It all started over the summer as I crossed 7th Street near Penn Avenue. It was evening and the walk signal was lit.
As I stepped onto the curb on the other side of the street, a BMW with a man driving and a woman in the passenger seat prepared to make a turn from Penn onto 7th, but first there were four women in the crosswalk, talking and laughing and walking at a normal speed. They had the walk sign. They were walking. They weren’t dawdling or lumbering or otherwise attempting to take their time. As they cleared the street and stepped, laughing, onto the curb, the woman in the BMW lowered her window. She was a classy looking woman in her 40s. Short blonde hair. Business suit. Her husband/significant other was in a suit. They looked like they could be your bosses. As the car rounded the corner, the “classy” woman stuck her head out the window and angrily shouted to the group of women, “Do you bitches think you could move any fucking slower?!?!”
I was stunned. The girls were stunned. They looked at me, stunned. I looked at them, stunned. And we walked our separate ways, just stunned like we lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals or ran out of Nutella. I wondered what great thing the woman had planned to do with the five seconds she lost waiting for the pedestrians to cross the street. Cure cancer? Write a novel? Punch puppies? Pull the stick out of her butt? Puke up the piss that someone put in her Cheerios?
I shrugged it off.
Then last night I took my mother to see War Horse at the Benedum (Oh. Em. Gee!). We entered a lot not far from the theater and when I circled around a bend I found a Mercedes, lights on, running, sitting right in the thruway that allows cars to circle to the other side of the lot. It was clearly marked “No Parking” and there were lines that indicated he shouldn’t park there, so I was confused as to why he had chosen to stop there, completely blocking traffic. I sighed and put the car in reverse to back up. But now there was a car behind me waiting to make the bend as well. I moved forward again and pulled up next to the running Mercedes, with its lights on. The man behind the wheel was on his cell. He was in his late forties and wearing a business suit. I gestured to get his attention. He looked over at me and I smiled and motioned for him to move forward. He scowled and made the “BACK UP” gesture and looked away.
I looked behind me. Now there were two cars waiting to make that bend.
I sighed and tooted my horn to get his attention.
He looked at me again and once again made the “BACK UP” gesture, not realizing I couldn’t back up. I was stuck where I was.
He went back to his phone conversation. All I needed him to do was move up. His car was already running. There were several visibly open parking spaces on the other side of the lot that he could have moved his car into. But he wouldn’t acknowledge me, ignoring my waving hands trying to get his attention.
I tooted my horn with a short spurt again and lowered the passenger side window where my mother was seated and motioned for him to do the same so that I could explain the situation to him. I wasn’t angry. I was calm. My face was calm. I figured once I explained the situation to him, he would probably feel bad about it and move.
He looked at me, but he didn’t lower his window.
Instead he made a “FUCK YOU” face and he flipped me off with great gusto — holding the finger there for a solid, and — I’m sure to him — gloriously satisfying five seconds.
I was stunned. My mother was stunned.
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and I got out of my car and walked up to his window muttering out loud, “What’s he gonna do? Shoot me?” I was going to explain to him what was going on and ask him to just move his car out of the thruway. I figured he was going to feel really badly about giving me the finger. But he didn’t give me a chance, because as soon as he lowered his window he went off on me, still on his phone, allowing whoever he was talking to to hear. “WHAT IS YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM?! THIS IS MY SPACE. I HAVE BEEN PARKED HERE FOR AN HOUR. THIS IS MY SPACE. GET ANOTHER SPACE. THIS IS MY SPACE.”
“Sir? You’re parked in the thruway. We can’t get through.”
“DID YOU NOT HEAR ME?! JUST BACK THE FUCK UP.”
“I couldn’t back up. There were three cars behind me.”
“WELL I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO TELL YOU! I’M NOT MOVING! SO BACK UP!”
And then the rage boiled up in me. I had it. I couldn’t take his rudeness one more second and he refused to simply move his car up so that other cars could access the spaces on the other side of the lot.
I flipped out.
“YOU KNOW WHAT?! I SIMPLY WAS TRYING TO TELL YOU YOU’RE BLOCKING OUR WAY. YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO FLIP ME OFF! HAVE SOME FUCKING MANNERS; THIS IS PITTSBURGH!”
He looked at me, stunned, and shrank back slightly. He raised his window back up and returned to his phone conversation, still not moving his car.
I returned to my car, and by now the other cars had given up and one-by-one backed up to go to another part of the lot. I did the same. After parking the car, we got out to begin walking toward the Benedum, and the Mercedes, at that moment, exited the lot.
He wasn’t staying there. His car was running because he was getting ready to leave. And he couldn’t be bothered to get out of the thruway for the people stuck behind him.
I needed wine.
I was fed up.
But it’s not just these run-ins with absolutely maddeningly rude people that has me fed up.
There’s the biker who had his throat slashed.
The teacher who had his face punched in for no discernable reason other than he was there and he had a face and his attacker was “having a bad day.”
And now this.
Sgt. William Gorman in the bureau’s Zone 2 station said Dave Whaley, a local musician, was crossing at 20th and Sarah streets when a Ford Mustang went through a traffic control signal and almost hit him.
After Mr. Whaley shouted for the vehicle to slow down, Sgt. Gorman said, the car stopped and a male about 6 feet tall, and more than 200 pounds, got out of the vehicle and hit Mr. Whaley, knocking him out.
“Sounds like one punch and he fell face first to the ground,” Sgt. Gorman said.
Pittsburgh, this is not us. We are not the rude assholes who angrily punch our way through life. We are not the jerks who can’t be bothered to put others before ourselves on occasion. We are not the jagoffs who trample on anyone who gets in our path to self-satisfaction.
We are the neighbors in the neighborhoods.
And I don’t even need to tell you what that means because deep down you know damn well what that means because it is an inherent truth you’ve got lodged in your heart and you will never be rid of it no matter how many people you flip off.
Was I a good neighbor when I lost my shit on that man? No. I wasn’t. I get that. It’s easy to lose your cool. But I’m going to do better next time. And honestly, I’m kinda proud that I didn’t punch his face in with one glorious jab.
It’s nearing the holidays and I’m fed up with these stories and the interactions in my own life. Stop the road rage. Remain calm. Give the pedestrians the right of way. Watch for bicyclists. Hold the door. Hold the elevator. Let others merge. Don’t let your kids grow up to be the kind of people who punch faces in for no reason.
If you know who the Mustang-driving jagoff is who punched Mr. Whaley in the face, turn him in.
Of course the Karma Boomerang always evens things out in the end, but there’s nothing wrong with giving it a helping hand.
Let’s all just chill out a little bit and get back to being the good people we were raised to be.
The kind of people about whom Mister Rogers would say, “I like you.
You’re a good neighbor.”
And if you REALLY get angry and feel the need to punch a face, can I suggest this one?
He is just BEGGING for it.