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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What Would The Buddha Do?

On Saturday afternoon, I drove myself to The Village to sit on the pier and read for a while. It was my second foray out after my successful epidural last Wednesday, and I was looking forward to breathing in the fresh sea air of the high time breeze.
On my first pass down Mallory Street, a big black truck began to pull out of a parking space very near the pier, and I happily flipped on my blinker and waited for the driver to pull out. Imagine you are me, about to pull into a parking slot on my right. Standing behind the back of the car next to the truck—the one closest to me—was a man in a red shirt. He waved and I cheerfully waved back and began to thread my Yukon between the white lines. I’m always happy to take the place of big truck because I drive one myself and it’s nice to know I will fit.
As I pulled forward, The Man in the Red Shirt walked directly in front of me and planted himself in the very middle of the space. When I motioned him out of the way, he sallied forth and pressed his chest against the front of my truck. Stunned, I rolled down the window and asked him to move. 
“No! I’m saving this space.”
“Sorry, but you can’t do that.” 
“You can’t hit me with your truck either!”
What? Whaaa-ut?
I took the bait and climbed down onto the pavement to confront him, all five feet, three inches of me.
“I did not hit you! You positioned yourself right where you are, and you need to leave so I can park. There are plenty of available spaces, so go stand in one of those.”
“You can’t make me move!”
“Maybe not, but I’m pretty sure the police could make it happen,” I called over my shoulder, walking back to my truck. “And get yourself off the front my this vehicle!”
I looked around for Officer Lacey, who is frequently patrolling on foot near the pier, but I didn’t see anyone. I scanned the other side  of the street and realized his parol car wasn’t there. As I got back in my truck, a little white car pulled up behind me and stopped on my bumper. I was trapped between The Man in the Red Shirt and The Little White Car. I couldn’t go either way. There was room for traffic to pass on the left of us. I’d like to think if there weren’t, I would have had the good grace, not to mention the good sense, to give up right then.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you have a point. I could have motioned to the Man in the Red Shirt that I was pulling out, given The Little White Car the same signal, and the situation would have been diffused. No harm, not foul, just me wondering what in the name of all that is holy the world has come to. 
For a nanosecond, I asked myself, “What would The Buddha do?” It was only a fleeting thought and instead of honoring it, I found the number of the police dispatcher in my phone directory and touched “call.”
No, I didn’t call 911. I have the other number programmed into my phone because I once read on Facebook that I should have it there in case I needed the police but didn’t have a life-threatening problem. (My dear friends, especially you girls, please do that for yourselves. Put that number in your phone in case you come up on a Man in a Red Shirt standing in your way when you are attempting to, God forbid, park your car.)
The dispatcher came on the line. Since my truck is bluetooth enabled, the call was routed through the speakers, and since my window was still down, The Man in the Red Shirt could hear her voice asking me what I needed. He had moved back a few steps, but when he heard the call, he literally repositioned himself up against the front of the Yukon. 
I know, I know. “literally” is an unnecessary and overused and might even be called a cliché, but I can’t help myself. This story just needs it. Anyway, feeling very foolish all of a sudden, I relayed my situation to the dispatcher. I don’t know why she didn't laugh, I really don’t. The sound of my own voice embarrassed even me, but she proceeded in a professional tone.
“What is your location, Ma’am?”
“Down by the pier on Mallory Street.”
“And exactly what is it you want?”
“I want you to send someone down her to get this man out of this parking space so I can get in it. He and his buddy have me blocked in.”
“Are you in any danger?”
“No, I’m not. I just want this man to get out of my way.”
“You sure you’re not in any danger?”
I was beginning to feel as silly as I must have sounded.
“No, I’m not afraid.”
“I’ll send someone right away.”
The Man in the Red Shirt backed off a step or two, and a really nice woman who apparently has more sense than the rest of us combined presented herself at my window, and I buzzed it down. She was smiling and had sweet eyes and was very pretty with beautiful dark blonde hair.
“Hi.” I resisted the urge to tell her I wasn’t going anywhere.
“There are plenty of spaces on the other side. Maybe you could take one of those,” said said.
“I am aware of that,” I replied sweetly, “but I have his one. I’m just waiting for that man to step aside so I can pull in.”
“You really want to be right about this, don’t you?”
“Pretty much.”
“I understand, just wanted you to know about the other spaces.”
She walked around the front of my car and spoke to The Man as I looked around for the cops, feeling stupider and stupider. No police cruiser in sight. I began to silently pray they wouldn’t show up. What was I going to tell them? That I was somehow at a disadvantage sitting in my big truck while a man stood on the pavement directly in my path? And not a very big man at that? 
Luckily, The Lord looks after fools and old people, both of which I happen to be. The Peacemaker talked The Man down, and he backed off grudgingly. I felt no satisfaction when I eased into the space, but as I climbed down and started walking toward The pier, a couple walked up to me and did a little happy dance.
“I’m so glad you stood your ground!” said the man, as his wife made little silent clapping movements. There eyes gleamed with excitement. “I’ve never seen anything to beat that, never. I want you to know we’ve been here the whole time, and I wasn’t going to leave until things were settled. You never know about people these days.”
“It was a first for me,” I replied, enjoying the attention and validation of my nitwittery. After we exchanged a few more words, they got back on their motorcycle and left. I spent an hour reading and feeling foolish before I came home. I’m not sure salt air is any cure for needing to be right, but I’m glad I took the time.
The next day, I went to see my friend Jim, who recently had a heart attack. He’s a man with a real problem, facing a life-changing time. He’s doing very well, getting therapy and making good progress. I couldn't help telling him the story, though by that time I had embraced my shame and was dealing with the guilt. When I got to the “What would The Buddha think?” part, he said.
“Well, he might have thought that fellow needed to learn right from wrong.”
What do you think?  

Copyright 2015 cj Schlottman


Judie said...

I think I would have called 911 and told the operator that the man was preventing me from parking, he looked menacing, and I was afraid. SSI is such a peaceful place that the operator probably would have been excited to get a call! Hahahahaha!!!

Ujjvala Rahn said...

Claudia, your writing is clean and crisp as usual. We all miss you at Zona Rosa.