Yard Sale Mandoline

Eye contact

Someone I know was walking her dog this morning, breathing in the crisp, fall beauty and wondering what today holds for her country. Like most today, she was in the midst of experiencing nerves and a general sense of frustration. Never has a presidential election felt so impactful; never have the options felt so polarizing or so dissatisfying.

As she thought, “At least I have time to enjoy the perfection that is this autumn walk,” a well-dressed young woman, passing her on the other side of the street, slowly and deliberately poured the liquid out of a large glass bottle and chucked the damn thing into the road, where it shattered and scattered hundreds of sharp pieces along the sidewalk and all over a half-block’s worth of asphalt.

“Excuse me!” the person I know yelled, startled.

No response, no slowing down from the young woman.

So this close personal friend of mine turned straight around and followed the young woman down the street. She wasn’t going to run after her, because a) homegirl didn’t wear a sports bra on this particular adventure, and b) her dog is large and scary and that’d give the wrong impression, and c) the young miscreant was wearing a backpack and clearly on her way to a bus stop or other resting place in the near future, so why run when they’d clearly catch up soon?

In her anger and moderate insanity, this woman followed the young lady for ten blocks, stewing and crafting a speech in her head. During the first five or six of the ten blocks, the speech contained a lot of f-words and how-dare-yous and many Italian hand gestures. After a bit, though, the news of the day and the general attitude of the country coalesced with this little event, and she began to feel depressed. Why would I contribute to the pit of nastiness everyone in the nation seems to have fallen in? It won’t do any good. People will continue their dumb shit regardless of how it affects others. She almost turned around.

But then the young woman entered a park and sat down with four or five buddies, lit a cigarette, looked over at her, and asked, loudly, “Can I help you?!”

Oh boy.

And she walked up to the young woman and her friends, hearing the tale of her stalking offense told to the table of people as she approached. Then her heart assumed control of both her anger and her nerves and also perhaps her common sense, and (since awkward is how she operates) she had this VERY awkward conversation:

“Hi!”

“Um. Hi.”

“Happy election day.” So awkward. Told you.

[No response, obviously.]

“I tend to make a lot of assumptions about people who break glass on purpose in my neighborhood. I see the bottles and think, these people who don’t care whether someone else has to clean up their mess, who don’t care whether my dog’s pads bleed, or whether kids get hurt, or whether bicyclists pop their tires on their way to work… I tend to assume these are bad people.

So I wanted to come and look you in the eye and see who you are and remind myself you’re human, too, and maybe ask why you felt like it was ok to do that.”

There was a resounding moment of silence and exchanged glances, and the beautiful bottle-thrower looked at her and said, “I’ve had a really bad couple of weeks. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anger and I didn’t deal with it very well. I didn’t think about how it would affect your life.”

“Well, it did. Someone has to clean that up now, so the sidewalks and street are safe and walkable.”

“Oh.”

“Do you have any particular feelings about that?”

“I acted on impulse. I’m sorry I did it now.”

“Thanks,” the person I know said. “I’m glad to know you’re having a hard time – I mean, I’m sorry you’re having a hard time, but I’m glad to know you aren’t just some dick who doesn’t care.”

“Thanks.”

“Are you okay and safe? Can I do anything?”

“Nah, I’m ok.”

“How old are you, by the way?”

“I’m sixteen.”

“All right. Have a good day.”

And the person walked away to the soundtrack of quiet laughter and mocking from the dumb-looking cool boys who had walked up during the brief conversation. (Real talk: does anyone look dumber than teenage boys who think they look cool? I submit to you that no one does.)

Okay, so, it wasn’t a perfect moment of redemption, nor was it a villain getting her comeuppance. It wasn’t the proudest moment in the life of the person I know, but she did leave feeling very happy she had looked into that beautiful young woman’s eyes and let her be a human, having a human day with human problems, the same as everyone.

Then she swept up the glass.

I don’t want to pretend a silly little personal victory is a big deal or represents a grand solution to life’s problems, but I think on this election day and every day that follows, it might not be a bad idea. It might make a difference in my life and on my block, to make eye contact with people who really bug me, to see them as human, and then to do a little bit of my own clean-up work.

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This entry was published on November 8, 2016 at 9:57 am. It’s filed under Collection and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Eye contact

  1. I love this. Thank you sharing your Apocalypse Day, I mean Election Day story. I had one, too, sort of. I had to take my car in and the woman who drove the shuttle to drop me off at my office was talking about how much she loves spending time with her little grandson. She takes him to story time at the library and to this thing where they shop for needed items and ship them off to kids in need. I thought, “what a cool grandma! What a lucky kid!”
    Then we started talking about the election and she’s conservative. Thinks the country has gotten way too crazy and our constitution is being misinterpreted and changed. I mentioned that I thought government has a job to do and at the end of the day we have to work together.
    Her response was that no country has ever existed for longer than 300 years and that’s where we are.
    And I got quiet because I wondered if it was true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have been thinking about that, too, wondering how long it’s possible for us to last. Certainly our trajectory is unsustainable in some ways. I’m glad you got to talk to someone with a different perspective today. Always a good thing.

      Like

  2. Excellent post! Very good friend you’ve got. I’m proud of her. People in pain do dumb things. Here is one of my favorite quotes… “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Donna Fisher on said:

    Yeah, I think I know your friend.  Lots of them around, those like the girl across the street..  Ev eryone wants to chan ge the world, b ut no one wants to pick up the laundry, or empty th e trash.  The little things we do every day DO change o ur world, for better or worse.  Se e you tomorrow, I hope!

    GR D

    Liked by 1 person

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