When I accidentally blew through a red light and you had to slam on your brakes to avoid hitting me, the gesture you gave me out the window and the curse words you threw my way–words that you deemed important enough to roll down your window to make sure I heard you scream at me–caused me to cry.
In fact, those actions sent tears streaming down my face from that red light all the way until I reached the next red light, though admittedly, I did manage to stop for that next one.
Sir, you might think that I’m angry with you, or that I’m writing you this letter so that I can complain about the unkindness of humanity or some other rant about what a horrible person you are.
You’re not a horrible person. In fact, I don’t know who you are beyond the fact you were driving a blue truck and wore a yellow shirt. I can’t even close my eyes and remember your face–just blue and yellow, and anger.
But I’m not mad at you.
In fact, I’m writing this letter to thank you. I know you’ll never read this and even if you did, your impromptu meeting with me was probably quite inconsequential to you. In fact, it’s likely once you got to work and cursed to your buddies or your boss about how some crazy redheaded woman in a red car ran a red light and how you were late coming back from lunch because of her, you probably promptly forgot all about me.
But I, sir, have been carrying you in my heart ever since that day.
I want to thank you, sir. I want to thank you for waking me up. I want to thank you for making me cry.
You probably think I’m crazy by now, don’t you? I’m not.
You see, that morning, my ‘friend’ was my ex, and we had just broken up, but he had promised me he would be there for me on this particular day for this particular reason. And I needed his support that morning, and I turned down the support of others so that I could spend that time with him. He promised me he would be there, but he never showed. I was heartbroken, but I had business to attend to, so I choked back tears I didn’t have time to cry.
You see, the place where my friend was supposed to meet me was my doctor’s office. Instead of the comfort of a friend’s hand to hold, when I got the bad news from the doctor, I sat alone, numb, staring at my empty hands, twisting my fingers around and around. When the doctor asked me if I was okay, I nodded and swallowed hard, and then I looked up at him and smiled.
“It’s what we expected, right? I was expecting this,” I said to him. “We expected this.”
He patted my hand and tried to comfort me, but I was too numb.
I stayed numb from there to the phone where I tried to call my friend who had stood me up. Then I tried to call another friend, but managed to get his voice mail instead. Still numb, I walked to a small cafeteria, where I tried to eat some lunch, but barely choked down a few bites. After lunch, I paid the water bill, and then I got into my car and began to drive back to my house.
On the drive home, that’s when, my mind so focused on painful things, I ran that red light that made you slam on your breaks. I probably shouldn’t have been driving, I know, but the fact is, I was, and your honking at me, your screams, woke me from the trance the doctor’s news had put me in. That’s when I started crying.
And I cried all the way to the next street light, then pulled into a parking lot and I gave myself permission to cry. I was able to get the emotion out and touch it, turn it, twist it in front of me. This made me stronger when I came home to face my children, knowing I was going to have to put on a brave front so they were not scared.
If not for you, sir, the man in the blue truck that day, I might not have found the courage, touched that emotion. I might not have stayed dazed and numb.
That was four years ago when we met, Blue Truck Man.
I bet I haven’t crossed your mind a single time in the past four years, but you still cross my mind often. Each time you do, I say a prayer for you. I suppose I could have become angry with you too, for yelling at me, honking the horn, screaming obscenities and throwing rude gestures my way. But then, you see, you didn’t know I had just come from my doctor. You didn’t know the news he had given me. You didn’t know me.
And though I don’t know you any better than you know me, I’m pretty certain that had you known, you might have even comforted me, offered condolences. At the very least, if you had known, I feel certain you would have excused my lapse in driving judgment.
But you didn’t know. How could you have known? So I don’t blame you. Many times in my life I’d honked my horn and cursed another driver, after all. I’m not blameless.
So when I think back on our impromptu meeting, sometimes my mind wonders what was going on in your world prior to us nearly crashing that day that made you so angry, because I’m pretty sure anger like that doesn’t come from some crazy woman running a red light. That’s when I say a prayer for you, one of gratitude and one of peace, hoping that whatever caused your anger that day was healed in you as much as my tears were emotionally healing for me.
Also, Mr. Yellow Shirt Man, I want to thank you for introducing me to Ms. Green Car.
You see, in my life, I’ve learned that the universe brings balance to everything.
Immediately after your angry tirade at my running the red light, when I cried my way to the next light and stopped, Ms. Green Car sat patiently, not even honking her horn while I cried through the green light change until it was red again.
She could not see me cry anymore than you could have seen what was inside my mind. She had no clue why I was sitting at a green light anymore than you knew why I ran that red one. She, though, unlike you, let me sit, silent. I thank her for that, and I thank you for introducing me to Ms. Green Car. In nearly the same moment in my life, the universe brought me balance in you and in her, showing me that no matter how bad things seemed for me, they could always get worse and they could always get better.
And that’s when I became grateful for the moment. Not any one particular moment, but each moment, every moment, in the moment.
You did that for me.
In turn, I tell the story of my meeting you, sir. I think it’s important for people to realize that you will likely never know the impact you’ve made on my life. I couldn’t find you if I wanted to so I could thank you or even tell you how much it’s meant to me. But I think in sharing the story with others, maybe, just maybe, people will look at others when they are out and about their day and stop judging people by their actions and instead offer a minor offense some grace.
You never know what’s going on in someone else’s heart, mind or soul. You may never know the impact you have on the universe, the world, the life of another.
If every human being stopped for a moment and asked, “If I knew XXX about this person, would I still respond this way?” I think the world would be a kinder, gentler place.
So Mr. Blue Truck Man, the woman at the grocery store who was obnoxiously rude, she owes you a debt of gratitude when, after three horribly rude customers, she looked at me and said, “What are you looking at?”
I responded by saying, “You have the most beautiful blue eyes, so very pretty.”
She teared up; I tear up now remembering. She went from snapping at me, to thanking me, and went out of her way to look up a coupon code for me on something that was on sale, without me even asking.
The little old lady at the bank who was counting her pennies and nickels from the jar when the man behind her was talking purposely loudly to his friend about how old people were slow and irritating, and her hands were shaking and she kept losing count… that little old lady has you to thank for me asking, “Do you mind if I help you roll those?”
I can tell countless stories like these over the past four years, where, when irritation and frustration is my first response, that I remember you, your upraised middle finger, your snarling voice as you rolled down the window to curse at me…. and I smile and offer a word of kindness instead.
I thank you and your finger and your blue truck and your foul mouth. The universe is just a little bit better now, because of you, sir.
The “Fucking Woman Driver!”