I’ll be the first to admit that many of my pet peeves are pretty ridiculous and not worth a fraction of the energy I spend getting worked up over them. (examples: fewer vs. less, having to omit the Oxford comma when I write in AP Style)
But this one may be the most ridiculous of all.
Overly considerate drivers.
See, I walk and run on city/residential streets (well, sidewalks) a lot.
Obviously, I walk Onyx at least twice a day, I run several times a week (sadly, it’s just not always feasible to run on trails, especially mid-week), and we live in a pretty walkable neighborhood, so I frequently walk to yoga, to coffeeshops, to bars, whatever.
Sometimes, I have to cross a street where there isn’t a specified crosswalk or signal for pedestrians.
Which means I have to (at least should) wait until traffic is clear before I step off the curb.
(As a driver, one of my pet peeves are people who just start walking across the street in the middle of a block and expect I’ll see and stop for them. Especially the idiots who do this while wearing dark clothes at night.)
Pedestrian and right-of-way laws aside, I’m very aware that are cars are much bigger and more powerful than me, and I will not walk away from a fight with any of them. Even the little smart cars will probably leave me much worse for wear. So when I come to these intersections or crossings, I am prepared to and very okay with waiting until the street is perfectly clear and I’m confident I can cross safely. For my own safety, I tend to assume the worst of drivers — that they don’t see me and won’t care about me if they do.
This kind of thinking has served me well for 29+ years.
But some drivers, of course, are actually pretty decent people and will see me waiting and will stop to let me cross. How nice, right?
Except — and I’m sure this is a character flaw of some sort — when I see a driver stop in the middle of the road with no apparent reason (no stop sign or physical object in the way), my first thought isn’t “How nice! Thank you for being considerate, driver!”
It’s “What the hell are you doing? What are you waiting for? Why aren’t you driving like a normal person?”
Like, I don’t want to say I half assume they’re trying to lure me into the road to have a better shot at hitting me, but maybe a tiny part of me does?
So I know, of course, these people are just trying to be nice, and I should be gracious and wave and continue on my merry way.
But I don’t.
Instead, I get super and very weirdly irritated, possibly because my expectations (that I’m invisible to drivers) haven’t been met and that throws me off and we end up doing the awkward “you go” “no, go ahead” “no, please go” dance and then I step into the road and they start to move forward again and it starts all over and I really fucking hate that.
Or, they stop and wait, but there’s a ton of traffic from the other direction and then I feel bad because there’s no reason for them to wait for me and I’m not about to cross halfway and then just chill in the middle of the street. Especially when they do this near a light (I’m thinking of one intersection near my apartment in particular), and cars back up behind them and I’m like “please go! don’t make everyone else behind you miss the light, there are other cars coming, just GO. STOP BEING NICE DAMMIT.”
Or, they stop and there’s NO ONE ELSE AROUND, they were ONE car I was waiting for before I could cross safely and you know what, I can wait the extra three seconds it takes you to get across the intersection. I have no intention of inconveniencing you, driver, so please don’t inconvenience yourself on my behalf because then I feel guilty.
I know. I’m completely batshit crazy. You don’t have to tell me (my husband already has).
But take the other day — I was walking Onyx, and we were passing an auto body shop or something. A guy was backing his car into their driveway, and from the direction he was coming in from, he had absolutely no way of seeing me. So I stopped and was very happy to wait.
But then, another driver, who was also waiting to turn into the same driveway and looking straight at me, started honking and waving at the first guy, putting up a stop sign with his hands and pointing at me. The first guy waved back, indicating he was trying to back in. At no point that I could see did he turn back and notice me, so I still wasn’t about to go anywhere.
Also, the first guy’s car was sticking out in the street and blocking traffic. I started shaking my head and trying to indicate “no, it’s cool, I can wait” to Honking Guy but he wasn’t having it. Finally, slightly terrified because the first guy STILL hadn’t seen me, I pulled on Onyx’s leash and we ran across the driveway so these two could stop causing such a clusterfuck.
Seriously, what is wrong with me that other people’s thoughtful gestures drive me crazy?
Obviously, I started thinking about it. When I was younger, I was all about journaling in an effort to figure myself out. Then I stopped looking inward for awhile, and now I’m coming around to introspection again, for better or worse.
I think it comes down to two things.
One, I hate inconveniencing people. I hate asking people to go out of their way to do favors for me. I tell myself “they’re not going to like you if you keep bugging them to do stuff, they’ll resent you for interrupting their day.” Part of why I hate calling friends to “catch up” is because I don’t want to call them and make them talk to me when they’re probably in the middle of doing something else. I have no intention, in my daily life, of getting in people’s way (even though this totally happens, either because I’m oblivious or get in a mood, but I don’t like doing it).
And I think the lack of clear communication wigs me out. It’s one thing when someone holds a door open for me — we can make eye contact, it’s very obvious what his or her intentions are, he/she can say “after you” or “let me get that” or something and I can say “thank you.” The social interaction is very clear and explicit from start to finish.
When one or both of us is in a car, though, all the communicating, or attempts at it, become very fuzzy and unclear. I often can’t see the driver that well, or at all, we can’t really make proper eye contact. We can’t use our words and have to rely on awkward hand signals and hard-to-see facial expressions and I don’t like it.
Two, without really paying attention to the individual driver every time (you’d be surprised how often this happens), I’d estimate that the vast majority of those who do this are men. So while I know this is probably NOT what’s on their minds, the subtle message I get is “Oh little girl, you need a big strong man to allow you to cross the street safely.” Like Sir Walter Raleigh gallantly laying down his coat so Queen Elizabeth could walk across mud without it infecting her delicate feminine feet or dirtying her gown. And the feminist in me is like “Fuck you, I can handle this and cross the street on my own. Move along.”
I mean, I’m in flip flops and jeans that haven’t been washed in a week or so. I don’t care about getting muddy.
Or I’m just a crazy person who can’t handle basic human decency. It’s very possible.