Open letter to a screaming stranger

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.

Laura

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23 thoughts on “Open letter to a screaming stranger

  1. It happened to me last year. Maybe it was the same guy?! In retrospect I wish I’d had the backbone to stand up to him and tell him it’s not okay to scream and shake your fists at strangers – this was in the church parking lot no less! Instead I just burst into tears. Weak!

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    1. Not sure how to reply to this. I’ve never been called a drama queen before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything, huh?

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      1. I think it means you’re a lot like Dame Judy Dench, who’s played more Queens than you can shake a stick at. She’s one dramatist I wouldn’t mind emulating at times. What a tough old bird!

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  2. “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.”

    That’s a great reminder for all of us, Laura. I know how it feels to be on the receiving end, and I am so sorry you had to go through that. I’ve also, unfortunately, been on the delivery end of it. Both ends have left me sick to my stomach.

    In either case, I find that what I need to do – the only thing I can do – is turn to Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30.) I know that scriptural platitudes aren’t necessarily all that helpful when in the midst of these types of hurt (and notwhithstanding what RichFromTampa says, you are legitimately hurting). But I also know that God is always our Help.

    Tim

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      1. Re feeling better, my uncle once gave me this bit of wisdom: time may heal all wound, but it also wounds all heels. Great guy, my uncle.

        Glad you’re feeling more chipper, Laura.

        Tim

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  3. A few weeks ago my wife parked at a store, and when she was pulling in there were some folks near the car on the left side, so she was watching them to make sure no one stepped in the spot. After she got in the store, a woman came in and asked if that was her van outside. She said yes, so the lady asked her to come out side. My wife thought maybe the lady had hit our van. It turns out that my wife had parked so close on the other side that the lady couldn’t get in. She said: “How did you think I was going to get in my car?”. My wife tried to explain what happened, and never even got to tell her that she had not seen how close she was on that side. She continued to belittle her. My wife was speechless and embarrassed. She also recognized the woman as someone who goes to our church. After she moved the car, she went up to her and said “You know, I go to church over there, and I know you go there too, and you’ve not treated me in a very Christ-like manner.” The woman was finally speechless. I think that was probably a lesson learned that beat any Sunday school class.

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    1. I admire your wife’s ability to calmly tell this woman that! Good for her. (I also hope that no one ever has the occasion to tell ME that! Unfortunately, I’m sure it will happen at some point.)

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  4. As the saying goes, ‘sh*t happens!’, and it often leaves us feeling vulnerable, hurt and angry sometimes all at the same time! I’m sorry you endured such an individual’s tongue-lashing; perhaps he is hurting somewhere and doesn’t know how to deal with it properly? Who can say? Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it makes for a great post! There are serious instances in England of road-rage like this, and it seems people get angry and irate more than they used to.

    I’m sorry you had to suffer but glad you posted all the same. I can say that, even though women are supposed to be the cryers and the emotional ones, things like this can even make men cry too! All we can do as Christians is learn to be Christians in every situation, whether good or bad, and learn never to act in such a way ourselves.

    Having endured various things in my own life, where people were, for whatever reason, vile and sometimes deeply unpleasant to me, the best thing in the long run, is to forgive, even if only for our peace of mind. Thanks for posting Laura; I really love your blog and the fact that you are honest with your readers!

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    1. Road rage is sometimes more than just serious; it can be criminal. I’ve had cases in my courtroom where the driver has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon because of the way they used their car on the road.

      One man kept using his car against another driver (swerving up to her, following too close, cutting in front, and yelling at her), then when she tried to get away he followed her off the highway into a hospital parking lot and continued to confront her. A patient on the way to his own car, hobbling along on crutches, tried to ask what the problem was. The enraged driver took one of the man’s crutches and hit him with it. That added robbery (taking the crutch by force) and a second assault charge (using the crutch to hit the poor man) to the original assault with a deadly weapon charge (using the car in a dangerous or deadly manner). The jury found him guilty, and it turned out this wasn’t the first time the driver had engaged in such severe road rage. He ended up sentenced to several years in prison.

      I guess the moral of this story is that driving nicely is serious business.

      Tim

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      1. Wow!! That’s a crazy story. What’s even crazier is that I’m not surprised! People behave so badly sometimes.

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    2. Tim–Thank you for commenting. I really hope this guy was just having a bad day, and doesn’t make a practice of yelling at people. Or maybe you’re right: he’s hurting and doesn’t know how to deal with it. (Been there!) The experience has made me more mindful of A) how I drive, and B) how I respond to life’s aggravations and other people’s moods. So it had a good result.

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  5. Thanks for the reply Laura; I’m sorry if I sounded a little insensitive, I didn’t mean to! What happened to you, you didn’t deserve at all, but as you say you learnt something from it, which is all to the good.

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