I’m picking up Big A from the train station (like a good little suburban frau--but I’ll rant about that in another post). There’s a line of cars idling at the curb (as usual) and I pull up to the curb (as usual too), except this time there’s insistent, loud honking. There’s a black Infiniti behind me and after another bout of enraged honking, it pulls up alongside me and the irate guy inside tells me that he’s been waiting “ten FUCKING minutes” for the parking space way ahead of me (and, really, too far away from him).
I wasn’t planning to park, but I can see why he is indignant so I’m ready to ignore the cussing; the easy apology is on my lips-although I haven’t been able to say anything yet, except may be look confused and then apologetic. Which, clearly, is the proper cue for him to yell--YOU! GET OUT of here NOW. And for his elderly father sitting next to him to shake his fist at me. The apology withers on my lips. And then the parking space that they so clearly want and I have no interest in clears.
I pull into it.
I know it was a cheap move. But here’s the thing--I’m brown, female, weigh 115 lbs, have two kids in the back seat, and no matter how much Deborah Tannen I read, I can’t seem to kick the smiley face and the head bobbing. It’s safe to say I’m non threatening. And here’s another thing--I was already beginning to pull out of their spot when they began yelling at me.
Of course they pull up alongside again, madder than ever. But I think I know what to say. I tell them that they were unnecessarily rude and that if they had asked me nicely instead of yelling, I would have been happy to give them the parking space. (I’m going HA! at myself now--what was I thinking?!? :) But clearly they didn’t have the same kindergarten teacher I had. The father in the other car says, You are a dirty woman! TRAMP, you get out of here! A woman walking on the sidewalk overhears him and says, "Hey, what’s all this “dirty woman,” “tramp?” *You* get out of here before I call the cops." I register the funny-sounding old-timey-ness of the insults, but my hands are shaking nevertheless from the implied hostility and I can only say, “No. If you talk to me that way I won’t move.”
The driver-guy smiles at me rather benignly and says, “You can suck my cock.” For one brief, blinding moment I wish that I hadn’t pulled into his space. I feel filthy. And ashamed. I have kids back there--my daughter is pre-verbal, and my son has never heard that precise string, but knows what each of those words mean. The very ineffective words, “You’re such an idiot” are bubbling out of me, but the other people have already gone. My kids and I sit in perfect silence for the twenty seconds it takes Big A to get to the car. I haven’t spotted him as I usually do, so he decides to walk over to my window and pulls a scary face as I turn towards him. That’s when I start crying.
My husband begins to apologize. (Long after I’m over this, I think this is the part that will continue to shame me--that he thinks I’m such a ninny that something like that can set me off.) Then there’s the blessed relief of hearing his livid anger and then I’m trying to give my anger words.
I see the Infiniti driver in my head, but I can’t repeat his words back--obviously I want the idiot nowhere near me or my vagina. So I think to reuse insults. Pimply fat slob, I think. Loser with a tiny dick. But it’s unsatisfactory. I have nothing against fat or bad skin or laziness or tiny penises or a lack of success. I’m not so much angry as disquieted because I think what happened to me was unfair.*
My father would say (my mother is fiery and might have egged me on) that it’s best not to engage with psychotic idiots because whether you mess with mud or mud messes with you, *you* are the one who ends up messy. But I’m glad I stood up for myself. Glad my son saw. My children, more than most, will have to find a way to deal with prejudice--something usually lacking in my small world of nice people.
I have a hunch that the people in the other car have already forgotten about this--that this would be an ordinary occurrence to them--just another incident that reinforced their prejudices against my gender and may be my ethnicity too. But I know I will keep returning to this embarrassing nidus in my head: How should I have reacted? Retorted? Was I standing up for myself in a Gandhian way or was I just being super fucking annoying? Did I even thank the woman who tried to defend me?
* The people in the Infiniti probably think that it was unfair to them too. But just before they pull away, the father gets out and goes into the train station. No luggage, no nothing. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that important for them to grab the parking space either.
That picture of yourself in academic drag you took when people were consistently mistaking you for an undergraduate (because genes, but a...