On Falling Into Lakes

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today was a work day full of calls & meetings, & before I knew it, it was 2:15 & I'd yet to eat lunch. Oh, is that my stomach? Of course, I had to be in another meeting at 2:30, but I decided that gave me just enough time for me to run to a nearby coffeeshop, settle in, order a sandwich, & hop on the call. I knew I'd be a few minutes late, so as I walked, I sent a quick email to my boss from my iPhone.

Here's where I'd like to clarify that the route from my place to my favorite coffeeshop is through a residential neighborhood, with a sidewalk the whole way & approximately zero through traffic. I pay special attention to crossing the major street that runs through town, but after that, it's a walk in the park - almost literally. I pass two senior living establishments, two townie restaurants, & a whole lot of trees, & then boom, favorite coffeeshop.

So as I emailed my boss, I was walking on a sidewalk, toward almost nothing, when a yippy, unleashed little dog took a sharp corner from behind a building & ran right into my shins. I looked down at it & laughed, cooing something in my stupid voice reserved for animals (don't pretend like you don't have one). I smiled at it owner, a very done-up woman who could best be described as a Jersey grandma, 70-something in a purple tracksuit with heavy makeup & big hair & penciled-in eyebrows. She didn't smile back, but still, I gave her an "Excuse me" as I stepped around her dog & carried on down the sidewalk. When my back was to them, she yelled after me:

"That's how people fall into lakes."

I stopped & turned, said it again, this time as a question: "Excuse me?"

"That's how people fall into lakes," she repeated. "Walking & texting."

I tried to stay friendly, keep it light - "Luckily, I'm not walking near any lakes." - but she wasn't having it.

"I don't know," she said meanly. "There sure is a lot of water in this area."

I stayed stoic, but I was fed up. "There's no need to be so rude to a stranger," I told her.

"There's no need to text while you walk," she retorted. "It would serve you right if you fell into a lake!"

Look, I get it. Texting while walking is "more dangerous than crystal meth," & I'd certainly never do crystal meth. I like to think I'm a smart person. I don't text & walk in cities, or near train tracks, or in areas I'm not familiar with. Could I be hit by a car while walking & texting? Sure, but I could also be hit by one while walking & not texting. Anyway, it was pretty clear that this woman didn't care about my safety nearly as much as she cared about being a sanctimonious "get off my lawn" type.

What I wanted to tell her was that it would serve her right if her adorable little unleashed dog got run over by a car, but that seemed too mean to the adorable little unleashed dog. I wanted to tell her it would serve her right if she died alone in her apartment & that adorable little dog gnawed her arm off before anyone found her, but that seemed too mean, period (yes, sometimes my mental filter works). I wanted to tell her that if I fell in a lake - which would be literally almost impossible, given that there are no lakes nearby - it'd be my own damn fault & she would never even know about it. I wanted to tell her that I work my butt off, all day, every day, sitting alone in my living room, such that I sometimes can't even get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee without missing the first 10 minutes of a meeting, without feeling harried & panicked, without checking my email while I walk. I wanted to tell her that in a world full of bombs & shootings & all kinds of terrible things, she should be ashamed of being so mean to a total stranger - or to anyone at all.

I stared her down for a few seconds, trying to decide what to say. And then I swallowed hard, & I turned around. And I took a deep breath & put my phone in my pocket & walked away. And I remembered to "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."* And also because I'm terrified of lakes.

*I have no idea who said this, but it's one of my favorite quotes. I'd always thought it was Mother Theresa, who is apparently not even in the running.

*Apparently people fall into lakes while texting. I'm lookin' at you, Bonnie Miller & Tiffany Hess.

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