Her mom passed a week prior – unexpectedly. I was glad to be with her that day. She was here, in the US, far away from her family having to bear the weight of this news on her own, with no ability to travel home.
After spending many hours with her, walking through nature, I was driving home, reflecting on all the emotions of the day. A car pulled up alongside me.
Stranger: [Making gestures and addressing me through his driver side window]
Me: [Rolls window down], Huh?
Stranger: Why you driving like a dick?
Me: [Confused] Whatever I did, I’m sor… [cuts me off]
Stranger: Shut up you dumb little bitch – why you driving like a dick?
Me: I’m sor… [cuts me off again]
Stranger: Shut the fuck up with your little microaggression bullshit.
Me: You’re not even letting me apolo.. [cuts me off]
Stranger: Shut the fuck up bitch. [drives away]
What did I do to provoke this? I’m not sure.
Why is this person so upset? I’ll never know.
Should I have asserted myself more strongly? No.
Should this change my feeling toward strangers? No.
Should this discourage me about background unrest/animosity in the world? No.
Do I sincerely wish this person relief from suffering? Yes.
What can I learn?
The sequence of circumstances that led to this person’s state of mind, either over the course of their lifetime, or the course of the previous 5 minutes, is impossible to understand. De-escalation and distance are there only rationale response. At what point would it have been productive to engage? I suppose if physical harm were imminent and there was no avoidance. Anything short of that, is simply not worthy of reaction or taking personally. There was zero opportunity for productive interaction.
Anger and frustration swirl in the minds of humanity and it’s inevitable we will find it face-to-face in a flash.
What is the difference between weakness and wisdom, here?
Short of physical harm, the only vulnerability on my end is damage is to the ego. And the only way the ego can seem vulnerable is if one feels it needs to be protected from an inexplicably angry stranger. This is weakness. For the wise, assault on the ego from an inexplicably angry stranger, should not hurt. And if this assault does not hurt, cannot hurt, what is to be gained from any sort of defense?
The desire for immediate justice is hard to ignore – it comes from some primal place, some place mostly incompatible with civil society. The temptation to hit this person’s mind with a corrective hammer lingers incredibly close to the surface. Yet – this is a paradox. This impulse is equally irrational.
This is impossible to process and calculate in the moment. I can carry this lesson with me, if there ever is a next time.