Tolerance as an Alternative to Murder
It's Not Always Easy to Yell at a Cute Blonde.
"Nothing motivates a job search quite like the feel of an itchy polyester housekeeper’s smock at eight in the morning...."
Thank goodness for tolerant people. I really don’t even care if they are necessarily “nice”. As long as they are able to take a deep breath, assess their current circumstances objectively, and choose their battles accordingly. I personally know that I would not have made it this far in my life without encountering more than my fair share of tolerant individuals (thirty four years in, and no attempts on my life as of yet . . . that I know of).
Some of these tolerant people we are blessed with hereditarily. If evolution has been responsible for little else, it has successfully-exploited the fact that it is far harder to turn on a tiny individual that reminds you so much of yourself.
We encounter other exceptionally understanding characters as we walk through life, and if we are smart, we collect them as we go. There are those, however, that we encounter for only brief moments in time. Though no long-standing relationship is necessarily developed, these happenstances do have a tendency to stick with us, leaving their footprint forever in our memory. These are the occurrences that usually make for the best stories. And boy, do I have stories. The following is a perfect example of someone that could have reacted to my particular brand of awkward fumbling very differently.
It would have been June or July of 1999. I was eighteen, and had just moved out on my own to a little one bedroom apartment near downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. As I had arranged the entire move from Illinois, I was still in the midst of finding myself a steady full-time job, but in the meantime, a friend of mine’s mother was gracious enough to hire me as a housekeeper at one of the hotels near the airport. Nothing motivates a job search quite like the feel of an itchy polyester housekeeper’s smock at eight in the morning (except maybe the joy of pulling random strangers’ stray body hairs from a dozen or more shower drains).
Now, keep in mind please, that I am eighteen years old. I am enjoying my first taste of true independence and freedom, and being one of the first in my group of friends to have a place of my very own, found myself hosting quite a few “get-togethers”. A lifelong insomniac, however, sleep deprivation had yet to really be an issue for me, so I paid very little attention to a bit of mere fatigue! Ha! There was partying to be done, after all.
One morning, I wake to my alarm blaring. It was a weekday, and all of seven in the morning; must be smock-time! I pulled myself together, prepared breakfast for my roommate (okay, Frank may have been a cat, and “preparing” his breakfast may have involved simply opening a can), and out the door I ran. As I came down the building’s front stairs, I spotted my car in the street and briefly reveled in the fact that I had made it yet another night in this - er, rather affordable neighborhood without my vehicle being vandalized or stolen. I opened the door and got in, then again reveled in the fact that I also still had my stereo! Was I winning at life, or what?! I was off!
In order to get to the hotel, I had to brave the ever-busy rush hour traffic of downtown Lincoln. In theory, and at any time of day other than right before and/or after work, traffic flowed pretty well. All of the busiest streets and intersections consisted of one-way traffic, and the streetlights were timed more or less impeccably. If you were lucky enough to hit that first green light, and traveled at the exact speed limit, then you were going to hit all green lights. During rush hour, however, there was always the issue of – well, people. People tend to screw everything up.
Before I knew it, I found myself kind of stuck in the middle of an intersection. I had a green light, but something was holding us up, so I sat in the middle of the intersection through my red light, too, which made me one of “those people” who are wildly popular with the individuals trying to go in the other direction. This, paired with the prospect of possibly being late for work, was driving my anxiety level up by the second. Yes, please, maybe if you honk five or ten more times, I will magically no longer be STUCK in your way! Finally, there was movement. Against my better judgment, I was weaving in and out of lines of traffic, desperately trying to get around those that I felt were holding me back. Everyone is running the yellow lights, many even running the reds, but we were developing a rhythm as a group. Well, most of us were.
"Almost as if I had absolutely no short term memory whatsoever, I accelerated . . ."
Just as I was approaching another intersection, its light turned yellow as well, so naturally, I accelerated. Only problem with that was, the gentleman in the huge pick-up truck in front of me did the darnedest, most irresponsible thing ever. He freaking stopped! With that, my tiny, plastic 1992 Dodge Shadow not only rear-ended his gigantic truck, it accelerated right into it without the pesky interference or hindrance of any brakes whatsoever. It was stop-start traffic, so luckily, I could not have been going more than ten miles an hour, but still. The driver of the truck got out, as did I, and he was very sweet. I was panicking, babbling, apologizing, sweating and trying not to faint or vomit.
But this man was one of those wonderful, tolerant individuals I was talking about earlier. He was nothing but smiles, made sure that I was okay, checked my vehicle before his own, which he deemed to be just fine (not even a dent), then looked at the end of his truck, which showed absolutely no sign of damage. What a relief! With that, he shook my hand, patted me on the shoulder, and said, “No worries, sweetie, neither of us are any worse for the wear! Let’s just be more careful out there, now, ya hear?!” Wow, he even had a kind of charming country accent. He actually reminded me a lot of my dad, with the big smile, the hearty laugh, and the way he seemed more concerned with how I was handling my own mistake, than what, if any effect my buffoonery might have on him. That was a lucky break! And we would both have a funny story to share once we got to work, so no big deal here.
We climbed back into our vehicles. I looked at the clock and realized that I only had about seven minutes to get to work now. Panic returned. The man in the truck pulled away when the light turned green, and I continued to follow him. Though there was little to no traffic in front of us following our little run-in, we came to the next intersection just in time for the darned thing to turn yellow as well! Almost as if I had absolutely no short term memory whatsoever, I accelerated . . . The man in the truck, however, once again did not. He STOPPED!! I cannot help but believe we were both experiencing some rather unbelievable déjà vu at that very moment, as again my tiny plastic car unceremoniously bounced off of the back of his truck.
I was petrified now. Had I seriously just rear-ended the same man twice, and in consecutive intersections?! Yep. I was frozen and even contemplated reaching over to lock my door until the police arrived. I saw the man’s door swing open. This time he was visibly pissed. Well, bewildered might be a better descriptive word for the look on his face. He was staring me down through my windshield, and I felt myself shrink behind my steering wheel, almost as if it would protect me. I remember glancing at my knuckles, which were turning bright white as I clung to the wheel. As I made myself a mental note that I definitely needed to start carrying barf bags, the man was looking over his rear bumper. There must have still been no damage, as he quickly looked back to me, first with his hands on his hips (I could kind of tell he was making his "dad face", which again reminded me of my own father), then threw them in the air in exasperation. Pretty sure he was speechless. I still did not move. This poor, wonderful man simply returned to his truck, slammed the door, revved his engine, and as soon as the light turned green this time, he changed lanes. Forced to search for some sort of silver lining, all I could think to myself was that we now had an even better story. Although those he told may not have believed that such a thing was even possible, everyone that I told had absolutely no difficulty visualizing me getting into two separate car accidents in less than two minutes. My driving prowess, needless to say, is legendary.
So with that, I would like to close by simply saying once again: Thank goodness for tolerant people. And to that wonderful man: I never caught your name, but should you somehow find yourself reading this after all of these years, please feel free to use this article to prove to anyone that may not have believed you that, indeed, some blonde teenager rear-ended you multiple times, and in consecutive intersections. You sir, are one of the good guys! Thank you for not killing me.