I’m not an angry guy, but I did an angry thing.
It’s early on a Sunday afternoon. I’m driving home. I’ve got two kids in the car. Pulling into the driveway, I see my wife in the backyard. She waves. I wave back.
Just then, a large, white SUV appears in the rear-view. It’s close. Too close.
I shoot the driver a dirty look. The large, white SUV brakes to a stop. The guy in the passenger seat holds up his hand as if to say, “Whatsamattayou?”
I open the door and step out, eyes locked on the idling SUV. Concerned, my wife asks, “What’s going on?”
“Don’t worry,” I say. “I got this.”
My Irish is up. I cross the lawn toward the reckless tailgater. The window rolls down to reveal the passenger, a twelve year-old boy, and the female driver, not a day over seventeen.
“Did you wave at us?” the young girl asks. She’s wearing that teenage look of vague disdain that suggests to the world an injustice is being perpetrated. These spoiled, reckless kids need a good lesson, I think to myself. And I’m just the guy to give it to them.
“No, you waved at me,” I say, rising to my full height.
“No we didn’t.”
“Yes you did,” I say. “You came up fast and were like, ‘Why are you driving so slow?’ Well, let me tell you why. I was driving slow because I live here with my four small children and I don’t want them getting run over. Can you understand that?”
“I’m so sorry,” she says. “It’s a misunderstanding. We’re sorry.”
“Okay,” I say with all the smug satisfaction I can muster. I dismiss them with a kingly wave of the hand. The window goes up and they slink off down the street.
“What was that about?” my wife wants to know.
“Oh, a couple of young kids driving crazy and trying to start something with me,” I say. “I sorted them out.”
“Did they think I was waving at them?”
“Nooooooo,” I say. “C’mon. They were teenagers. Driving crazy. Trying to start something.”
“Are you sure? Because I think that’s why they stopped. That’s why the kid was holding his hand up. He was like, ‘Do I know you?’”
“Really?” I say, no longer feeling quite so kingly.
It made sense. My wife was waving at us, but those kids in the SUV wouldn’t have known that. From their angle, it must have seemed as if she was flagging them down. I replayed the whole interaction in my mind. The kid holding up his hand wasn’t saying “Whatsamattayou.” He was asking, “Why are you waving at us?”
They weren’t reckless kids driving crazy and trying to start something. They were good kids, wondering why this nice lady was waving at them. Rather than driving on by, they stopped to see what was up.
And how had the nice lady’s husband treated them? Like an ornery old cuss.
I was mortified. I wanted to chase them down and apologize, but they were long gone. For the rest of their lives, they’ll drive past and think, “That’s where that crazy guy lives.”
In my defense, our street has a longstanding problem with speeding cars. It’s one-way, shoulderless, and narrow. Something about it creates the impression of being on a closed track. Conditions are ripe for acceleration.
Many of our neighbors have pushed the town to do something. Little has come of it. Last year the highway department painted some yellow lines. This not only hasn’t stopped the speeders, it has somehow added to the racetrack vibe.
I always make it a point to drive at least a few miles per hour below the speed limit. When someone comes up behind me, I like to make a long, slow, obnoxious turn into the driveway, just to make a point.
What point exactly? Good question. Maybe I need to figure that out.
On the off chance that the two young people in the large, white SUV happen to read this: I apologize. You were right to look at me that way. An injustice was being perpetrated.
Despite what you must think, I’m not an angry guy. I’m just a dad who worries everyday about something bad happening to his kids.
One day, maybe you’ll understand. In the meantime, I promise to chill out.
From the June 2015 issue of Fairfield County Catholic