Last Saturday, I took my boys to one of their last soccer sessions. The younger two play from 10:00-10:40. The oldest plays from 11:00-11:45. Remember that now.
On these days, I pull my car in backward, pop open the back hatch, and sit in the freezing cold while I watch my boys play. In the twenty minutes between sessions, I close the back, start up the car, and warm up four sets of numb little fingers and toes.
It was during this twenty-minute interval last week that I encountered a Jerk.
As I sat in the driver’s seat warming my own numb fingers, something out the window caught my attention. A woman was gesticulating frantically, pointing to the back of the car. Panic set in, and my mind began racing: Had I run a child over? Was something trapped under my car!? My heart was thundering, adrenaline propelling me to turn off my car and roll down my window in terror. What was under my car!?
“Turn off your car!” the woman roared. Her face twisted in rage and disgust, her finger pointing accusatively from me to my tailpipe. “The exhaust!” After her display, she rolled her eyes as if I were a complete moron.
I don’t remember what I said. I’m not even sure what my expression showed, but all I know is that I was stunned. I felt my face turn red, first from fright that somebody was hurt, then to anger at the way the woman had approached this situation. I stared out my rearview mirror and saw one lone boy in the field, far from my fumes. The woman proceeded to get out a chair and set it right next to the back of my car.
My finger dangled over the ignition, fighting the urge to turn my car back on. The clock read 10:57. Only three more minutes before my son would start playing, and that was normally when I would have turned off my car anyway.
My thoughts and emotions were a battlefield inside my mind. “Turn it on,” the devil on my shoulder whispered.
“Just leave it off. What’s the point in creating a war that everyone will lose?” the angel said. Reluctantly, I listened to the angel.
Afterward, I replayed a million ways that scenario could have unfolded without anyone being condescending and rude.
I tried to put myself in the woman’s shoes. Hmm… I would like to set my chair here, but the exhaust from this car will make it impossible. I wonder if this person will be turning off their car soon. Heck. How about I just ask now. Proceed to walk over to driver side window and nicely wave or knock on window. “Hey, so sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind turning off your car because I’d like to set my chair where the exhaust is blowing out, but it makes it hard to breathe.”
“Oh! Of course! No problem.” I proceed to turn off car and think of what a nice person I am and how nicely the person asked. Both parties are left feeling… Nice.
Instead, I have a pit in my stomach and an urge to fight. I think about humanity and why we suck so bad.
Maybe it’s Covid. Maybe it’s the recent Election. Or maybe it’s the way Portland has been allowing protestors to destroy my once-beautiful city, but lately I can’t stop myself from lobbing people into two varying groups: Jerks and Nice People.
So I will now get to the moral of this post. How often do you ask examine your own behavior? When you are in a situation where you disagree with the other person, how do you react? This, more than anything else, is a test of your character.
In the past, I’ve failed this test miserably. But the older I get, the more aware I become of my own behavior and the human I desire to be. Now my New Year’s resolution is to not focus just on outward fitness or appearance, but on inward beauty of character.
I wish all humans behaved decently, using their anger and conviction in a productive and purposeful way. I wish that instead of yelling at people for warming their fingers, we could treat each person with respect and dignity. I wish that when we took issues with people, we could remember their humanity.
I believe that all humans are entitled to a voice, but if you want to be heard, use it kindly.