Justin popped my tire. That’s not a sexy euphemism. He literally popped my tire swerving out of the way of an out of control driver. When faced with the choice of your kids and car getting totaled, or popping a tire running up on the curve, always sacrifice the tire.
So that’s why I’m sitting in the waiting area of Just Tires on Beverly Blvd. (it’s not a waiting room, just an area), doing just that. I’m waiting while my tire gets replaced. I’ve brought my computer with me so I can work while I wait.
There’s about five or six other chairs in the waiting area. There’s a man reading the paper sitting opposite me. And there’s an empty chair right next to me. Otherwise, none of the chairs has another next to it. If you came to this Just Tires at this particular time and wanted to sit down in the waiting area with the person you came with, you’d have to sit separately. But since the waiting area is small, sitting separately probably won’t be a tragedy. Some couples might even welcome it.
I’ve found there’s two kinds of people in waiting rooms. There are those who come to a place like Just Tires hoping to leave only with tires, not new friends. As you can imagine, these are my people. Truthfully I don’t mind pointing you in the right direction of the bathroom, but I’m not that interested in discussing why you need tires, what you had for lunch, or any other tidbits you’re looking to share with anyone listening. I’m just here for tires, not therapy.
And then there’s the category of people who see any kind of waiting area as a chance to share intimate parts of their life with people they’ll never see again. These are the loud talkers of the world. These are the over-sharers of the world. These are the people who think we’re all on a team simply because we needed tires on the same day. These are the people who, despite entering an otherwise empty waiting area, will always sit down in the chair closest to the one other person in the waiting area. Overall, they’re harmless. Occasionally they’re not.
So as I sit in the waiting area clicking away on my computer, I hear a man and a woman chatting up the cashier who is helping them with their order. The woman isn’t sure if they need one tire or two. The man was in the Navy. He never saw combat, but… They’re either speaking directly into some form a megaphone app or they’re loud-talkers. I block them out like white noise and continue with my work.
The same woman enters the waiting area. She looks like Katherine Hephburn in “On Golden Pond” with a giant sun hat (though it’s cloudy today), and weathered, but still pretty, hair and skin. She sits down in the chair right next to me even though there’s a bunch of empty ones not next to me. I keep working.
A few minutes later, her husband/friend/the guy who was in the Navy enters the waiting area. He’s standing on the other side of me. She pauses for a second, then talk-shouts to him over my head, “It’s a shame we can’t sit together.” It’s clear she’s saying this to him, but actually to me. She wants me to move so they can sit together even though there are plenty of other empty chairs a few feet away. He stands there for a second, shrugs and then says over my head, “Oh well, I guess I’ll make do.” She’s not happy with the outcome so she begins some sort of staring campaign against me that could rival any hypnotist’s best skills.
I pause for a moment then ask, “Did you want me to move?”
She smiles like I’ve just come up with an amazing idea all on my own and says, “Oh hon, look this lady’s going to move. What a great idea!”
Now I’m annoyed. I wouldn’t mind moving if she simply asked if she could sit next to gentleman friend/husband/ guy who didn’t see combat. And honestly, I always try to give older people (which at this point it anyone older than me) a break, but I find it hard to stomach passive aggressive people. Truth be told, I’ve never encountered a passive aggressive person who wouldn’t be better described as aggressive aggressive.
I get up to move say, “All you had to do was ask nicely.” These are the same instructions I often give to my toddler.
The woman looks at me, smiles and says, “ I did it that way so you wouldn’t feel obligated.”
The guy reading the paper looks at me with one eye and starts to chuckle.
“I think shouting over someone and staring at them is a guaranteed way to make someone feel obligated.”
She shrugs and ignores me for the rest of her time there.
As I’m driving home later Justin calls and I tell him the story. “I kind of got into it with a lady in the Just Tires waiting room,” I confess. “Uh-oh,” he says. I tell him the story and he says, “She sounds rude, but why do you bother?”
I think about his question for a day or two. Sure, there is the “art becomes life, life becomes art” aspect of my life as a writer. I write about unfiltered moments, which forces me to be unfiltered. It’s incredibly liberating to speak up without concern over the repercussions. But I’m not a stunt double in my own life. I’m not doing something for sake of the story. (Okay I did do the “Real Housewives” audition for the sake of the story, but that’s it!) I’m not in the business of picking fights with people nor is it my business to educate the masses on their shitty behavior. His question forces me to ask myself, “Why do I bother?”
I think about it for a few more days. The answer may surprise you.
I bother telling a random rude woman in Just Tires that she’s rude because for a good portion of my life I was a coward. I couldn’t speak up for myself if my life depended on it. And worse yet, if I did speak up for myself I’d be terrified of the outcome. If a friend insulted me, I’d think of a great comeback on the car ride home. In a family argument, I’d realize what I really wanted to say two hours later. I was a thought bubble bitch, but a real life wuss.
And so when some random lady is rude in the tire store, I say something. I’m polite, but I say something. And when a telemarketer calls me a bitch, I do something. And when someone writes a personal comment on my blog, I say something. That way when something happens that really matters, with someone that really matters, I’m not rusty. I’m not selling myself out because I’m scared of being called a bitch by someone who’s actually an asshole.
They say practice makes perfect. So I’m just practicing. Which probably won’t be a problem for you, if you’re not being an asshole.
That’s why I bother.
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