So sometimes we get really weird reactions from people when we're stopped at stop lights. Usually this is because I'm either: a) rocking out in sign to music from the radio, or b) blaring Ellen's Thai pop music with the windows down while my enthusiastically tone deaf daughter and I sing the chorus at the top of our lungs. Like many moms, I try my best but don't really understand my teen daughter's choice of music. Only in my case I really don't understand-- here's one of her favorite songs. My Thai hasn't quite progressed to the point that I can rap in it yet.
Anyway, so sometimes we get laughter, or odd looks, or people wave at us, because hey, we're unabashedly weird and proud of it. But last week I was in the wheelchair van by myself, heading to pick Connor up from school, and I wasn't doing any of those things. So I was a bit surprised when a car in the lane next to me started honking like crazy. I got to the stop light and the car pulled up next to me and kept laying on the horn. When I looked over, the elderly gentleman inside motioned for me to roll down the window.
Oh, he really wants to let me know something, I thought as I rolled down the window. Maybe I have a flat tire or a brake light out and he's trying to tell me. How nice of him! I smiled and waited to hear what he had to say.
"Don't tap your brakes when you're stopping for a stop light," he yelled, and gave me a look that can only be described as utter contempt. I had just enough time to stare at him in complete disbelief and say "What?", the smile still pasted on my face, before the guy sped off and car behind me started honking because the light had turned green.
And the thing is, I had been in a really good mood before that. I'd spent the morning mucking around in the garden, and then I'd taken a bubble bath and brought one of my good books in and some chocolate and it was shaping up to be a really terrific day. And all that complete stranger had to do was say one sentence and I was instantly in a bad mood. I spent the rest of the drive seething and alternating between completely overanalyzing my driving and figuring out what kind of snappy comebacks I should have spit out in the two point three seconds I had to respond.
Now I'm telling you this story not because I want confirmation that my driving habit is okay; I'm pretty sure my habit of braking to slow down while going down a gentle hill in a wheelchair van only slightly smaller than that guy's ego is all right. Maybe he thought he was giving me helpful driving tips or something, in which case his presentation needs to be worked on a bit. I think, though, that it's more likely he was in a bad mood and felt the need to take it out on someone, and I was the lucky recipient. Hooray for me.
I'm telling you this story because I don't think that we know what potential control we can have over a complete stranger's day with our words and actions. In my case, all that happened was that I was mad for a little while and then got over it. But what if I had been depressed, or having a terrible day, and that had been the last straw? What if I had chosen to take my now bad mood out on myself or someone else? And conversely, I can't tell you how many times a genuine smile or moment of kindness from a stranger has made my day. People, we have a lot of ability to affect others, even if we don't always realize it.
So folks, don't be that guy, okay? Everything we do has consequences, and I challenge you to use your powers for good!
2 months ago