“YOU SHOULD’VE MOVED THIS PIECE OF SHIT. FAIR WARNING: DON’T PARK IN MY SPOT.”
The “Fair Warning” note under my windshield wiper, along with an official warning notice from the parking garage at my new workplace, was accompanied by a deflated tire. And it wasn’t just that the air was let out via the valve. There was actually a cut in the tire wall.
All because I mixed up the number of the parking spot I was told to park in, and parked in 131 instead of 1×1.
Fair Warning: I’m angry.
It may not seem that I am, because I’m handling it. Like a grown-up. I discovered the flat, thankfully, before getting onto the freeway, by dint of offering to give a car-less co-worker a ride to her home on my way. In her driveway, she held a cellphone flashlight as I maneuvered the tire iron, standing on it with my full weight in order to remove the bolts when necessary, feeling thankful for those unwanted extra pounds. I’ve had to do this twice this year, and each time I’m grateful for the time my dad made me change the tire in the snow so I would know how to do it. I cut my finger on a metal burr on the edge of the jack, and had a Fat Amy moment.
Together, we pulled the wheel off, leaving grease mixed with blood from my finger, and attached the spare. Agreeing to text her when I made it home, I set up my navigation system to direct me home without getting on the freeway—a 20-mile detour around Lake Washington by surface roads.
I’m mad. I mean really, really angry. I want to let the air out of this person’s tires. I want to scream at the business owners who repeatedly told me I wasn’t worth a living wage, because I am a single woman instead of a family man. I want them to know what it feels like to cry in your office at 10 pm because you’ve been doing workaround after workaround after workaround in order to accomplish a task that should have taken 10 minutes, because they didn’t consider my time important enough to take up development time.
I want to go back to the office of my dream job and tell the partners who fired me and left me to 6 months of unemployment last year, and wish the same fate on their daughters, then flip them both middle fingers and walk out backward with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” playing over their shocked faces. And they thought I was such a nice girl.
The Pastors who used my passion up until it became imperative to pay me and then dropped me or forced me out of jobs, the leaders who let me go because it was easier than helping me grow into a role. The leaders who overlooked me because I was quiet. The men who hit on me at bus stops, while I’m walking down the street, or use the carpool lanes as an excuse to cut off rule-following, hard-working commuters. The “Unconscious Bias” of privilege is much-talked about these days. I see men apologizing on social media, supporting Emma Watson’s #heforshe, being aware of how it affects their behavior for the first time. But they still own the public spaces without being fully aware of it.
Before I was even fully aware of this concept, I broke up with a college boyfriend. Only recently could I really explain and understand why I felt uncomfortable with the patronizing tone he took with my art, with my friends and priorities, with my church and even with the way I dressed and talked and ate, the college I chose, my family, and with the way I lead my teams in the summer program where we worked together. He didn’t respect my place of leadership—he seemed instead to sense that he was conceding, indulging me somehow, by allowing me to lead, by allowing me to even be there. It was a concession, not an equal relationship. By the last week of the final summer we worked together, not a day went by that I didn’t feel like punching his smug, now-engaged-to-someone-else face. I mentioned to one of my staffers that we had dated briefly and she fell off her chair and rolled on the floor laughing at the idea.
I am so grateful for the vague sense of confused discomfort that finally led me to follow my gut and say the relationship wasn’t for me. I’m even a little angry that I grieved losing the relationship.
And I’m mad that he is now a pastor. It’s been many years since I worked with him, so it’s likely he’s changed. But honestly, when I go to churches, my bullshit radar is set to super-alert. Many pastors are now my age and younger, too. It’s hard for me to trust the system that fostered their leadership (even though I also know many good and faithful leaders and pastors who are full of integrity and worthy of respect). And if I catch an echo of patronizing attitude, of what we now term “unconscious privilege,” I want to run as far and fast from that person’s leadership as I can. I see the faces of betrayal and patronization staring back at me from pulpits and stages, no matter how casual the dress code, no matter how authentic the tone, no matter how artistically designed the backdrop.
Am I a victim? Am I wallowing in injustice? Probably some of the time, yes. I’m a perpetrator, too. I’m white, middle-class, educated, and own a (nearly worthless) car and half of a house. This makes me one of the richest people in the world. I have my own “unconscious privilege” biases, too.
To those who didn’t take care of me when they could have: I’m angry. To those who attacked me for innocent mistakes: I’m angry. To those who took advantage of their privilege, however unconsciously, instead of fighting for those who had less opportunity and less advantage. To those who did not and do not begin with love instead of power. To the owner of parking spot 131, who slashed my driver’s side rear tire, as confirmed by my Goodyear tire dealership.
But because I am angry, I will not attack your car in return. Because I am angry, I will be more patient (if, because of the cost of damage to my car, a less-frequent customer) at Starbucks. And I will smile and thank the barista who messed up my order and took a few extra minutes to make that magical cup of coffee.
I will be kinder. I will work harder. I will help out when I don’t strictly need to.
And this will be my rebellion.
I will not make fewer mistakes, probably. But possibly one day the barista may become an executive who owns both a shiny black new BMW and a matte-red custom painted sportscar. Possibly someone in a thrice-recalled (thanks, GM), nearly worthless vehicle may park in that former barista’s spot. And perhaps, just perhaps, that barista will remember what it was like to be struggling. Maybe that former barista will not leave a nasty note, will not slash the tires on the GM junker, but will instead simply and reasonably call security and wait for the car to be moved, assuming (correctly) that it was a simple mistake by a stressed-out newbie.
Be kind. Make the world a better place.