Dear Man in the parking lot,
Okay, you were right that I needed to slow down. You were right that I was driving too fast in a parking lot. But did that give you license to leave your car and lose your temper and scream at me? Did the situation really warrant that, especially when I had the right of way?
You didn’t know that I’d forgotten to take one of my medications that morning and so I wasn’t as alert as I needed to be.
You didn’t know that I’d been up since 5:30 a.m., decorating a cake, dealing with my kids, dealing with exhaustion from stress and sickness and lack of sleep.
You didn’t know that I was just thankful that we hadn’t had an accident. That I was already shaking when I pulled into a spot and parked. That I knew I had made a mistake and would beat myself up for it like I’d committed the unpardonable sin. That I didn’t need someone else to yell and scare me.
You didn’t know that I would spent the next ten minutes in the locker room, barricaded in a bathroom stall, unable to stop crying or shaking. My pulse is still racing. You scared me, reminded me of other times when I’ve been vulnerable and scared and alone, and I panicked.
But you didn’t know any of this.
You didn’t know these things about me, any more than I knew anything about you. You wore blue scrubs and a white coat; you’re a doctor who lost your temper. That’s all I knew.
I didn’t know if yelling is your normal way of handling anger—if you yell at your nurses or patients or wife—or if you felt ashamed of your outburst later that day, after you’d cooled down and had some coffee. I didn’t know if you were just going to yell or if you were going to follow me into the building or if you might assault me in front of my young child.
See, I know this “walk a mile in another person’s shoes” thing goes both ways. But while I’ll definitely slow down in parking lots from now on, I have no idea if you’ll keep yelling at strangers who cross your path.
There’s this old saying about being kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. I’m fighting a hard battle, just like you are. So please, next time, remember this.