Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You Disgust Me

I know some people relate to strangers with a degree of distrust. I am not one of those people. I am well and truly my father's daughter: I like to chat with just about anyone I come across and feel at ease in most social situations. I am not sure why this is so but it may relate to the way my self esteem and temperament are calibrated. But today I had an encounter with a stranger that did not involve a pleasant exchange about the vagaries of Melbourne weather or its public transport system. Instead I found myself in a hostile encounter with a lady driver who had just watched me park my wheels. I was on my way into Fifteen Pounds, my local and sometimes cafe, when she lowered the passenger side of the window of her new VW Golf to half mast and with a look of utter contempt said "You disgust me."

I looked back at my parked car. It was true that one of the wheels was wedged inelegantly on the pavement. Still, "You disgust me?" I pushed back. "What? What's wrong with my park?" She was shaking her head. "If you need to ask that, you shouldn't hold a licence." She took a look at the child in my arms: "You set a bad example." That was tough.

We were parked directly outside the cafe, only a large plane of glass separated us and curious spectators. I felt embarassed, even a sense of shame.

I guess I could have ignored her but I didn't. I back tracked. Got my little koala back in her seat and re-parked, fighting the urge to reverse directly into the Golf's bumper. That lady didn't budge. She just sat there shaking her head like a well-coiffered traffic cop.

On my way in to the cafe, take two, I stopped by her window. She was still shaking her head at me. "You know what" I said, "There are ways of putting things. You could have just said 'That's not a great park'". I had no other defence.

But I felt injured. And partly it has to do with the fact my parking is a reflection of my slap-dash cavalier attitude to many things. My car looked like it belonged to a gun slinger who had pulled up to a saloon in the Wild West. I sometimes feel like I live in the Wild West. In that moment I understood that the head shaking lady driver and I inhabited different universes.

Up until now I've always liked VW's and extended that warm feeling to its drivers. I've felt concern for the Golf's mechanical malfunctions and imminent recall. But today I returned that lady's disgust and contempt and over my coffee made a silent prayer: I hope your engine fails.

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