A few weeks ago, I was driving from The Exchange to the ferry landing to get lunch. It's only one long road and it's fairly smooth: a few hills, a few gradual turns. It's easy to race along it like a NASCAR driver. However, as most of us know, I'm on "deferred finding" for my second speeding ticket since moving to the island, so I creep along this stretch of road, but enjoy the pastoral beauty as I go. I've actually gotten pretty good at relaxing into going the speed limit. It's yet another suburban trait that I've left behind: the anxiety of feeling like I'm not doing enough to make sure I get someplace fast enough once I've left the house. It feels good to stop worrying about it since I can't really affect ETA once the launch time is final.
So, I'm enjoying the baby lambs as I drive the speed limit to get my lunch. I'm also thinking about wind drag on car-top carriers since the mini-van behind me with the car-top carrier is obviously going slower than I am since the gap between us keeps widening. As I'm keeping track of this situation in my rearview, this hatchback comes racing out of nowhere, passes the mini-van and gets right up on my ass. Very uncool, especially since there are just enough curves and hills on this stretch of road to make it a double yellow center line, no passing zone all the way to the ferry. So, this guy continues to ride my ass for the next ten minutes. I'm dealing with this in my usual way by first tapping on my brakes to indicate that he's too close (just like the manual says to so that I can have the higher moral ground for having followed the rules first) then by slowing down, slowing down until he gets the hint and backs off. This guy does get the hint, but as soon as I resume the speed limit, he rides my ass again. So I slow down again. I'm thinking this pattern is pretty funny by the time we get to the landing. I was also thinking that he was hurrying in order to catch a ferry. However, he continues to ride my ass as I pass the entrance to the ferry parking lot and travel 50 feet down the hill to the little deli. In fact, although he does not park in the parallel spot right in front of me, he pulls up to the spot 3 or 4 car lengths ahead of me and parks. Interestingly, although I gave him time to get out of his car, he waited longer for me to get out of mine. I went in, got our lunches and as I was talking to the cashier, the subject of tourists came up. I then told her this story of this tourist who rode my ass all the way to the ferry landing. I talked about him as if he were a tourist because I couldn't imagine that someone who actually lived here would drive like that. It's too small of a community and we're all here because it's NOT the rest of the world.
However, the guy comes up to the other cashier and she starts talking to him like she knows him. I recognized him because I'd been watching him during our little trip in my rear-view and the big, black eye-patch was pretty unique. This is when I learned his name was Julian. So he leaves while I'm still talking to my lady and I say, "I totally think that was the guy that rode my ass all the way here from the Exchange." The woman that had been talking to Julian said that I should say something to him. On my way out the door I said, "I think I will." However, as I hit the light of day, I changed my mind. The potential for that to get ugly was too great and I'd been having too good a day. I felt back about that, though because I'd just had several interactions with people who had pissed me off because they avoided confrontations by being snarky and passive-aggressive. To back away froma confrontation just because it might be ugly would be acting like they had been acting. Damn that golden rule! But, I figured that there was nothing I could do since the guy had gone out the door ahead of me. So I went across the street to the public bathroom and then came back to my car.
His car was still there! So, now I pretty much have to go talk to him. I quickly brainstormed an approach that would not necessarily put his defenses up but that would also lend me some authority. The fact that he was leisurely eating his lunch when I walked up decided me, since that meant he had absolutely no justification for edging up on me like he was in a hurry. I said excuse me and hello, then offered my hand, "My name is Rebecca. I live back in Eastsound. I wanted to ask if next time you wouldn't drive so close to me. It really stresses me out."
"I don't know what you are referring to." The smooth lie started to put me into teacher-in-the-hallway mode.
"I think you do. Almost the whole way from the Exchange to here you were riding my ass."
"I disagree with you. I was not that close." Notice that he swiftly shifts from denying the situation to arguing with my assessment, thus admitting that he DID know what I was referring to.
"You were that close and I'm just asking you not to do that. That's mainland driving." A big insult to islanders to imply that they don't actually belong here. I didn't mean to insult but it was what I had been thinking.
"Well, I live here too."
"And most of us that live here moved here for the slower pace." All of my dialogue was in conversational tone while he kept getting more and more desperate sounding.
"It was only after the big hill when you sped up then slowed down that I caught up to you."
"Actually, it was right after you passed the mini-van with the car-top that jumped right up on top of me."
"Well, you could have moved over to let me pass." Notice that he never disagrees with my statements, he just tries to find a different way in which I'm wrong.
"It was a double yellow line the whole way."
"Well, I have a right to risk getting a ticket for speeding if I want to."
This is where my teacher training kicks in because I didn't let him take the conversation away from the one specific behavior that was inappropriate. "I don't deny your right to speed; I'm just asking you not to ride my ass when you can't."
After that, he really didn't have that much to say except to sputter a little more about how he disagreed with the fact that he was too close.
I felt good about that confrontation. It didn't escalate for to a fight and even though I don't think I won him over, I know that he heard my point. I know that he heard it because every response he had screamed, "I did it! You caught me! I'm embarassed and going to try to cover it up!" I feel like I contributed to the Orcas community by doing that. Also, it reaffrimed to me that I'm not a mean person because it never even occurred to me to point out that his lack of an eye might affect his depth perception when he was disagreeing with me about how close he was, which would only be a form of name-calling. I only thought of that later when I was telling the story as something funny I could have said if it were a TV show.
A couple of days ago, I saw Julian again. I was in the parking lot at the grocery store on the Fourth of July. Most islanders don't venture out of their property on the weekend of the Fourth because there are so many oblivious tourists on the island. If we do, we know that it's our own fault that everything takes longer because we didn't have the foresight to get what we needed before the weekend. When I saw Julian, however, he had honked at someone backing out of their parking space at the grocery store. This wasn't a friendly tap to let them know he was there. He laid on the horn and as I turned my head to see the commotion, I distinctly saw him mutter, "F---ing moron!" I looked at him long and hard to make sure he saw me seeing him. I'm astounded that anyone could have that much anger and road rage on an island that only has one road and has no stoplights.
Julian just doesn't get it and that baffles me. Why move to a beautiful place with a specific sense of community if you just want to keep living your life the way you did before? Why move to a place that entails a certain amount of inconvenience if you don't want the benefits?
12.14.17 ~ with my sidekick - Oh this little one of mine, Adelaide. Not so little really, being twelve now and all. Twelve, can you believe it? I know some of you have been here reading...