Writing to Help with My Encounter with Traffic Karen
As I sit here, reliving my experience, I can't help but think, "Should I really post this online? Would anyone care about my struggle as a Black woman living in a predominantly white country, and an even more predominantly white state?"
Yet, I don't know how to express myself and calm my nerves. Perhaps I'll just post this and label it fiction. But it's too real to label it as such. With my son playing in the background and tears brimming in my eyes, my nerves are shot, and my throat is tight.
I can't say I've never experienced bigotry before. But in my many decades on this planet, I've thought about the consequences of my (lack of) actions with my confrontation with Traffic Karen.
Is it acceptable for someone who isn't an authority figure, such as a police officer, firefighter, or first responder, to come out and be condescending and rude and teach you how you should behave because you're not from "their country"?
Before I continue with how I'm feeling, it would be best to get to the facts. After picking up my son from daycare, I'm less than 50 meters away from my apartment. It's a very lovely, eco-friendly neighborhood with young families.
I'm on a T-junction, reaching the head of the T. However, on the left side of the road because there's a parked car I'm riding in the right lane. As I'm approaching the end of the street, another car turns into the lane that I'm on, and we're staring head to head.
Of course, the white car has the right of way. But seeing that I couldn't reverse properly because I would hit the parked car, I motioned with my hand, asking if I could go. Seeing that I was a few meters from the end of the street, the woman did not move and stayed on her path. Neither did I. Yeah, two wrongs don't make a right. I called my fiancé, telling him I would be late because someone was blocking me and I couldn't reverse. He's still on the line, and after a few minutes, I opted to do what my fiancé asked me to do: to lower my window and ask her to reverse a bit. "Could you go back a bit, I can't reverse."
The other woman shook her head no. I was annoyed, and I didn't want to reverse and take my chances of hitting the parked car. Submitting an accident report is a pain where the sun doesn't shine. Also, to note, I'm halfway on a large concrete speed bump. I was like, "God, give me patience." So, trying to reverse, another car parks behind the parked car, and people start stepping out, a woman with two young children.
So, to avoid anything, I asked again, "Could you reverse a bit? You would still be on your lane, and I can maneuver to go on the right lane." But nothing. The woman opted instead to get out of her car and confront me, which, personally, I find imbecilic. But I believe some non-POC women don't have the same experience as POC women to know that's not a smart move.
Then another question popped in my head. Would she do this if I were a man or a Black man? Probably not, but you never know what gets into people's heads.
Here's where I made a mistake. I rolled down my window.
It's a blur, but the things that stuck out were, "Don't you know I have the right of way? I have to explain to you the traffic rules around here. We do things differently here."
If you're an immigrant and have experienced a diatribe from a non-minority, you could probably guess what I was feeling at that moment.
To top it all off, I was extremely stressed from work and also dealing with the everyday struggles like my health and finances. All of these issues came to a head, and I found myself increasing my volume. While I realize this may not have been the best approach, as someone from a Latino background, we tend to speak with passion and intensity. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that it was not the right move on my part.
As things escalated, I suggested that it would have all been over if she had just reversed a bit. Unfortunately, instead of de-escalating the situation, the woman's response only fueled my frustration. She told me that I needed to calm down and that they do things differently in this country. Instead of calming down, I became even more triggered by her bigotry.
In hindsight, I'm not proud of the thought that crossed my mind: "She's going to learn I'm the right one on the wrong day." Violence was not the answer in this situation. And fortunately, my son's gibberish distracted me and prevented me from acting on those thoughts. I rolled up my window and realized that I had far more to lose than this woman with a traffic cop hat.
If I had gotten out of my car and physically confronted her, the consequences would have been endless. What kind of role model would I have been for my son if I had shown him that fighting bigotry with violence was acceptable? What would my actions have done to my professional career? I'm too old to be fighting on these streets.
Despite my efforts to calm down, the woman continued to talk for what felt like hours. She eventually reversed her car, and I headed home, where my fiance was still on the phone waiting for me. I was shaking, and my nerves were shot. When I finally got inside, I unloaded a series of curses. The colloquial phrase, shoulda, coulda, woulda crossed my mind. I should have told her off. I could have just reversed my car. I would have rammed her car if I didn't have so much to lose.
In the grand scheme of things, nothing major happened. I didn't get shot and the police were not called. It's unfortunate that these were the two things that popped into my head as things to be grateful for, but it speaks to the times we live in. I can't help but think about the experiences of Black women and other POC women who have to swallow a lot of crap to avoid being labeled as angry or belligerent.
I'm frustrated with myself for letting this small, ignorant person ruin my good mood and for potentially reinforcing the stereotype of the angry Black woman. However, I'm grateful that I have writing as a positive outlet to process my emotions and clear my head. If this ever happens again — to be honest, it will — I wouldn't act out of character but politely put a prejudiced female dog in its place with my eloquent vocabulary. And perhaps my experience would be inspiration for a new book. I just have to concentrate on the positive.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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