Friday, July 22, 2011
I’d like to begin with a statement of full disclosure. Do I talk on my cell phone while driving? Yes, I have a Bluetooth connection in my car and comply with the hands-free rules. Do I ever text while driving, or create a Facebook post while driving? Well, I’m pretty sure that there’s a law against that. Anyway, that’s the subject of another story.
It was an ordinary day. She could have been anyone. I first saw her in my rear view mirror. I see a lot of people in my rear view mirror, but this woman happened to catch my attention. She was talking on her cell phone. My first thought was to look around to see if there was a police officer nearby. (There wasn’t). She had a look in her face that challenged me to take notice. Her facial expression was one that at first glance could have been interpreted as either laughter or extreme sadness.
At a stop light I had an opportunity to examine her face more closely. She was definitely crying. The slight glisten of a tear had been wiped across her cheek by her free hand. Had a loved one just gotten hurt, or even worse, died? What could be so upsetting to her?
As my curiosity had been piqued, I observed further and came to the quick realization that she was not experiencing sadness but rather rage. She began yelling and flailing her arm around in grand gestures. Lip reading is only a passing hobby of mine, but I could clearly see in my rear view mirror that she was getting a little colorful with her language. There are a few words in the English vocabulary that are fairly easy to distinguish – even if they’re seen in reverse through a rear view mirror.
She remained behind me, as we drove up the road in fairly heavy traffic. She continued to vent with abandon to the caller on the other end of the phone. At a few of the stop lights, her SUV came very close to my car and the difference in car height made it impossible for me to see her through my rear view mirror. I had to divert my glance to the side view mirror. I looked over as nonchalantly as I could so I wouldn't be accused of staring at her. She continued crying, arguing and waving her arm around in Broadway style.
Why do I write this? What is the point?
Everyone’s got a private life. Everyone’s got a story. I’ll never know what happened to this woman, triggering the response that she so publicly displayed on the road that day. It really doesn’t even matter.
Maybe this is just a veiled public service message: Don’t drink and drive. Don’t write text messages while driving. Take ownership and responsibility not only for the passengers in your vehicle, but for the drivers and passengers in the shared road around you. If you are so emotionally invested in a life event that you are unable to focus on your task of driving, please pull over and continue the conversation safely on the sidelines. You can be just as animated and perhaps more persuasive in your argument.