This afternoon I had to drive down to the Pennsylvania Convention Center to pick up my office’s passes for the APHA meeting. Trying to find parking in that area, especially the day after several inches of snow is not my favorite activity. I had circled the area twice and was starting to feeling really frustrated, when, heading east on Filbert, I saw a well dressed man getting into a car. I pulled up behind him, as his brakelights came on, and turned on my blinker. A New Jersey Transit bus pulled up behind me and sat on his horn, while I stopped traffic for 35 seconds to let the spot free up. He flashed his lights at me and did his very best to intimidate me into moving and letting him past, which I was not about to do. That was my parking space, and no big old bus was going to scare me off of it.
The car exited the spot and I pulled in quickly. A little too quickly, because as I was backing up, I gently tapped the early model GM sedan behind me. A car in which someone was sitting. It was the kind of tap that you experience while parking all the time, but one that could set someone off, if they were looking to release some frustration out onto someone. I finished my parking job as fast as I could, grabbed my keys and my bag and headed over to the car behind me. The driver’s window was half open and I leaned down and said, “I tapped you didn’t I? I am so sorry. It’s just that that bus was honking at me and I was trying to get out of his way.” The elderly black man sitting in the driver’s seat turned his head towards me and offered a slow smile. In a gentle voice, he said, “I’m not killed, am I?” With a carefree flap of his hand, he told me not to worry about and sent me on my way.
As I walked towards the convention center, I felt light, as if during that simple interaction, I had been wiped clean, my tension and hurry erased. I wish I could thank him again, for accepting my human foible and not piling any extra frustration or anger on me just for coming into contact with him. I wish more exchanges in life were like that.