Thursday, December 03, 2009
Here's a rhetorical question for you: Why do people choose to be nasty when it's far more effort than a simple neutrality?
Today was laundry day, my least favorite chore because although I am quite fond of clean clothing, sheets and towels, I don't have laundry machines and must go to a public launderette to do it. Usually this involves double parking while I unload my three overflowing baskets, driving home to put the car in the garage and jogging back to the launderette. When it's finished, I reverse the process. Today, however, I found a parking space on the same street, got out three times while inching back and forth to ensure that I was not blocking the driveway on either end of my car, and went to do the dirty. (Clothes:)
While I carried my baskets to the car afterward, a man yelled at me, stating that he couldn't get into his driveway, which unless he was driving a doublewide Hummer, was untrue. My car is considered a compact - I am always directed to the compact vehicle level at a public garage I visit often.
He waved his cell phone at me. "I didn't call the police but I will," he threatened. I didn't say anything because I was arranging my baskets sideways on the back seat of my car. "Do I see an evil look?" he bellowed. This was exceedingly doubtful as he couldn't see my face at all, but it's possible that my butt was giving him the stink eye. I can't control that.
I remained silent, which apparently enraged him. "Do you want me to call the police?" he asked. "DO YOU?"
"Why don't you?" I said. "I'm not doing anything wrong." His garage door was open. I could see two Mercedes, an Escalade, a Maserati and a Ferrari (red) inside. His house looked anything but impoverished but he doesn't own the street in front of it. His wife once screamed at me when I parked there, too. They seem to spend a lot of time patrolling their perimeters to make sure nobody parks in front of their house. The normal expectation of such perfect privacy is nil in a city since it requires a few hundred acres of land as a buffer between the homeowner and the rest of humanity. I wondered why a person who clearly has a very luxurious life would enjoy bullying someone who was no threat to him or his considerable property. But my reverie didn't last long because the man was still yelling at me. I think he wanted me to get on my knees and beg for mercy. He demanded to know if it would happen again because he is very friendly with the entire San Francisco police force and they'll put me in jail.
I shrugged. "It won't happen again," I said and drove off. I have been feeling perfectly horrible ever since, partly because I really and truly hate being yelled at, especially when I have committed no crime, but even more, I think, because I'm sure he took my statement as an admission of guilt.
I have meditated on this and while it's impossible to know what cross he is bearing, he has no idea what I might be dealing with either. To escalate to full bore rage in seconds is unhealthy for both the angry person and his target. Since I was the target, I found the whole thing immensely upsetting. Hours later, I am still feeling the aftermath of his anger and my reactive anger when it would have been just as easy to share a smile, or not to interact at all.
We really are all in this karmic soup together, so I have to ask myself what ill will I have put out into the world to bring this ill will upon myself because somewhere, at some time, I must have treated someone as badly as that man treated me, even if I can't remember it. We cannot change others but we can and should commit to changing ourselves. The only way to improve our experience in the world is to be vigilant of our own actions so that we don't cause another pain because sooner or later, those chickens come home to roost. And when they do, our world becomes an ugly place for us and everyone around us.