Cynicism after a Car Crash

Mountain Avenue, Montclair Village, Oakland- in front of the Rite Aid store. It’s late afternoon.

I’m crossing at a four-way stop. The street is filled with folks shopping and hanging out. I’m on my way to my coffee shop, in the middle of the cross walk.

Screeeeeeech! The tires made that noise they make when something bad is about to happen.  I look to my left- he’s headed toward me.

I jump.

The black Lexus bumps my airborne feet and I tumble onto his hood, my forehead bumping a windshield wiper.

I looked at my vehicular attacker through his windshield, the one I just kissed, looked him in the eye and rather calmly said, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

He gets out of the car. He’s a middle-aged caucasian man, dressed for work- suit, no tie. He’s mortified. “Are you…okay?” he stammers.

“I think so…”

“I’m so sorry. I was talking on the phone and I didn’t see you…” A very honest admission Lexus Guy’s lawyer would have cringed at, had he been standing next to us.

We stay in the middle of the street for a moment, talking, and suddenly I look up and around.

No one on the sidewalk made an attempt to see if I was hurt. They just stood there, staring at us, talking amongst each other, voyeurs all. Not one potential Good Samaritan in the bunch. It made me a little agitated, seeing the spectators stare at us like we were some street performance. Did they think I was going to deck Lexus Guy? Maybe I might pull out a gun and shoot him right there. Maybe we’d start a heated exchange. The voyeurs were in perfect position to watch; getting closer would have meant relinquishing their box seats to the performance.

About 30 seconds go by, and I tell Lexus Guy I’m fine. He can go.

I walk away, onto the sidewalk, on my way to the coffee shop. A few people are still standing there, staring at me. I want to look at them and ask the same question I asked Lexus Guy: ‘What the fuck is wrong with ALL of you?”

I’m fine. I’m not broken, and that little scratch on my dome is already healing up. What has not quite healed yet is the annoyance. What IS wrong with us? Have we reached the point in this world where we are so self-absorbed we can’t be bothered to briefly insert ourselves into someone’s experience, especially when a certain someone just had an unplanned meetup with a 4000-pound car?

Why didn’t anyone care enough to at least say something? Why didn’t anyone contemplate running toward us, to offer help? What if I was hurt (for real)?

You all are just going to stand there?

This morning, driving the Tacoma home from downtown, I notice a very petite woman is changing a flat tire. Her hubcap is in the middle of the street- she and her Infiniti are in a parking space, and she is literally standing on a tire iron trying to nudge a sticky bolt loose.

“Ma’am, can I help you?”

She gave me the stink eye. She gave me the finger, without raising her hand. I considered my crimes: Was I being condescending, believing a woman can’t change her own tire? Was my attempt at chivalry just another example of my lack of appreciation for feminist power? Was I being inappropriate?

I drove on.

It will take more than these two moments to make me permanently cynical, but really.

In the macro- what is wrong with us? I’m not a huge fan of “us” right now.

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