To the man who yelled at me during school drop off:
I want you to know that you got the best of me. I yelled back, in front of my 5-year-old child.
In case you yell at a lot of people before 8:00 AM on a Thursday, let me refresh your memory. I was holding my daughter’s hand, walking her to kindergarten. We were halfway through the crosswalk when your shiny, black SUV roared through the school entrance and then through the crosswalk without a second look.
But then, you rolled down your window, realizing that you were only a few feet away from a mother and her child, and yelled directly at us:
“You’re wrong! You need to use the tunnel!”
Yes, I know there is a tunnel that takes us under the road, but we chose to use the crosswalk today. We looked both ways and decided to use the thick white lines that were so carefully painted onto the pavement as our way to get to school. We used an appropriate crossing area where vehicles are required by law to stop for pedestrians.
You kept going with malice in your eyes: “You shouldn’t be there! You need to use the tunnel!”
This time, you were louder. Your face was contorted. Your left arm flung wildly out of your tinted driver’s side window, rage building by the second.
Your slicked back salt and pepper hair and freshly pressed, burgundy, gingham button-down shirt didn’t do much to hide your true colors this morning. Spite, anger, and righteousness were dripping from your brow.
That’s when I yelled back, louder than I’ve ever shouted in my life. Ironically, I said, “I’m not going to yell at you in front of the school!”
The force of my own voice scared me. My daughter tightened her grip around my fingers.
That is what you did to me. As a mother, writer, and former teacher, you would think that my words would have been more eloquent. Or that I would have at least known better than to engage with a bully.
After our exchange, you drove away to sit in the school drop off lane. We walked in the opposite direction toward the front entrance to the building. During that time, I told my daughter that I should have ignored the angry man. She agreed and said that you were probably having a bad day.
Did you hear that? My 5-year-old daughter decided to give you some grace. You couldn’t be bothered to stop for her in a crosswalk, yet she made space in her heart for your knee-jerk reaction.
When we arrived at the double-doors, I gave her a kiss on the forehead and let go of her hand.
Then I took the path that winds around the school, and I sat on the blue bench next to the playground. The tears came quickly, rolling down my cheeks.
I was thinking of how you felt so strong and mighty within those steel walls and how I felt so small and exposed while standing on the wet sidewalk. We were both just trying to get our kids to school after a long, frightening, uncertain year.
It strikes me that our kids might play together today on the playground. They might even sit on this same blue bench together. I hope they show each other a kindness that we were unable to model for them this morning.
And you will probably see me again tomorrow. I’ll be the one in the crosswalk.