I hesitate to share this story not because you might call me a jerk or something worse – a lot of people hold negative opinions of me – but because it may sound preachy or give you a twinge that you might ignore while choosing to call me a jerk. Oh, well. The lesson was mine to learn, not yours, and so I share it in order to remember it more than as a way to spread some idea I think we all need to work on. Let’s just say I need to work on it, and so you calling me a jerk won’t work – I beat you to it.
I stopped at Burger King today to get two Croissanwiches for $4.00. It’s actually part of a new idea I am trying in order to put my body back on the right track in terms of eating properly. I know that sounds weird, but right now I’m worried about timing more than I am quality, even though two of those sandwiches aren’t necessarily a low quality breakfast. But I digress…
When I got to the restaurant, which is one half of a local convenience store, the lot was pretty full. It was 9:10 AM on a Thursday, and I guess that’s the time to be at BK. When I got there, the only space that was left, unless I wanted to park at a gas pump island, was taken over by somebody who had pulled into the angled spots in the wrong direction, so their right front quarter panel was sticking into what would have otherwise been an empty spot.
Well, I was a bit self-righteous and said to myself, “I’m gonna squeeze in there and if they have a passenger they aren’t going to be able to get into the car until I leave.” Now I was getting my order to go, but if the person who parked that way was, also, then they were going to have to wait.
“That should teach them a lesson,“ I said to myself as I started to squeeze out of my driver side door. The problem with not leaving them much room is it didn’t leave me much room, either, but there is no price to big when it comes to teaching a lesson to a stranger, right? I mean, if you’re supposed to teach them the lesson…
As I walked in I noticed that my right rear bumper and wheel were over the line on the other side of the parking space – but that was because I had very little room to work with…surely the person in the spot next to me would understand?! Especially since I was doing them and all drivers everywhere a favor by teaching this person in the next space over a lesson.
So I go in and order my sandwiches. There are about three orders being waited on by other folks in front of me, and I know one of them is the culprit. I realized, “Hey, I have a video camera on my phone and somebody who parks so inconsiderately may just decide to side=swipe my car with theirs, or a key, or something, so I’m gonna get my video ready because I know one of these people waiting is going to be getting in that car soon.”
I was right. A man had a drink tray with three drinks in it and was heading out the door, and going toward that car. Now, understand, this wasn’t just any car. It was a sedan with nice rims and wheels…the kind you know somebody is more concerned about their wheels than they are their own clothes. So I was pretty justified in my mind that this would be some punk kid with his homies. It wasn’t, it turned out, but it was still an inconsiderate driver.
Well, okay, he walked a little slow and was about 50 years old. He took a while to get to the car and open the back door where he gingerly put the drink tray. As he closed the back door I thought, “Well, now that he sees the mess he’s in, he’s gonna have to figure out how to get out of the parking space without causing any damage.”
So he closes the driver door as well and walks around the front of the car to, I think, look at the situation and make his plan. Instead, he walks to the BK door and opens it up while an older gentleman with a cane is coming out. I realize as he holds it open that the man with the cane is probably his Dad, somewhere in his mid-seventies – the passenger.
The passenger who won’t be able to get in the car the way my car is parked. A person with a cane typically can’t walk sideways between cars and this gentleman was not going to suck in his breath to do so anyway. I figured even if this Man didn’t have at least two wars under his belt, he sure had more life behind him than I did, and paid more prices in life than I ever have.
All of a sudden, the inconsiderate jerk was me.
I watched them walk towards the car, all along hoping it wasn’t where they were going, but knowing it was. As they got about five feet from the car I walked out and said, magnanimously of course, “Here, let me move my car so you can get in.”
The older gentleman with the cane turned his head and said, very graciously, “Oh that’s very kind of you. Thank you!”
I backed the car out and parked it at a gas pump island. As I walked by they were getting in the car and I said, “Have a blessed day!” and they returned the salutation, and we went about our business.
They going off in their car and me picking up the serving of crow-laden humble pie I had evidently ordered.
I was taught, as I often even remind myself, that the situation isn’t what it appears most of the time. Sure, the driver seemed capable of finding his way properly into the spot, but was that the passenger’s fault? And what happened before I got there I’ll never know. Maybe the person in my slot had parked stupidly and that angle was all the person I encountered could do – after all, wasn’t that what I was expecting the person in the other slot who I encroached upon with my right rear to understand?
I know this is an allegory for life: We don’t know what got a person to the point of them doing or being what or who they are or do. We hold them up to our standards which are actually just standards of the moment – a holier than thou moment. The only time I might have even been slightly justified is if it had been some punk and his inconsiderate homies…and there just aren’t that many around, really
How many times do I criticize another driver, not knowing if they are having some emergency that causes or even requires them to drive that way? Or how may time do I think to myself some critical thing about somebody at the grocery store, in a restaurant, or even during Mass?
I need to get my head on straight and my butt in gear. I have more faults than you could shake a stick at, and THAT is what I’m supposed to be concerned about. But I spend so much time comparing myself to others that I become vain. It reminds me of that old piece, Desiderata, that says, in part, “Do not compare yourself to others, for you will become vain and bitter.”
Jesus put it another way: Something about the log in my eye relative to the speck in someone else’s.
Shame on me.
There’s even an Erasure song that applies: