Painting on plywood


Last week I jumped on my commuter bike and headed to the Downtown shop at about 7:30 am. It was a beautiful morning, and I found myself bombing down Oakland hill with a green light at the Lovell intersection at the base of the hill. I had a pretty good head of steam.

Without stopping at the light, a car entered the intersection from Lovell at about the same time I did. I remember yelling and dodging, then cruising up to the red light at South Street to talk to the motorist. I was aware of the adrenaline that had just been dumped into my system.

“I didn’t see you!” yelled the lady in the car, not yelling in anger, but so I could hear her. She didn’t pull too close.

“You didn’t stop!” I yelled back.

“I’m late for work and in a hurry…”

“Boy,” thought I, “this conversation is not going anywhere productive.” 

And then the lady yelled, “I’m sorry!”

Everything changed.

“It’s OK.” I said, completely defused. “No one got hurt. Thanks for apologizing.”

Then we yelled pleasantries back and forth until the light changed and we both went on our way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lady. There she was, safe inside her car. Outside the car there’s an old guy on a bike jumped-up on adrenaline; he’s feeling wronged and no doubt does not look like a fun conversation partner. And instead of putting up her defenses, she dropped them and apologized. I’ve thought about the many times in my life when I should have apologized to someone but didn’t because of pride or shame or stubbornness or just not caring enough.

True: I hope she gets up a little earlier or does whatever needs to be done to make it to work on time. I hope she comes to a full stop before turning right. I’m glad that I didn’t get hurt. I’m also happy to have witnessed someone display a bit of grace in a tense situation. It obviously made an impression.