When People Are Crazy
Updated: May 6, 2019
One quintessential autumn afternoon, I was enjoying a walk in the crisp golden air with my two young kids and our beloved yellow lab Shiloh trotting along with us. A blade of grass did not go un-sniffed as Shiloh fulfilled her personal destiny of protecting our neighborhood from the savagery that is The Squirrel.
As we were crossing the street, an SUV came roaring down the street, excessively speeding towards us without slowing down. It reached the point where I had to hustle the kids and drag Shiloh across the street to safely get out of the way. When the car came to the stop sign of the intersection we just crossed, I gestured to the driver to slow down. (Not with a specific finger like I perhaps really wanted, but with my hand, similar to the motion of dribbling a basketball.)
She rolled down her window—I’m assuming not understanding what I was doing—and barked “WHAT?!” In a steady tone, albeit through gritted teeth, I said, “Could you please slow down?”
Hand to God, her screaming response may have been heard from outer space: “Really?!?! REALLLYYY?!?! F@%& YOUUUUU, B&$@#!!!!”
Then, she flipped me the bird and tore around the corner with squealing tires, accelerating almost as fast as my inner rage.
After notifying the local police of a car driving recklessly in the area, there really wasn’t anything else I could do. Except for the next most satisfying thing: judging the heck out of her.
The labels I gave her deliciously danced around my head as we headed for home. They knew no filter and were as colorful as a box of crayons. From Costco.
It’s so easy to flip the switch of our own inner Neanderthal in situations like this. We all have a little bit of crazy, and the one labeled MAMA BEAR is perhaps the scariest of all. That maternal protection instinct cares nothing about civilized behavior if your kids are in danger, so it’s probably best she took off.
But then I had a realization: Aside from momentarily experiencing her delightful company, I don’t know her story. Did she grow up in an abusive home or toxic environment where that type of outburst was normal, so she deems it appropriate to complete strangers? Did she just get some type of terrible news about a loved one and was she speeding to the nearby hospital? Does she have past pain or trauma in her life that influenced her to act this way?
Or, maybe there is no excuse and she’s just a lunatic.
And my usual go-to response is to be a World Champion Stewer. Sometimes I coddle my anger like it’s a new puppy, more than happy to oblige when it curls up in my lap. I barely stop short of taking it out to coffee following duo mani/pedis.
I could have easily stewed all night about this woman’s actions, but ultimately that would have distracted me from my kids and taken away from a nice evening with my family. Doing so would only give her more power by increasing her negative influence on my life from the original 10 seconds to hours, days, or even weeks. Instead, I decided to not allow that person to control my actions, thoughts, or emotions. If she lacked a moral compass, that was her issue, not mine.
So, I did something I’ve never done for someone that I didn’t like. Rather than revel in my anger and judgement, I tried praying for her. This was not an eloquent, graceful prayer by any means. Mother Theresa I am not. But it was a start, and went something like this:
CLEARLY you saw this lady is an UNSAFE driver and please protect anyone in her path. Please watch over our kids and keep them safe. And I know I’m supposed to love my neighbor but she is HARD TO LOVE so I pray that she can be nicer and learn to know you if she doesn’t. If she has had a hard life, I pray things can get better for her.
P.S. You probably heard all the things I thought about her. Er, sorry, please forgive me for that.
Everyone we meet in life has the potential to be either a blessing or a lesson, and she helped teach the reminder that all people are flawed, myself included. And deep down where I didn’t want to admit it, I know I’ve been a lesson to other people too, in moments of immaturity, desperation, panic, or just plain ignorance (minus the screaming-obscenities-in-front-of-toddlers part).
And although there’s a weathered beauty to the wisdom I’ve gained from the lessons, I hope my contribution to this world is being a blessing to the people I encounter. Except for situations involving Mama Bear. She makes no promises.