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Commentary: Sometimes you just gotta let it go

 “Did you just cut me off?!?” the man in the topcoat hissed through clenched teeth as he strode towards me in the parking lot.  “Just now?!?  Did you cut me off?!?”
 
I froze; my brain unable to make the abrupt transition from chattering with Big-D—who was home from school for the first time in a while—to deciding whether to fight or flee.
 
The man stops uncomfortably close to me and stares into my face.  He’s shorter than I am and probably twenty years younger and is wearing that topcoat and a scarf and black gloves and the edge of his opened umbrella – he has an umbrella – is about an inch from the bridge of my nose.
 
“You cut me off!” he declares, breathing heavily, and I take a step back; briefly comforted by the bulk of my gentle giant of a son looming behind me.
 
My mind time travels to a minute or so past when I flipped on my right turn signal and eased into the turn lane that led to the grocery store, inexcusedly distracted by my conversation with Big-D.  A horn blares behind me and in my rear-view mirror there’s a car way too close for comfort and there is no way around the fact that I am absolutely responsible for a near-miss that could have been worse on this rainy, rush-hour Friday.
 
So I did what every other bad driver in the world does in the same situation and cringed a bit and then employed the universal “Yes-I-know-I’m-an-idiot-and-almost-killed-you-but-this-wave-will-make-everything-okay” wave, and then promptly erased from my mind the fact I’d just made somebody’s day worse than it had to be.
 
The guy in the topcoat reminded me, though.
 
“You’re right…I did,” I tell him.  “It wasn’t intentional, but I’m sorry…I apologize.”  He’s still breathing heavily when I step around him and walk towards the store.  He falls in beside me and matches me step for step and every time I look over at him, he’s glaring at me and I begin to worry that my Cheez-its and Dr. Pepper quest is going to end badly.
 
When we get to the door I gesture for him to go ahead.
 
“No!  Please…after you!” he says, louder than he needed to.  “You were in such a hurry to get here; I’d hate to keep you from your important business!  You go right ahead!”
 
I nod, accepting the well-deserved chastisement, and enter the store to find I had a heretofore unknown, and very intense, interest in navel oranges.  I scrutinize them until, from the corner of eye, I see the guy in the topcoat walk down the cereal aisle.  
 
The testosterone level abates and I exhale.
 
“Wow,” Big-D says, “He was mad.”
 
“Yeah, he was…but I deserved it,” I tell him.  “He’ll get over it, though.”
Two days later, mid-afternoon, I’m leaned up against my car at Mapco, filling the tank, my face held up towards the sun, and day-dreaming about re-building my raised beds.
 
“There’s the a**hole who cut me off the other night,” says a voice out of nowhere; interrupting my vision of award-winning tomatoes.
 
Behind me, at the next pump, was the guy from the near-miss incident of two nights before.
He hadn’t gotten over it.
 
The passenger door opens and another guy gets out and props his elbows on the roof of the car.
 
“Is that the a**hole?” he asks.
 
“That’s him,” says the driver, and they both stand there, grinning, like bullies in every ‘80’s teen movie ever made.
 
Insanely, I grin back and give them a thumbs-up.  I don’t know why.
 
“You think it’s funny?!?” says the guy who was wearing a topcoat a couple of nights before but wasn’t wearing one now.  
 
“No, I don’t think it was funny,” I tell him.  “It was my fault.  I apologized…I don’t know what you want me to do now.”
 
I reached in my pocket and pulled out a few crumpled dollar bills and held them out to him.
 
“Do you want money?”
 
“No, I don’t want your money!  You almost killed me!  You cut me off!”  
“I know, man,” I tell him, “I’m sorry…I don’t what else to do unless you want to call the police and report an accident that didn’t happen.  I’ll tell ‘em it was my fault.”
 
He glares at me for a moment and then turns away.
“You’re an a**hole,” he says.
 
I finish filling my tank and then pull away towards home, alarmed, a bit, at the power of one minute of inattention.
 
I drive very, very carefully.
 
William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at wcarterfranklin@aol.com.  
 
 

Posted on: 2/20/2014

 
 

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