I’m too nice. I’ve known it for years. Also, I am a little bit of a magnet for wacko people. Perhaps it is my superior intellect. Perhaps it is my warm smile and familiar face. It may, too, be my surpassing sense of face fashion: my carefully selected piercings & swell spectacles.
I was kind of hoping my wacko-magnet powers ebbed a bit as I matured, but I’m afraid my wacko-sniffer got a little better, and my wack0-magnetism became a bit more pronounced.
Let me preface this with I dig the hell out of people who’re not quite right, people who ruin the cookie cutter. I love people from other places, with strange obsessions, wild desires to know everything about something nobody else has ever heard of, people who have marginalized music taste, people who wear funky clothes and can’t be bothered with some of the commonly accepted–but unnecessary–elements of basic hygiene (leg shaving, eyebrow waxing, etc). I would probably confess to being not quite right myself if it didn’t have a pile of stigma attached, especially for a woman. As of this blog post, I will only confess to being utterly average in every way. (But I’m a damn fine editor and writer. You should totally hire me.)
The wackos I’m talking about are people who have really absurd notions about what is polite and acceptable to ask of another person. People who think that eye contact = death bond. That a “hello” means, “Let’s be bestest friends forever, okay? OKAY?”
I’ve been kind of mulling this one over. I’m not sure whether it’s okay to post about it or not. Indecision probably means I shouldn’t, but it’s such a great little parable. Such surpassing evidence of my ability to ace the sucker quiz. And maybe writing about it will reveal some particular insight that I’ve missed.
So one of the ankle-deep rain days last week, I dropped Pearl off at school in my car because I’m on my way somewhere, and it’s raining, and it just seems like a driving day, even though we live like 1 block from school.
I’m hustling my pudgy little body back to my pudgy little car, carrying my new age umbrella with the astrological signs inside, and this woman yells across the sidewalk, “Ma’am! MA’AM!” I whip around thinking my cell phone is back in one of the puddles and am surprised to note that a young mom–no telling how young, really, but I think younger than I am–is standing close enough to be under my umbrella.
She’s wearing a velour jumpsuit, and hair extensions best as I can tell, and her teeth are distracting because they are GOLD. All of them are gold. Perhaps her teeth possess hypnotic power.
She says, “Do you want to be my carpool?”
“Well, we walk most days. I just drove today because I’m off on an errand.”
“Could you give me a ride to school tomorrow? We live like 17 blocks away. I am soaking wet.”
“I walk most days.”
“Well I mean just if it’s bad. Could you come get me?”
“Um, we walk most days, but I can give you a ride home now.”
Aside from the fact that carpool is a term that typically denotes a give and take, somehow, on the way home, I get cornered by my inability to say no, especially if doing so has the potential to make me seem racist. And the woman, who does not reveal her name until we’ve stopped at a stop sign (with no space to get around us), and she wants for me to assure her that I will bring and take her and her kindergartner to school on bad weather days as reliably as the mailman, and for me to assure her, too, that I will remember where she lives.
Reluctantly I write down my number and tell her that I’ll drive her if the weather’s really, really bad, but that we’ll be walking if the weather is even remotely passable.
She introduces herself as DeeDee, as if knowing her name is a privilege of being beholden to her, and I drive off, finally.
She calls me that afternoon to confirm that I’ll pick her up in the morning, and to test the phone number and give me hers. She leaves a message and I call her back. She asks me three times if I’ll come get her and she asks me if I remember where she lives. She does not say thank you.
So the next day school is cancelled and DeeDee leaves a message on my phone asking me to call her back, even though she knows that school is cancelled. I do not call her back, because I see no reason to do so, and frankly, I am chagrined. And my impulse when chagrined is to be passive-aggressive. And when it matters, I try like hell to curb the desire, but sometimes, I just can’t.
The next day I call DeeDee in the morning, which is refreshingly not-raining and even edging toward sunny, to tell her that Pearl and I are going to be walking.
She says, “Why didn’t you call me back yesterday?”
“School was cancelled. I didn’t see a reason to.”
“I wanted you to call me back. People call other people back when they call them. How am I supposed to get in touch with you if you don’t answer your phone.” Here, DeeDee’s tone is annoyed and demanding.
“I wasn’t near my phone when you called, I didn’t see a reason to call you back, since school was cancelled.” My tone is incredulous and defensive.
“Well I wanted you to call me back. I don’t know anybody here. I want to be friends. Can you still take me if the weather’s bad?” Now her tone is kitten-soft.
“Sure, as long as you let me know by 8:00 a.m.” Because I want to help people and I really have no reason to say no, and it’s not that far, and good karma, and all the other ways I justify doing things that are too nice.
“How about 7:30?”
“So you’ll answer your phone?”
“Yes!” I think she can hear the agitation in my voice.
“I’m really happy you’re helping me out, but I need to know you’ll answer your phone.”
“Okay, DeeDee. Bye bye.”
“Bye.” (a millisecond passes) “Hello??”
“Can you take us this afternoon if it’s bad?”
“If it’s bad.”
“Do you remember where I live?”
“Okay. I’ll be waiting on the porch.”
“Okay, but if it’s not raining, we’re going to walk.”
Please note my spinelessness with special glee. Not a single time did I answer in the negative or point out to her the fact that accosting people in the rain and then demanding they call you back under the (insane) pretense of wanting to be friends is not a good way to make friends.
Dang. I have no new perspective. I still feel like a spineless idiot. A well-intentioned one, true, but one who is too ruled by guilt and wariness of being thought of as a racist to be effectively assertive and have boundaries about strangers and fuel and time.
Anybody else have any perspective? Any insight? I’m resolved to drive DeeDee when necessary, but I’m interested in avoiding these kinds of events in the future. Without being a jerk who just turns around and runs.