The sickness of a “me first” culture
I posted the other day about being an introvert. The truth is, if I could find a way to make my life work this way, I would be one of those crazy ladies living on top of a mountain and never leave my house. That’s right. Never. Because as much as I long to travel and see new places, people terrify me.
Today I had a terrifying experience out in public. I went to the library on the way to the girls’ piano lesson. That shouldn’t be a scary experience, but it was. We pulled up to the drop off lane, just as we normally do when dropping off a book. My daughter returned the books as normal, and then I went to leave. I was parked normally- legally- and there was about half a car length between me and the car behind me. A lady, who decided that her need to return her books was more important than decency, parked crookedly in that spot, making it seemingly impossible for both me and the car behind her to leave. I surveyed the situation. There was a line for the book return computer. The people in the car in front of me had gotten out and were playing in the grass. I would be stuck for at least ten minutes. We had a piano lesson to get to. So I decided to see if I could wiggle my way out.
As I started doing the back up, turn the wheel, go forward, turn the wheel, go back, thing, the lady who’d parked so inconsiderately jumped between my car and her car and started pounding on the back of my car. She was lucky I’m good on the brake. She then came around to the driver side window and started pounding on it, demanding that I roll my window down. Um, no. She’s already demonstrated that she’s crazy by her banging on my car stunt, there’s no way I’m going to not have a big sheet of glass between the two of us. Lady starts screaming at me.
Hadn’t I noticed that she was parked crooked behind me? Um, yes, actually I had. Let us examine who was parked illegally here. But I didn’t say that. Because my heart was pounding and my kids were terrified that some crazy lady was banging on my window and screaming at me. I told her to get out of my way. She responded by saying that she wasn’t leaving until she got her books returned. Okay, fine. But you can’t return your books standing in front of my car, blocking it from leaving. She told me that she was just trying to keep me from getting a ticket. Actually, no. She was trying to keep me from hitting her car, but I would say that if there was enough room for her to walk between my car and her car and pound on my windows, I still had enough room to back up and get out. But hey, what do I know?
This lady kept pounding on my car, screaming at me. Now here’s what I want to know- now that I’m not in the middle of the situation and not extremely scared of what crazy lady is going to do, and thinking that my kids are in the car, and God only knows what crazy lady is going to do- what exactly did she think she was going to accomplish standing there, screaming at me?
Finally, after the second time I told her to move, I realized that she thought I still wanted her to move her car. So I said, well, okay, yelled, because I did have my window up, and I was a little freaked out, “move your body.” After the third time, she finally got out of my way, I backed up a few inches, moved forward a few inches, backed up a couple more inches, cranked my wheel, and got the heck out of there. As I was pulling out, she was still standing on the sidewalk, screaming at me.
Please note: I did not hit anyone’s car. No one moved their car but me. Which is to say, all the bad things going on in this lady’s mind did not come to pass. But she did scare the crap out of me and my kids.
I try really hard to remember the cute little pic going around the Internet about not knowing the battles people are fighting. And I get it. The lady was driving a nice, clearly new, car. Obviously she was terrified of some minivan momma hitting it and causing her precious baby damage. Or maybe the car wasn’t hers. Maybe she didn’t have insurance (then buy a cheaper car!). Maybe she’d once been hit by someone without insurance. Maybe she’d just had a bad day. Maybe everything else in her life was falling to crap, and I was the easy target for her rage.
But here’s the thing: Why is it okay for innocent people to become the punching bags for someone else’s nightmares? Why do people like this woman think their need (to have a close parking spot to return her books) is more important than the needs of two other people to get on with the rest of their day? She could have parked another four car lengths back and still returned her books. But she had to be first.
It’s this whole “me first” culture. Every time I leave my house, I run into one of these “me first” people. Whether it’s the lady who thinks it’s just fine to go through the ten item line with her full shopping cart, cutting in front of the person with two items, or the guy who cuts you off in traffic, or the people who push ahead so that they can get the magical spot first, I feel like I am bombarded with people who want their own way at any cost. Most of the time, I’m pretty nice about it. I’ve tried to have the attitude that I don’t need to be first, and I can let the other person go ahead of me. I’ve gotten to be pretty fast on my brakes. I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and put up with the bad behavior of others.
But you know what? I’m also really tired of being legitimately afraid for my safety, or the safety of my kids. I’m tired of getting into my car and wondering if some crazy whose need to get to whatever place they’re going to is going to end up injuring me or my family. I hate having complete strangers getting in my face and yelling at me over something that amounts to a temper tantrum.
And sure, I know that I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes, and I can own that some of the “complete stranger yelling at me” moments are the result of my own carelessness. I can even admit that I’ve been a jerk at times. So maybe all the crazy people who upset me- those are their few crazy moments, but the rest of the time, they’re really great people.
I don’t know what to think. It just seems like, more often than not, when I leave my house, I run into people like the lady, who thought that her need to protect what she thought was hers outweighed common sense and common decency. I try to pray for people like that, although I admit that in the moment, I didn’t even think to pray. I try to let it go. I try to be kind, although again, I admit that in this situation, I was yelling right back.
Still, sometimes, I’d rather just not leave my house. I’m tired of being caught in the crossfire of other people’s selfish needs. Maybe that’s me being selfish. Mostly I’m just tired. And sometimes, like today, scared. Whoever that lady was, I hope that her day goes better. I hope that God will heal whatever wound is in her that is making her so full of rage.
How do you handle the “me first” strangers you meet?