I had an interesting opportunity to observe amusing human behavior yesterday. My last remaining and fully operational CD player, aka The Kia, decided to shut down in the left turn lane of a major intersection here in town. It went dead suddenly, nothing, kaput. Even the emergency flashers didn’t work. As they say where I’m from, “I was up shit creek without a paddle.” But at least I had a cell phone, but it might be hard to paddle a canoe with it.
I was always taught when in a situation like this to raise the hood and trunk as a signal of distress, but evidently that is no longer a universal indicator of malfunction, judging from the varied responses of drivers who got stuck behind my immobilized car blocking the street.
The first guy pulls right up behind me and everything seems normal since the light is red. But the disconnect appeared when the light turned green and he started honking at me. I don’t read lips but I know what the f-word looks like. Once he clued in that I was not going anywhere, he abruptly backed up, swerved his car around me that gave me the business finger on the way past.
I’m notably fascinated by behavior I don’t understand, and that was a perfect moment for me to absorb and ponder while waiting on a tow truck.
The next player up to the plate was Camaro Guy. Same song, second verse. Pulls in, does not put two and two together that the open back hatch and lifted hood would add up to something equalling four. But everyone isn’t’ good at math, so he didn’t solve this particular equation. As he started laying on the horn, I got out and walked back toward him to deliver the message personally that the car ain’t gonna budge.
Judging by the look on his face, he must have thought I had a gun. Even though I was yelling, “Sorry dude. I’m broken down,” he hit reverse and went around, making sure he didn’t look me in the eye. Thankfully no one was behind him or the situation could have gotten worse. No middle digit salute from this guy, though. Slight improvement in the human response mechanism.
The most puzzling episode was a carload of high school girls who pulled up behind and started waving, giggling as they went. I couldn’t tell if they knew what was going on and felt sorry for me or if they just thought they were on Candid Camera. I waved, laughed in return and their bevy went around after the green arrow appeared.
All this time I’m waiting on AAA emergency roadside service. I felt the urge to be upset, because there was plenty of gravity inviting me in that downward direction. Broken down car, blocking traffic, pissed off drivers etc. But I remembered what I wrote on Monday. How do I get back to a Place of Peace, a domain where it’s always calm despite the atmosphere down below?
I just took a mental step up. I got a better view as a result.
This cognitive shift didn’t make my car start or change my circumstances. My morning was disrupted. I still had to wait 40 minutes for a tow truck, but it did provide an opportunity to change the way I chose to view the moment.
The other thing it reminded me is the importance of paying attention. Everything may not be as it seems. The car that isn’t moving when the light is green may not be due to an inattentive driver distracted by that unnecessary text.
In another context, the shopping cart up against my car door in the Target parking lot may not be a result of a lazy deadbeat. It could have been the single mom who just got chewed out at work before picking up her three cranky kids and it was all she could do to get them in the car after picking up the prescription and the thought of returning the cart to the corral was lost in her mental triage.
There’s always a better story to start with.