Monday, November 19, 2007


The other day I was driving home after an appointment with my therapist. I was feeling pretty good, appreciating that whole weight-lifted-off sensation, and it was a beautiful day despite it being mid-to-late November. I had the windows down and was taking side streets that wind through the Berkeley hills, allowing my day to unfold slowly from there, thinking about stopping for a cup of coffee or wandering around a bookstore. I had no obligations, not anywhere to be.

The streets were quite narrow and if cars were parked on both sides, there was really only room for one car to pass in-between. I was singing along with the stereo, tapping fingers, taking the leaves and the sun in, not incredibly aware of what was going on in front of me.

On a particularly narrow stretch with big houses and nice bright front yards and people on the sidewalks with their dogs, I reached one of those sections of tightly packed cars. It was a few car-lengths long and it took me until the last minute to realize that a middle-aged woman driving towards me had already started between them and there wouldn’t be room to pass. I slammed on my brakes in time to stop with just enough space for her to get by.

As she passed, her window down as well, I could see her glaring with hate in her eyes. She opened her mouth and the shape of her lips clearly mouthed the word I heard.


Now certainly I could have been more focused on the road, and spotted her from a distance, slowed down gradually, and smiled the way that the people who care about her must do. She could have also slowed for me I guess, but it doesn’t matter. There was nothing malicious, nothing premeditated about my abrupt stop.

I reacted while she was still beside me. “Asshole?!” I pleaded. - and as she rolled on behind me, I leaned out my window and continued, “I’m not an asshole, I’m a nice guy!”

I wonder if something had gone sour in her day, or if I have some misconception of myself. Maybe I’m not as nice as I think, despite how much I try, and she would certainly agree. In fact, she may actually be a really kind person in general, but I wouldn't say so without further proof.

With these things, I guess it all depends on who you ask.