Saturday, April 5, 2014

Do We Really Know?

Post by Evan Hartman: This is Evan's second post. He is in his 4th year of teaching. This is his first year at Bettendorf High School. You can follow Evan on twitter @EvanrHartman

During one of the warmer days this winter (it must have been about 10 degrees or so), I was taking my 2 year old son to buy some groceries. The weather was reliably terrible and the parking lot was a slushy mess. As we pulled into the lot, I immediately noticed a bright yellow sports car parked directly in front of the store. This car was decked out to draw attention – big spoiler, vinyl graphics, the works. It was also double parked; not a little, but a lot. It was parked the way somebody parks when they show not just complete indifference but perhaps antipathy to the very concept of parking spaces.

My first thought when I saw this was “What a jerk”. My second thought was “Awesome, there’s still a great space right in front of that car”. As I pulled into my new awesome parking space, I spotted a note left under the wiper blade of the yellow sports car. It was left on the stationary of spontaneous parking lot interactions (a napkin) and it was brief. In letters so large that I could read them 10 feet away, it read “A**HOLE”.

I initially felt a little tinge of vindication. You tell ‘em, anonymous parking lot vigilante. However, as I sat in the car gathering my courage to face the elements, the car’s owner arrived. I watched in curious silence as an elderly woman approached the car keys in one hand and a small bag of groceries in the other. Imagine your grandmother; now imagine someone looking infinitely more the archetypal nice old lady and you’ll be able to picture this woman. She was slight and bundled in a coat that likely outweighed her.

A wave of guilt swept over me – this woman wasn't an a**hole, she was just old and probably couldn't see the lines. I briefly contemplated trying to grab the note to spare her the indignity, but she would certainly see me – I wouldn't take the blame for another’s impulsive revenge note. I hoped that she just wouldn't see the note; after all, she missed the lines, right? Being parked so close, she was upon the car quickly and the die was cast.

She immediately noticed the note. She picked it up, crumpled it without reading it, and threw it on the ground. She smiled and got in the car; without appreciable pause, she backed right out of the space (nearly hitting both a pedestrian and another car), and sped out of the lot.

I was more than a little stunned. If I watched my grandmother act that way, I would have been appalled. She drove the way I would expect one of my students to drive. It dawned on me that I had no idea what this person was like. Was this person an aggressive driver who couldn't care less about everyone else? Was she just an old lady struggling with the weather? Why did this old woman have a pimped out sports car?

In our line of work we deal with a huge number of people on a daily basis, and I think that sometimes we have to be reminded that they will continually defy our expectations. Sometimes this is for the better and sometimes for the worse.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting read: you just never know. Think of how many people you know who would have decided who she was based on what you saw. Analysis and ability to continually reflect and reconstruct meaning is a hard skill. We need to do it more. Kudos to you for doing so!