When you have to back a trailer up into traffic because a passenger sedan coming towards you will not yield the right of way on a one-lane bridge, you can get angry. I guess said another way, I got angry. I couldn't believe it. How could someone not see something so obvious? How could they not realize that a small amount of effort on their part could make someone else's life a lot easier and a lot less dangerous?
I was towing a trailer and turning left into one of our ranch driveways across traffic. The beginning of the driveway is a one-lane bridge. As I pulled my front tires onto the bridge, I noticed a passenger sedan about 30 feet from the bridge coming towards me. I slowed down and stopped to give them the opportunity to turn into the pull out that was close to them, but the car did not pull out. Instead, the car kept coming and drove up onto the other side of the bridge and just waited for me to back up.
I couldn't make out the person's face to see what was going on in their consciousness. At this point I was slightly irritated and just put them in the “not from around here… lost... clueless city person box,” and began to back up into the road. By this point, traffic decided to show up. As I backed up, the cars kept coming. Invariably I had to drive back towards the bridge to keep the trailer from getting T-boned. All the while this woman just kept staring… watching. I must have backed up and driven forward four or five times, while she just stood her ground in the middle of the bridge. The whole event took about 3 minutes.
Every time I backed up and had to drive forward again I became increasingly angry, coming up with countless reasons and stories about how someone could be so oblivious. The funny thing was, my stories of what a terrible person this was didn't just stay with her, they ballooned into making generalizations about a type of person and groups of people. I think we all know how dangerous categorizing people can be. When we put someone in a “type”, they cease to become human. They become part of a group, a group we can generalize about and make sweeping statements about. Statements that start with “I just don't understand how,” or “ these people,” or “ I hate.”
To me this woman became the clueless city person type. Oh you know the type, even if you're from the city, because the clueless city person isn't all city people, it’s a type. It's the person that walks across the crosswalk while staring at their phone. Am I the only person that thinks that person will be the first to go when the zombies hit the streets? Or maybe it's the city person that buys pre distressed work jeans with fake mud on them at Nordstroms for $425. There's even city folks that have asked friends of mine, while buying a meat share from them, to have the cow cut into all filet mignons.
But really, who the hell am I to make these generalizations? I grew up in the suburbs. I've only been at this farming and ranching thing for about 10 years. I'm much more city than country - even if it doesn't feel that way to me every day. There was definitely a time when I could only use the dumb end of a tape measure, couldn't plumb a water trough, and didn’t know that pickles are made from cucumbers (they still are right?).
When I look back on the different stages of my life, I think I was a good enough person at those points. I didn't deserve the disdain or hate of people with different experiences then me. I was just trying to figure it out, the best way I knew how. When I think along those lines it helps me bridge the gap that I've artificially created in my mind. We're all just people trying to figure it out.
Back to the bridge. I guess the question is why was I so angry? If I dig deep enough, I was angry because I wasn't being considered. I was angry because someone didn't understand that by taking an extra 15 seconds and driving into a pull-out designed for this purpose, I would be able to save time and be a lot safer. And truth be told when you're not considered, or understood, it hurts. It usually hurts and then moves straight into anger so fast we don't even know that it hurts. Then we make up stories about people to explain how someone could actually do such a thing, because obviously… we would never do such a thing.
After the 4th or 5th time backing up, the woman drove by. When I looked at her face, I realized she was probably somewhere around 70 years old and most definitely not from here. She also had a look of worry and consternation on her face like the entire experience was a little overwhelming for her. I immediately thought of my mom, or my friends mothers or grandparents. I could imagine them being in a similar situation being stressed and doing the exact same thing. My anger slowly turned into understanding.
More articulate people than I have written about the urban-rural divide. However for me, it's an interesting topic because I have the divided literally within myself. I interact with it on a regular basis being that our location is rural-light, so to speak. It's so easy, in times of stress that involve others, to get angry and make huge generalizations. It takes a lot more effort for me to try to understand what's going on for someone else. To shift and see the person as someone else's son, daughter, husband, wife, child, grandmother out there, just trying to figure it out. Understanding others when we are frustrated is a skill worth expanding. The world I want to live in is one where people show me a little bit of understanding when I do something that is seemingly stupid. If you need to work on those skills, just follow me around for a day, I promise that I’ll give you plenty to work on.