The other day I was at a long stoplight on a busy street. I had pulled up a little too far into the intersection. I was making a left turn and the light was taking forever. I didn’t notice two guys walking in the crosswalk. They were slightly older and disheveled looking. I thought they would just walk around the car, they did, but one of them decided to hit my front light. It didn’t do any damage, but I was sort of shaken by it. The dude looked a little bedraggled. He had a rolly cart with a plastic crate on it. There was a small dog in the plastic crate. He had a handwritten sign on it that said “Therapy Dog. The other dude was wheeling an oxygen tank.
I felt angry and apologetic at the same time. I wanted to tell the guy to f off, but I also wanted to explain myself and apologize. We were both headed to the same parking lot, so I envisioned a scenario where he would be yelling at me, but I would be calm and rational. None of that happened.
Maybe this is why machines aren’t quite ready to do everything human do just yet. Humans have emotions and ego and are fragile creatures. I think we’re all fragile creatures deep down.
I was in a bad mood at that moment. I was having a long day and I just wanted to go home and take a nap. Traffic was bad and I was staring into the sun. Just things I hate. I wandered around the store for about 10 minutes before I decided to just go home and go to bed. I should have done that a long time ago.
This is a similar situation to what’s on the internet every day. Yesterday, I saw a status update from someone I knew in college, but wouldn’t consider myself close friends with. He was posting about how he loved working for a woman-owned company along with several other people of non-white backgrounds, all fine. But he phrased it in a way that said he was happy to not be working with any white guys.
That was weird to me. I texted a friend about it (who also knew this person as well, and who is also a white dude) just to affirm my eyebrow raises. We texted back and forth and agreed that his status was probably poorly worded, but we doubted that he had negative intentions. I decided not to post anything because it was late at night.
Going back to my car turning situation, I know my car was poorly situated in the crosswalk, but I wasn’t trying to ruin anyone’s day.
I want to say that in one of those situations I could have calmly and rationally explained my position, and clarity would have been achieved, but it wasn’t. I wish we could be more accepting of mistakes and not assume that people have the worst intentions at heart. As a former teacher told me a while back, “When you stop thinking that people are out to get you, it makes life a lot easier.”
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