Ex Squeeze Me

By -

I had an interesting little experience the other day which reminded me of a post I wrote a decade ago.

Here in my beloved home of Palo Alto, we’ve got a shopping center that has been around for decades called Town & Country. I had to run an errand down there, so I had to make a quick decision whether to take the Tesla or just pile all my dogs into my other (not-as-nice) car. The dogs were eager for a drive, so I decided to slum it and take the non-Tesla instead.

I arrived at the shopping center, parked, ran my errand, and got back to my car. I put it in reverse and started backing out.

I happen to have really good peripheral vision, and I noticed a car was starting to back up, heading toward me. I figured they had slightly passed by a spot they wanted to get into and were backing up a few inches, but no, they just kept going, and at a fairly high rate of speed (for a parking lot, at least).

Even though I was sticking about halfway out of my space, and was extremely visible, the vehicle just kept barreling toward me, so I decided to give this numb-skull a serious heads-up by laying on the horn full blast, figuring they would slam on their brakes instantly.

Nope. They just kept heading toward me. (I realize it sounds like this all took place over the course of five minutes, but it was just a few moments; still, there was ample time for this person to react). And, sure enough, BLAMMO, they backed into the back of my car, jolting it hard. Thus brought to a halt by a large, solid object, they finally stopped their vehicle.

What happened next is the crux of the story: I pulled back into my parking space, got out of my car, and calmly walked over to talk to the woman who had just plowed, backwards, into my vehicle.

Tim: “You shouldn’t be driving backwards through a parking lot.”

Lady: “I’m so sorry! I’ve never hit anyone in my life! I’m a good driver!”

Tim: “Didn’t you see me? Didn’t you hear me honking?”

Lady: “I was looking this way.” {she gestures forward}

Tim: “When driving backwards, it’s normally best to look behind you.”

Yes, I actually said that. Just the sort of droll remark you’d expect of me. I’m so proud!

Anyway, I examined my bumper, and although it was kind of scratched up, there wasn’t any serious damage.

Tim: “Look, it isn’t a huge deal. Give me forty bucks for a car wash, and we can forget the whole thing.”

Lady: “Oh, thank you! I’m so sorry.”

Tim: “You’re lucky I’m in a car I don’t care so much about. I almost drove my Tesla instead.”

Lady: (after a brief pause): “Are you………{my son’s name}’s Dad?”

Yep. She actually knew my son, and therefore, me. Obviously we had only met briefly once or twice, since we didn’t recognize each other. But she chatted cheerfully about my boy, and how well he had done in her organization, and how happy he seemed, and so forth. I told her I was giving her a special $40 friendship discount, and we both went on our way.

As I was driving home, I started to wonder other ways that could have gone. What if I had jumped out of my car like a madman, and started screaming, “Hey, you fucking bitch! What the fuck! You trying to kill someone? I’m calling the cops!” We’ll set aside the fact that I would never talk to a stranger like that, but go with me on this.

Obviously, I could have behaved angrily and, later, we’d realize we knew each other, and then……………AWK-WARD!

But it didn’t happen that way. I was calm, sensible, and, considering the circumstances, a real mensch about the whole affair. And a good thing, too. I would have felt like a huge asshole if I had been a jerk and found out she was a (oblique) relation to my family.

And this is why I was reminded me of a post I did ten years ago called Good and Evil, which you might want to read again. The most germane excerpt related to what happened above was as follows:

But do heroes choose to be good, or are they simply “wired” that way? And if they are wired that way, are they any more deserving of our praise as anyone else blessed by other genetic dispositions, such as having blonde hair or a nice singing voice? In the end, I don’t think anyone really cares if it was a person’s conscious choice or not to behave heroically. The fact is that they did, and the action itself gives that person heroic attributes. It is all the more alluring and praiseworthy to the public that these decisions are usually made in a split-second, because deep inside we’re all wondering if we would have done the same thing; we ponder, no matter what our self-image, if we have that goodness within us that we so admire in others.

I consider my calmness to be an inherited trait. It isn’t in my nature to be angry, abusive, or rash. But I’m not looking for a Good Guy Trophy to celebrate my success. I should take no more pride in my reaction than I do in having a full head of hair. It’s just………..me. Not so much a choice as a characteristic.

Hence, the name of the post. If you put an orange under pressure, orange juice comes out. If you put a lemon under pressure, lemon juice comes out. Why? Because that’s what’s inside them.

Put a person under psychological pressure, and you’ll quickly discover what’s inside them as well. You may not like what you see. Or you may be pleasantly surprised. Even if it’s your own self.