The other day I was driving in my car when this guy totally cut me off in an exit ramp on the Grand Central Parkway. Traffic wasn’t even that bad. I was maybe ten, eleven cars back, waiting for my turn to get off. And yes, of course I considered coasting along the left side of all of the other waiting cars, cutting in front right at the last second. There was plenty of room, and cops never pull drivers over on the Grand Central Parkway. But I waited my turn. And right when I was on deck, this guy comes out of nowhere and noses in front of me, very aggressively, looking back at me to make eye contact, like saying, “What are you going to do about it, huh?”
So you know what I did? I gave him a big smile and waved him through, as if to say, “Go for it, friend. Please, help yourself to my spot.” Because, who am I to get angry? Maybe this guy just got fired from his job. Maybe he was a professional driver, but his boss called him in to the office today, he was like, “Listen, you’re a nice guy and everything, but this isn’t working out. You’re too soft on the road. We need someone a little more assertive. Sorry, but you’re fired.” And this guy’s driving home, he’s thinking, I’m not soft behind the wheel, I’m very assertive, aggressive even. And then he cuts me off and he looks at me and, what? What is he expecting?
So that’s me, giving him a thumbs up, I’m telling him through my body language, “Yeah man. You tell ‘em. I can’t believe your boss incorrectly pegged you as the passive type. You. You, my friend, are most certainly one of the stronger drivers I’ve encountered on the road. And that’s saying something, because I’m driving a lot. Let me tell you something, the way you saw that six inch gap open up in front of me, the attitude expressed as you inched your front bumper into a position that I was in no way capable of arguing with, that my amigo, that was some ballsy driving. In a good way.”
And then later in the evening I went to the grocery store to get something for dinner. I had a craving for Mexican food, and I always make this great sauce, you need smoked jalapenos canned in adobo, whatever that means, I found this recipe a while ago that called for smoked jalapenos in adobo. Anyway, this grocery store had just one can left. What luck, right? So I threw it in my cart and headed down the dairy aisle to pick up some eggs and milk and stuff.
But I was looking at expiration dates, making sure everything was fresh, when I noticed this lady kind of shadowing behind me. It was weird enough that I was definitely picking up some strange vibes, but not entirely noticeable that I’d necessarily call her out. Besides, I had no idea of her intentions, if anything, it was my fault that I’d automatically assume something negative going on. But unfortunately, my instincts proved correct, because while I was opening up a carton of eggs to test the strength of each shell, I caught this lady in the corner of my eye reach into my basket and snatch my can of peppers.
By the time my mind registered what was actually happening, she had already shuffled half an aisle down, her head turned back just enough so I could make eye contact with her left eye, and without saying anything, I could read her, she was telling me, “Go ahead and say something. You want to make a scene? Let’s make a scene. I’m crazy enough to steal groceries out of your cart. You think I won’t scream? Or throw stuff? Try me.”
You know what I did? I flashed her a big smile, almost like I was in the middle of a good natured, sincere laugh. I opened my hands and raised them in the air while I shrugged my shoulders, almost like saying, “You got me! Yep, you certainly got me, you devil you,” and then I made a mock-squinty face, wagging my finger at her, like, “Oh you, I see you, but you got me!” because, why am I going to get so upset? Over peppers? She obviously needed those peppers, or at least wanted them more enough than I did, because I’d never steal groceries out of someone else’s basket, not unless I had a really good reason. Maybe she had a really good reason. Maybe her dad grew those peppers. Maybe those peppers were his most prized peppers, out of all of the other peppers he’d ever grown. And maybe when he wasn’t looking, the farm owners came over and harvested everything and put them in cans with adobo sauce, and he came running home to his daughter and was like, “Honey, you saved the big ones, right? My prized peppers? When they came for the harvest, tell me you saved my favorite peppers!” and she didn’t know what to say, she knew how much her dad loved those peppers, and seeing the pain it caused him, watching this once proud man fall to his knees, weeping like a child, she had no other choice than to follow the chain of production, to buy back every single can of peppers that she could get her hand on. Surely if she could present her father with all of those cans, he’d see how sorry she was, that maybe one of those peppers was in one of those cans, somewhere, somehow.
And that’s why I stood there in the aisle, still fake laughing at that lady, like I was telling her, “No need to be so sneaky, I’m not mad at all. Please, help yourself to anything you need. Can I help you with anything else? Maybe I have some old cans tucked away in the back of my pantry. Might those be of any help? Can I help you carry your bags to the car? Do you need me to find other cans of peppers in different groceries? I could ask the manager if they have any stocked away in the back.”
But she still looked really suspicious, still shuffling toward the register, still with that one left eye trained on my general vicinity. I couldn’t possibly know what she was going through, no more than she could know about me, about how while I was doing my best to let her know that I was OK, I lost the grip in my left hand, that carton of eggs, it slipped just a little bit, and I caught it, but the carton jolted slightly, and one egg fell out, it was open after all, I was checking all of the eggs, I don’t know why, it’s something my mother taught me as a little kid that you’re supposed to do when you buy eggs, and so this one egg fell right at my feet, egg everywhere, on both shoes, on my left pant leg, and I was just standing there shrugging and grinning and throwing my other hand in the air, like, “Whoops! What a klutz! Right? I can’t believe I dropped that egg on my shoe. Clean up on aisle six! Please, I’m fine, I can handle this. Give me the mop. I’d like to be the one to take care of this mess. No it’s fine, I insist. If this is the worst thing that happens to me today, then I’ll be A-OK, I’ll be in great shape, just terrific!”