limit, or having to creep almost into oncoming traffic in an attempt to see around the huge SUV parked tight to the corner, blocking sight lines. At one point the traffic light had turned green but the woman in the car in front of me was too busy putting on lipstick via her rearview mirror to notice. At another light, a FedEx truck trying to make a right turn had to wait for two coffee-lugging parents to coax little Johnny on his tricycle down the curb and across the street when it was obvious to everyone else that Johnny didn’t want to ride his freekin’ tricycle. I’m sure they thought it was adorable. Those of us just wanting to get places weren’t quite so smitten.
So by the time I got home and turned up my one way street to park in front of my house (in the inner city there are very few driveways and few of us have adequate parking behind out houses, so many of us park on the street), I had forgotten that today was leaf pickup and street-cleaning day, so there was no parking out front. Nonplussed, I made the left turn into the alley (we have a t-intersection alley on our block) so as to park in the small recess by our back gate. I was almost home, finally!
But when I went to make the final right hand turn from the T to drive down towards my back yard, I was stopped cold by a delivery truck completely blocking the alley, unloading boxes of supplies for the small grocery story that sits on the commercial side of the block. I was oh, so close, and I could not get home. This final disappointment was absolutely crushing.
Something in me snapped. I got out of my car and stomped up to the delivery driver – a trim, middle aged fellow with a bushy mustache. He refused to look at me, just kept comparing his paperwork to the stacks of boxes surrounding him. “What are you doing blocking the alley?” I demanded. He continued to ignore me. “I live here!” I growled, “I can’t park in front because they are cleaning the streets, I need to get to my house.” I gestured beyond his truck. “Just what am I supposed to do?”
That’s when he made his big mistake. “You could go around,” he mumbled, still not making eye contact, and indicated a circle with his finger to show I could back up and bypass the t-intersection of the alley, go around the block and drive down the alley from the other direction.
He was right. I could have done that. It would have meant another blind easing into traffic, three more right turns, and then backing up past the garbage bins into my little parking cubby (which I am notorious for accomplishing poorly) instead of heading in nose first, but I could have done it. Or I could have parked on the side street and walked a block to my house while holding on to Belle’s leash and the water jug for the dog park in one hand and my bag full of library books in the other. It wouldn’t have killed me.
But I was tired, and achy, and my head hurt, my feet hurt. I’d just wanted to get through my morning, and it had already seemed like I had been thwarted at every turn. Had the man looked at me and even cracked the smallest of apologetic smiles, I probably would have just got in my car and moved on. Had he said anything along the lines of “Sorry!”, it would have been so much better. I know that he had the choice of either blocking the residential fork of the alley or the commercial one, and the residential fork no doubt seemed less of a hassle. It wasn’t his fault that the store had erected a high fence with entrances that were difficult enough for a good sized car to navigate let alone a delivery truck, I can’t fault him for going the easier route. But I wanted to get home. I needed to get home. And it was so close.
So while I stood there next to my still-running car, arms akimbo, probably shooting flames from my eyes while trying to decide what to do, the delivery driver started to move the stacks of boxes from around the hitch of the truck to the side of the grocery fence, clearing the alley. I guess he decided he didn’t want to further enrage this obviously crazy old bat lady, or goad me into calling the traffic cops, so within a minute or two his load had been moved off to the side and he drove his truck out of the alley, allowing me to proceed, to jockey head first into my parking space, to gather Belle and my bag of books, and to finally make it home. Where I was immediately ashamed of what I had done.
You see, I strongly feel that while the individual needs to stand on their own, that strivings and accomplishments both rightly benefit and are the responsibility of the individual, and that our greatest strength is that which we find within ourselves, when we venture into the world we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our own individual wants and desires. We need to be part of that communal mindset, we need to be mindful of the greater good, that which is beyond the self. If everyone were to drive as though they were the only ones on the road, if all of us expected to be the only focus in the room, if each person felt like everyone else needed to get out of their way, and the only right way is our way, then life would be nothing but a huge shoving and pissing match, full of discord and anger and self-righteous indignation – even more than it already is. That’s no way to live. Not in the world I wish to inhabit.
So even though I was in the “right”, I did nothing to contribute to the greater good. Perhaps that delivery driver also had had a horrible day. Perhaps his experience also had also been full of frustrating traffic, plus impossible schedules and overloads. It certainly had at least one incident of navigating a bad off-loading situation even before I came along. Maybe his body ached, maybe his head was throbbing, too. I probably made his day even crappier. And that made what I did wrong, regardless of who was in the right.
So to that delivery driver, I say now, too late, ineffectually, that I’m sorry.
Next time, I’ll just fume to myself and drive another way around. I’ll inch back into traffic, make those three right turns and back into my parking space. I’ll make that extra effort, even if that means I have to get out of my car to move the garbage bins that are blocking my safe passage. Even if it means a few more hassles along the way. Even if it means the litany of ills done to me is a bit longer. Because you – whoever you are, also navigating a less than ideal situation – deserve that from me.
And then next time, I won’t feel so bad days later for how I treated you regardless of who was in the right and who was wronged. Next time, I won’t forget that we’re all in this together. Next time, I’ll know that even if I gave up my “rights”, that I did the right thing.
Because it’s not about me. It’s about us. We all deserve better.
Next time, I won’t forget that. That’s my promise to you, to myself, and to the world I wish to live in. To all of us, delivery drivers and tired commuters alike.