Monday, December 13, 2010

on being and rudeness

"You really are."

You--in this case it was me.
Really--in full actuality, in this case modifying "are".
Are--present indicative of being, in this case a "real" being and therefore, existentially, presumably, an ontological inarguability.

And now, because I've brought it up . . .

Ontological Inarguability--a phrase I just made up intended to mean that a "Being" can only BE what it IS, "really," no more, no less, regardless of prejudice, hindsight disallowed. (Though Sartre, I believe, would have us also being Will-ares and Was-bes (phrases I just made up and with which I am self-delighted)--an amalgam of forgotten and unknowable states, respectively--but in this case, let's be satisfied with a limited definition of "Being.")

So it was like this:

Earlier, I was compelled to stop productive momentum, be-coat myself, and drive to the library--some books and movies for to return. I was listening to my Speak German CDs and calling out responses to the teacher's prompts when my turn came upon me suddenly. Traffic was heavy and I am easily confused when thrust into the Immediate. Heroically, I navigated my course successfully, wedged though I was, precariously between two cars, fore and aft.

However, as I made my turn into the library's parking lot, I noticed that another car--one of those mini-vans-but-not-
really-- was all tight up in my business like a lead ball in a musket. The driver, a blond woman, veered left when I turned right toward the drop-off awning. No harm, no foul.

Leaving my car running (the weather outside was frightful and my heat was sure da-da-dah), I dropped my materials into the outside deposit slot. I turned back to my car and was confronted by a red-faced blond woman.

"Could you
really not let me in back there? You were in such a hurry?" she barked at me. "You're gonna make me miss the library when I'm trying to turn in my kid's book so it won't be late?" she continued, in quite a froth. I shrugged, stunned. Again, confused by the unexpected immediacy. But it dawned on me, maybe this woman was trying to get in the turn-lane that I was so tenuously keeping in line with. But I would never . . . not on purpose . . . it's just not the way I am . . .

"You are
rude on Christmas, you know that?" she says and then (wait for it) . . .

(wait for it) . . .

You really are!"

As she strode triumphantly through the library's automatic doors, I managed a polite "Who even are you?" But she was gone.

And gone she is and yet those three words still linger. On the drive home, I actually felt bad. Some kind of jerk, I am. She had almost missed her turn. (Another, more accessible, wider-laned, turn was a mere thirty feet farther down, but still.) Her precious child had a brush with delinquency. (Narrowly missed by the six hours before closing, but still.) And on Christmas, no less. (December 13, but still.) I was truly disturbed, upset. My stomach felt empty, my chest cold. The thought--
I am rude--like a dull ache in my head.

But wait. No I am not. Not when it comes to courtesy on the road. In fact, I err on the side of extreme, inordinate, extra-mile-type courtesy when it comes to allowing drivers to merge and cut or enter the traffic. One car, two cars, oh what the hell, three cars come on in. The more's not the merrier but we all gotta get where we're going in this life, might as well scootch in.

So why was I letting myself feel guilty of an un-willed act? A fact of circumstance not at all linked to my Being; an event of objects not of subjects. Of cars and calendars and just one in a billion near collisions across the universe any given second.

that's the way I am. Too easily mussed by the "gaze of the other." [Sartre] Too readily ashamed of my place in a big, fast, confusing world.


  1. I would guess there is a lot more going on in that lady's life right now than (nearly)overdue library books and(nearly) missed turns at(nearly) Christmas.Exploding on a stranger may have felt safer than blowing up at the person really responsible for all her angst. Just saying.......

  2. She lost whatever high ground she may have had when she stomped over shaking her finger.

  3. Jonathan, I never took you to be the "Grinch" type. That is just -NOT- the way you are. Some people can't seem to look past the end of their own nose (i.e. plank in their eye) except to see the offenses (i.e. speck of dust) of others. They go about life thinking everyone is out to get them. I would hate for them to find out that they are no, in fact, the center of the universe. (Especially on Christmas-almost)
    Merry Christmas anyway!!