Last Tuesday I was running late for my hip-hop class at the Albany Senior Center. (I’ll pause here so you can conjure up and then dismiss those images. Are we ready to continue now?)
I usually walk there because it’s so close, but I was finishing up a project, and…well, you know how it goes. I found a space on the street that required advanced parallel parking skills, but I was undaunted. Because it was a tight fit, my bumper tapped the car parked behind me ever so slightly. Now I’m a firm believer that parallel parking is the very reason we have bumpers. I mean, what are they for if not to protect cars in just this situation?
But when I glanced in my rearview mirror, the sour, wide-eyed expression on the woman in the driver’s seat led me to believe that she may not share this opinion.
Before I opened the door, I took a deep breath and did my best to channel my husband, Dave, who is the consummate diplomat. Then we both got out of our cars to take a look.
“I’m sorry–I must have startled you!” I chirped as she gazed at me, appearing wary of my sunny attitude.
“You hit my car,” she answered, not in an attacking way but in a serious tone.
I decided against presenting my theory on the purpose of bumpers as we both inspected her car. Rather than reacting, I considered my options: Getting defensive would only escalate the tension. Assume the best, I told myself. Be honest, but admit nothing that she could run with (just in case she had a bent chassis from a previous run-in and needed someone else’s insurance to cover it.) I was lucky–there were no scratches, dents, or even dirt on her front bumper.
“It looks like no harm was done,” I offered with a smile.
I saw her shoulders relax and her face soften as she agreed, “Yeah, I don’t see anything, so I guess it’s okay…”
“Good for you!” I exclaimed, pointing to the little red, white, and blue oval on her blouse. “I sent in my ballot a few weeks ago–I was worried that lines would be long at the polls–but I kinda miss that feeling you get when you vote on election day, and, of course, I didn’t get a sticker.”
All of this was true. For once I actually sent in my ballot early, and I did find myself envying her sticker and the sense of pride that accompanied it.
She opened up, “I voted for Bernie, and it felt really good–voting for someone I truly believe in.”
“Me too! Now I kind of wish that I’d voted today. Were the lines long?”
We chatted for a moment more, no longer thinking about her car or whether bumpers were intended to be bumped. We were just two Bernie supporters who had voted our hopes and dreams, even though we both knew he was unlikely to clinch the Democratic nomination.
I wished her a good day and trotted on over to my dance class feeling lighter. It could have been an ugly interaction with accusations and finger-pointing. But it wasn’t. We’d made a connection, and it actually brightened my day.
Of course, had she been a Trump follower, things might have gone differently…