by Martha Slavin
“Be kind, be kind, be kind, be kind.”
~ Henry James
I am the last person to yell at anyone but I found myself rolling down the window of my car today and yelling at a young mom to get off her phone and pay attention. She turned around and yelled back that it was none of my business what she was doing.
Actually it was my business.
The road I was driving on was sectioned off for oiling. The lanes for both directions of traffic were very narrow. The young mom was walking along the edge of the road with her two young children while she was talking on her phone. Her daughter kept looking back apprehensively to see if cars were coming their way. At the stop sign, a large pickup truck began to turn the corner, almost getting stuck because the turn was so narrow. The mom and her kids decided at that point to walk in the middle of the road beside my car and the truck. I just couldn’t believe what she was doing and rolled down my window, and yelled, “Get off the phone!”
The truck managed the corner and drove away. The young mom, still bristling from our exchange, looked at me and yelled back. I waved for her to go ahead and she stepped out in front of my car to walk across to the other side of the street. I had no idea what she would do next. She decided to walk along the side of the lane where traffic cones squeezed the road space instead of crossing to the sidewalk on the other side. Once again, I had no idea what she might do so I slowed down and followed her at a safe distance. My husband urged me to go around her even though the lane was narrow. My anger was up though, and I decided not to take the chance, passing her only when she arrived at a safe island in the middle of the road.
Was I wrong to yell? Yes and no.
No, because sometimes when we make poor decisions we need to be accountable to the ‘village’ around us.
And yes, I was wrong to yell. Yelling doesn’t solve the problem (other than to release some spot of anger inside me). I could more effectively have helped the young mom in a moment when she was confused and frustrated. The angry part of me won out today, and the part of me which is usually filled with empathy had disappeared. It makes me think how quickly we can react in a way that we don’t expect of ourselves.
Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. She does book arts, mixed media, watercolors, poetry, and memoir pieces. She is working to produce chapbooks that feature both her art and writings. She lives with her husband and 2 cats in California