Wednesday, March 12, 2014
"Be nice. Until it's time not to be nice."
I teach high school, and daylight saving time just ended, so when I was leaving this morning, it was midnight black out. My neighborhood is a nice neighborhood, which butts up against a not-so-nice area. It's not horrible, but not nice either. Both neighborhoods meet up as they exit onto the main road. So I'm at a stoplight that takes forever to change, on the edge of a not-so-good area, and its very dark. Because it was finally cool out (I live in Florida) I had the window partly open.
I've seen many people be completely oblivious while they are driving, let alone while the car is sitting at a light. There was a good one-liner online that said "Its a good thing not everyone has smartphones, otherwise there would be no one to honk when the light turns green." I don't do that. In fact, I've been trying to increase my awareness through practice.
There was a guy who started walking up to my car. He came from the intersection, two cars up on the driver's side of the car. For some reason, he "pinged my radar." I don't know why, so I started doing four things all at the same time, really paying attention to him, planning an escape route (the lane next to me was open), rolling up the window, and worrying that I seem like a paranoid racist. Wait, what? That last one surprised even me. The man moving towards my car was black. I'm not. The instruction to be civil is so ingrained in our society that even when it is appropriate to be rude, it is hard to be.
As I said, I started paying attention. The man had his right hand in his pocket as he got close to my car. His clothes were too nice to be a homeless man, and he knocked on my window asking for a cigarette, keeping that hand in his pocket. I know that when people are trying to be smaller, defensive, they put their hands in their pockets. Its a body language way to seem less of a risk. However, I know that other people know that as well, and are willing to take advantage of the subconscious body language that we human animals all speak.
I shooed him away with my hand, but he kept knocking and trying to talk. I kept saying "No." There was no chance in hell that I would roll down the window with this guy standing there, especially when I couldn't see his other hand. I know that asking for something, like "a cigarette" is the start of a lot of con/robbery tactics. Luckily, the light changed, and I drove away with him still knocking, and trying to talk to me. I could hear the racist epitaphs fading into the distance. I have no idea that he would have tried anything, but I was not willing to put myself into a situation to find that out. I know many people are reading this going, yes this is exactly what I would do, but there have to be enough people that fall for it, otherwise they would quit trying. Now, I wouldn't say I'm rude in general, in fact, I try to be nice almost all the time. It's just, I have no problem being rude if there is cause.
By the way, if you didn't know, the quote from the title is from Roadhouse, a movie about a bouncer played by Patrick Swayze. It is at the same time, a great movie, and a horrible 80's movie.