Minutia/Civility, Chicago Style

16 Apr

It’s easy to think that people are jerkwads.  I do it often.  I hardly ever give folks the benefit of the doubt.  If someone screams something at me from a car, my middle finger goes up before I even register what they said – they could be asking directions for all I know (and then I’d be the jerkwad – TWIST!!!!).  I’m a little concerned that this will be the “baby sign language” that Ida picks up (rather than, say, the cow-milking gesture we’ve been practicing to signify “nursing”).  Baby’s first bird.  Nice.

Anyway, something tiny happened to me today and it really got me thinking – it shifted the way I looked at other people for a while.  I found it to be valuable, so I thought I’d share.

I was walking home with Ida from a lovely thrifting adventure at the Brown Elephant (banana yellow a-line skirt, birthday gift for my brother, and a great stack of books).  We were halfway through a cross walk when a car started coming through the intersection.  I saw the car and pulled Ida’s stroller out of the way and stood in the middle of the street, waiting for the car to go through.  This happens all the time and is no big deal.  Headline news:  drivers often don’t give a shit about pedestrians.  But the car saw me and stopped (even as I’m typing this, I’m thinking, “good grief – are you really telling this story?”  Yes.  Yes I am.  Riveting.).

Ok, here’s the good part.  So the car stopped and Ida and I hustled across.  I was a little PO’d.  That asshole almost hit my kid (okay, not really, but if I hadn’t seen the car, it looked like it was going to speed on through the intersection, and you know, I have a flair for the dramatic).  Once we were on the other side of the car, the driver rolled down her window and said “I’m really sorry.  Do you forgive me?”  Now, I’ve been walking in Chicago for a few years, and this sort of thing is really pretty unprecedented.  Usually in situations like this, everyone just takes the opportunity to get pissed off and yell something (as an aside, this sort of “out loud” living is one of the things I love about Chicago – no need to demure – just say something foul and move on with your day – everything is someone else’s fault and we all just sort-of agree to blow off our steam from these fracas’ and move on with our lives).  “Do you forgive me?”  That was just really beautiful to me.  The woman looked right at me, admitted a mistake and asked me to forgive her.  I did and then I cried a little on my way home (because, again, flair for the dramatic).  It just moved me.

So, as a result, I think I’m going to spend the next few days looking for opportunities to use Spacey McDriverson’s simple phrase:  “I’m really sorry.  Do you forgive me?”.  I’m sort-of a jerk (Spacey McDriverson, heh), so I bet I’ll have no trouble……

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4 Responses to “Minutia/Civility, Chicago Style”

  1. Jada April 16, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Interestingly enough, Nora gave me her first “bird” in-utero. She was notoriously camera shy on ultrasounds, and when I paid big money for a 3D ultrasound, she had been sticking her arms and feet in front of her face. When we FINALLY got her profile in shot, she slowly lifted her fist and flipped me the bird. I have the whole thing on video and in a still picture. I’m totally saving that to embarrass her with in front of her first boyfriend someday. 🙂

  2. megancottrell April 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    That is a really beautiful story. It makes me feel very calm, which is not how I usually feel in these situations, whether I am the mistakee or mistaked-upon. I usually get so mad if something like that happens to me, and if I make the mistake, I get mad too, justifying why I did it.

    Instead, why not admit it? After all, why do I really need to prove to the world that I am right at every second of the day.

    What an inspiration. I want to act like that lady more often.

  3. Leah Faleer April 18, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    I completely second what Megan said. Also, I totally love reading these; whenever I see that you’ve posted something new, it’s like when my favorite candy is on sale. 🙂

    • lizjoyntsandberg April 18, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

      Awe, thanks for the kind words guys. I’m not totally sure what I’m doing here, or why I feel the need to share my thoughts with the vast readership of my friends and family, but here we are. Thanks for being nice!

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