I’m stopped at a red light. I look over and the girl driving the car next to me is grooving to her music. I mean really going for it – singing, head bopping, the whole thing.
She opens her eyes, notices me looking and immediately stops. I don’t want her fun to be ruined, so I quickly smile and improvise a series of gestures to her – The “No No It’s Cool” head shake, the vigorous two thumbs up, capped off by my supportive “Raise the Roof / White Man Dance”.
Her face is frozen in a look of horror, disgust and disapproval. The light turns green and she quickly drives off.
The awkwardness isn’t done. She’s driving the speed limit in the left lane and I’m late for my hockey game. But I’m hesitant to drive past her on the right, like the feeling of cutting somebody off and having to face them. So I’m doing the driving equivalent of the creepy guy in the bar, not approaching, not passing, just lurking over her shoulder in the right lane.
In my head, I’m laughing at being pegged as a weirdo while comments from the #YesAllWomen campaign scroll in my head like the end credits of a movie.
Not knowing how to segue out comfortably for both parties, I end the scenario by gunning it past her with no acknowledgement at all. Because nothing brings closure like an abrupt departure.
I laughed about it for the rest of the drive while also having a bit of sadness for a bygone time that maybe only exists in my imagination, but when moments like these might have been taken as charmingly graceless rather than a cause for fight-or-flight syndrome. These modern brushes with strangers are easier if you’re accompanied by a child, woman or golden retriever.
Perhaps in modernity we must be ever wary of threat, of the sex offender or pedophile among us. Maybe it was naive of our parents to let us walk to school rather than protect us from predators by scooping us up in a minivan every day?
I don’t know, isn’t this wariness another form of “letting the terrorists win?” The western liberal world seems so committed to protecting our rights and freedoms, we howl at government or the media for manipulating us, but don’t rights and freedoms include the micro level moments like the girl in the car? Unless I truly project an aura of malevolence (quite possible), or I misread it and she was simply embarrassed, I felt saddened for her knee jerk reaction. This wasn’t a dark street or a nightclub, where guardedness is needed. Does the reality of threat deserve to follow us into our every waking moment? Was it always this tense out there?
Maybe I’m just a privileged straight white male whose vision and hearing is distorted, but those Charlie Brown kids were onto something when they listened to the adults ( that droning sound is the most brilliant voice over in the history of animation). The cries from the liberal left in the media and on social media sound an awful lot like the traditional plea from the conservative right: “What about the WOMEN and CHILDREN?” Whether it comes from a yoga mom or a redneck, the tenor of it always sounds the same to me – fearful as hell and encouraging me to be outraged. Facebook is hilarious, it sounds like a small town who’s lost its mind and everyone is rioting. You know those pseudo prayers you see people vainly throwing out on their Facebook wall? “We need to calm down, please, there’s too much anger in the world!” ( Followed by 7 likes and 1 comment disagreeing and restarting another argument.)
Maybe I’m a moron. I did spend most of college drunk. And maybe the rabbit hole of my brain needs some repair. But as I drove to the rink that night, I mulled the parallels between white, male beer league hockey players and Muslims on airplanes. I guess in my heart of hearts, if I had been dancing to Beyonce while sitting in 12C and a brown guy with a beard was looking at me, I might have been frightened for a moment.
But I hope I would think “Don’t let the terrorists win!”, smile at the gentleman, and go back to dancing to ‘All the Single Ladies’.
A guy can dream, right?