Two Girls, One Nice Man and a Rainy Day: An American Tragedy
I drive the same way to work every day. I have, over the years, begun to recognize certain traffic patterns, certain cars, certain people around me whether they be in cars or out. For example, there is a gray minivan that drives up the main thoroughfare I take, Sunrise Boulevard. I call him Speedyman. Speedyman drives very aggressively. He’s always jockeying for position in the three lanes of our direction, an in-town street, and he does not care that there are 800,000 traffic signals between where I always find him and where he and I part ways (which is very close to my work). It doesn't matter that he will not "beat" anyone because of how traffic works. He just drives like he does. Is who he is.
Speedyman cuts people off, races past people and, most humorous to me, clearly recognizes me because I too drive aggressively. I like to think I don’t drive moronically like he does, but I do admit that I try to maximize lane space and time lights and that sort of thing despite how usually pointless it probably works out to be ultimately. I expect that he, like me, has recognized my truck and knows I’m a “regular.”
I do know that he HATES being passed. I’ve even had some fun, which I admit is wrong, testing his anal-retentiveness, and I have seen that he will drive ANY speed, no matter how ridiculous, to not let me get past him. He has easily been willing to go far, far faster than I will just to not let the front of my truck get in front of his side view mirror.
Anyway, that is not my point. My point is to prove how much of a familiarity we can get in our morning drives with total strangers. How much of a “I know what is going on and who is around me” understanding we can have of our fellow humans even if we have never met them.
I admit I have fairly low esteem for Speedyman, and I’m even willing to admit that I may have him all wrong. I fully expect he is a lovely man in his real life and that his family, friends and co-workers are enriched by the fact that he is alive. In fact, I’ll even go as far to say that I am sure of it. But, whether I am right or wrong, I am aware of him. I know him, and I have some sort of an emotional relationship with him despite not having ever met him. We share a part of the world and that shouldn't, and CAN'T, be ignored.
Anyway, my real point is to talk about the rainy day I had the other day.
The clouds were slung low, the rain wasn’t horrendous, but it was coming down hard enough that I wouldn’t have wanted to be out in it. It was dark enough that the headlights on my auto-switch were on, so, there you go.
I hadn’t run into Speedyman that day, so there was no pressure on. I was just driving. So along I went and, as I almost always do, I saw the two little girls that travel up Sunrise on their way to school at the same time I am traveling that way too.
One is tall, the older sister, I’m guessing ten years old or so, with bright blonde hair. Like Swedish blonde. Her little sister, maybe six or seven, is a red-head, bright red, long and reflectively straight like the older girl's. Both of them are always cutely dressed--matching knit hats and scarves, fashionable backbacks weighting down their skinny kid shoulders, that kind of stuff... the kind of stuff that suggests, "My parents love me"--and during the spring and warm parts of fall they ride their bikes every day. Sometimes I see the tall one hugging the little one as they walk along. I imagine the little one is complaining about having to walk so far, or maybe someone yelled about homework or who didn't feed the dog. Something banal. And genuine. They used to ride their bikes more, pink and purple helmets, but I’ve noticed them walking more lately as if the long uphill in the morning wasn't worth the glide on the way home. Either way, it’s a long trek judging by the distances I see them covering, two miles plus based on the fifteen to twenty minute randomness of my wake up time and traffic and all that rot.
Anyway, they are cute, and they remind me of my daughter. I always drive by and notice them with their bright hair and I smile and think of my baby girl, now tall and independent and grown.
Sometimes I think that Sunrise Boulevard, the massive 6-lane major roadway that it is, is a bit too public for a couple of cute kids that young to be so conspicuously alone. I mean, I do watch the news and stuff.
So, there’s a part of me that drives by them and, perhaps stupidly, looks around and makes sure there’s no sinister vans near them, no creepy primer-painted sedans pulled along side the curb near them cajoling them to "Help me find my lost kittens?" I’m fully ready to jump out and kick the shit out of some asshole if I have to.
So, yeah. That’s totally stupid. Not only are the odds of me happening along at the exact moment some a-hole comes along astronomical, the odds of it happening at all are insane if you actually read national percentages.
But that doesn’t matter.
As a society, we are afraid.
So here I am driving along and there are these two humans sharing the same space as me and not only do I not know them and have no way of ever knowing them without some sort of weird thing being assumed by any overture on my part, I am actually worried about … frankly, about the boogey man getting them.
And this played out in real life when it rained.
So there I am driving along on the rainy day and I come across these two girls I always see, and have seen every day for the last two years at least, and neither of them has an umbrella. Only one of them has a hood, and it’s a sweatshirt hood. I also know they are going to be walking at least another mile because I know where I have seen them in the past along my route.
I immediately thought that I should stop and give them the old umbrella I have behind my seat. I keep it for emergencies and I think I’ve used it like four or five times in nine years. Maybe.
So I think, “Aww, they’re getting soaked,” and I wanted to pull over and give it to them.
Then I think, “Nope. You do that, they’re going to scream and run. Because they have been taught that any ‘nice helpful seeming man’ that talks to them is a pervert and wants to rape them.”
I don’t even know if that’s what they’ve been taught. But I know it anyway. It's a guess on my part, I suppose, but one I’d bet massive money on. One I damn sure wouldn't bet a police investigation on.
So I didn’t stop.
They got to walk all the way to school in the rain. And my umbrella hasn’t been wet in two years.
Welcome to America.