Maybe We Just Need to Stop and Listen

As I left for work yesterday, I came upon a guy walking his dog along the side of the road. We live in a neighborhood lined with sidewalks, but for some reason this guy decided to walk his dog in the street. No worries, I thought. I simply veered to his left a few feet and went by at what I assumed was a reasonable speed. Then something unexpected happened.

In my rearview mirror, I saw this man take the cup of water he was holding and sling it at my car. I immediately hit the brakes and sat there for a second watching him. Maybe it was a coincidence and he just happened to bail on his beverage as I passed by? Could that have been directed at me? As I thought this over, I saw him do the classic “bring it” gesture to my stopped car, and I knew at that point this guy was pissed. At me.

After witnessing the guy “bow up” like that, I couldn’t just continue on into the office. Instead, I slowly drove down the road a bit until I could find a place to turn around. As I did this, our eyes met and he seemed a bit stunned. I mean, who expects a guy in a Prius to come back and confront you when you sling a cup of water all over the back of his car? I took a deep breath, pulled alongside him, and rolled down the window. I asked if something was wrong in an attempt to let him do most of the talking. He immediately went off about how I passed much too closely, being careful to cite that countless other drivers in our neighborhood disrespect him in much the same manner each day. He wasn’t at all happy about my car’s proximity to his body, specifically stating that he could have reached out and touched my vehicle as it passed.

I’ll be honest. In that instant I wanted to eviscerate this poor guy. I wanted to tell him to get his ass on the sidewalk or at least walk against traffic. I wanted to tell him that I gave him several feet of room, and honestly in my judgment, I thought that was plenty of space to provide for his safety. I wanted to call him a big ol’ baby and several other unflattering terms. But for some reason, I decided to hold my tongue. I just sat there and listened to him talk about how every morning people drive like maniacs. And after a minute or two, I realized I kind of agreed with him.

I realized that lots of people drive recklessly. I walk in our neighborhood daily and stroll my son through those same streets. It has gotten to me at times too. I realized that some people find it easier to walk in the street because the pavement might be easier on their knees and ankles. For some, the sidewalk is an uneven tripping hazard. Maybe that was the case with this guy? I also thought about the fact that the roads were pretty much dead that morning and he wasn’t hurting anyone by choosing to walk in the street. What did it matter? Also, my Prius makes no sound whatsoever. Seriously, golf carts make more noise. So I did pass by too closely. Heck, I probably scared the crap out of him.

So there I sat, lost in my head for a minute as he ranted and raved, all of those justifications for his anger bouncing around in my head… and I just stopped. I stopped, and I apologized. He was clearly having a crap morning, and this outburst might not even be about my car “almost hitting him” at all. Now, I’m by no means a saint. I have my own anger issues I work on each and every day, but just this once I stopped to hear the other person out, and it actually ended well. We parted ways that morning, and I think things were cool between us. I looked for him again today as I headed into the office. I didn’t see him, but I did give anyone I passed a little bit more room to roam. I mean, that’s what I would want after all.