Reader’s Note: No pictures accompany this post. You’ll soon discern why.
She flew into my orbit from nowhere, like a bumblebee soaring on wings of rage.
Jabbing her rigid index finger toward me, she stabbed the air. Over and over.
I cocked my head, utterly perplexed.
Excuse me? What’s your problem, lady? I do something to you? I just parked my car.
We stood—two women, strangers, facing off in a strip center parking lot. I had 20 minutes to kill and she appeared ready to oblige.
I stood outside my car, the driver’s door offering partial shield.
She stood perhaps ten feet away but taller, elevated on the sidewalk. I shrunk back.
Her dark eyes dissolved into black bullets. They fired at me rat-a-tat-tat—a hundred thousand bits of metaphorical ammo—aimed on the perfect horizontal. Target: my car, body, and spirit.
Pure instinct made my body dodge right, shoulder and arm tucking into my car’s door frame. My right foot moved into the car as if bracing for future impact. I said nothing.
Calm. What the..? No. Breathe. Let her talk as she can. Calm. Breathe. She’ll explain soon.
The longer I remained silent, the angrier her face became. Eyes tightened to pinpricks. Face squashed, raisin-like. Lips darkened to brown-bloody, a passionate underline.
In reaction, my eyes and lips squinted as I looked deeper into her. But, in my chest, wild fear ran amok. My heart thundered. Life-threatening beat. My brain scrambled to stay ahead of her emotion. Brute willpower forced my lips to soften.
Show no judgment. Only listen. No mirroring anger. Cool. Take quiet charge. Calm.
“You took my space,” she yelled, her voice knifing my inner dialogue to silence.
“Excuse me?” I answered in my easiest, be-the-adult-here voice.
“You pulled in front of me,” she said in a near scream, finger jabbing harder into the space between us. Did she fear my attention had disappeared?
She leaned toward me, jerking full forward at the waist and leaning over the curb. “I was waiting over there,” she pointed to her left, “ready to pull in and park but you swung in and took my place.”
A cacophony of words flooded my brain. Willpower stood up, tall.
Two roads here, kiddo. Challenge. Or back off. Latter. Go.
I walked around my open car door, exposing my unprotected body to her. She glared back, eye bullets still flying. I broke the stare, looked where she had pointed earlier. Her red car sat diagonally parked two spaces away, resting illegally in a handicapped parking space. The car’s hazard lights blinked with manic urgency.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” I said, my voice gaining strength. “I didn’t see you. I saw the open space, pulled in, and never saw your red car. I apologize.”
I repeated myself.
As I talked, the woman’s face relaxed, eyes now simmering brown, lips relaxing into the hint of a smile. The air between us thawed. I repeated my apology. Calming mantra, round three.
She dropped her eyes to the sidewalk then raised them, gazing almost soft. Her smile widened, filling her face. One question popped up.
Has this woman awaited an apology her entire life?
I moved my car and entered the coffee shop. The woman sat in her car—in my old parking space—and texted on her phone.
I wonder what story she told and what she learned.
I can defuse stranger rage.
Plus: choosing peacemaker and sucker-upper aces throwing temper tantrums and threatening body blows.
It’s been a good week here.
I hope the same for her.