This morning I was pretty mellow at school drop-off time. The Cloud of Jankdom seems to have lifted, at least momentarily, and I was feeling a little hopeful, a little energetic, like maybe I could make something of this day. My son, who sat beside me blasting Eminem at a decibel level that threatened the bolts on my Hyundai, was also happy-ish. Despite being grounded and having all of his mechanical life enhancements confiscated, he had actually borrowed someone else’s phone the previous day (his being in an unknown secure location) and texted me to say “how did the cooking go?” We liked each other. Life was good.
After he burst from the car in pursuit of someone named “Sippy,” binder in one hand, growth-stunting energy drink in the other (the sure hallmark of a neglectful parent) I noticed that the line was not moving. The line was not moving because one mom, very elegant in a calf-length shearling coat and high heels, had gotten out of her car to chat with the mom in the car behind her. In two-way traffic with the added complexity of influx and egress by means of a second entrance at right angles to the existing lanes, this kind of thing is Not Cool. It was the exact, last possible minute before students would be declared “tardy,” and because it’s freezing and icy, there was a larger than usual number of parent chauffeurs.
As we inched at a glacial pace around the oblivious creature, talking animatedly through her friend’s open window as if they were enjoying a stolen moment in Starbuck’s, I realized that I didn’t care. I also realized that, two days ago, I would have been livid. Harrassed by the brutal master of anxiety, I would have tapped my foot, rolled my eyes, and perhaps caught the eye of the oncoming driver and given an exaggerated shrug as if to say “go ahead; I’ll be sitting here forever while this moron talks about who’s picking the girls up from the swim meet.”
It also occurred to me that I have been that woman. There have been times when I saw the person I needed to talk to, knew I’d forget to make the call later in the day, and held up the line of cars to stop beside her’s for a moment, roll down my window and yell “I can’t make the meeting but I’ll bring the cookies before seven!” People undoubtedly wished fervently that I would be crushed by an errant piano. I have also been the person on the short drive home who was going the exact speed limit and raising the blood pressure of twenty drivers behind me, and the person behind the maddeningly slow driver, driving up his or her automotive ass, using my car to express my frustration by sliding out to the far left of the lane as if to indicate my belief that there must be a horse cart in the road ahead, because surely there could be no other reason to drive so slowly.
It’s the cliché-est of clichés to say “perspective is everything.” Intellectually, we all know it to be true, but in practice, swaddled in our own finely woven blanket of emotions and temperament, it’s hard to see the impermanence of our current interpretations. In the words of Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” On the whole, it’s more fun to be the windshield, but a bug with great karma can come back as Angelina Jolie…….