The four mile drive from the grocery store this afternoon was harrowing.
Being the sometimes too polite in a crowd person I was hurrying to return my cart to the cart stand, return to the car, and get out of my parking space because it was busy and three cars were stacked up so the first car could have my parking space. I notice things like that and feel responsible. Somehow compelled to action for another’s convenience.
So I quickly wheeled the cart to its designated space, and with keys in hand, popped into the car and prepared to back up. Too quickly I glanced and began backing up. I glanced again and saw a woman doing a James Brown hot steppin’ with her cart backwards.
I stopped yes, but not before all blood drained from her face and a look of complete fear overtook every feature. I motioned her to go, but why should she trust the idiot fool driver (me)? I mouthed sorry, sorry, sorry to her. She had managed to swallow once again.
Three quarters of the way home I berate myself. Whenever I do something foolish while driving I re-enact, tell myself what better action could be chosen and remind myself what possible consequences could have come from it. I put myself on trial. I do not want to kill another human by silly error.
And I hate inconveniences like talking to policemen when I’m at fault, paying for damages (beach vacations are so much more fun), and being without a car if it’s damaged.
I wasn’t home yet. The last stoplight is a big left turn onto a boulevard (fancy name for this street), with sidewalks on either side that back up to a six foot cement wall that goes forever to hide private backyards. Not one house faces the street here.
I see a girl about two feet tall on the sidewalk. What? Thirty, forty pounds? Even I could pick her up. Long blond hair swinging. A simple summer dress that looks worn, maybe second hand. Alone. I note traffic. Many cars. All with strangers who can wait because this street often is without traffic (witnesses). I am on the wrong side of the street to stop. I may frighten her. I may look like a pedophile. I may be making a big deal over nothing. I HATE decisions like this. I make my left turn in front of her because I am in traffic. I don’t see where she goes.
Should I go back? She’s a little child alone. Kindergarteners are theoretically old enough to walk to school. I drive about twenty feet and turn around. She is walking down my street in the opposite direction of my house.
Another big decision for me here. How to approach a little girl alone without scaring the bejeebers out of her. So I pulled up alongside, fiddled with my windows because I always get them confused when I’m nervous and finally get it open.
“Are you okay? Would you like a ride?” Yes! I know! Don’t get into cars with strangers. Luckily she told me no. “I’m going to my grandma’s.”
“Okay. I’ll watch you.” I stayed behind her and watched her walk passed about ten houses and then turn in. I came home thinking how fragile everything is. And if that little girl tells grandma a stranger followed her well, that’s okay with me. Maybe next time she won’t be alone. At least not until she’s a little heftier and older looking.
I don’t like making these decisions and I don’t like that it no longer feels safe for a little girl to walk down the street. What happened??? I walked down the street alone to and from school at that age and I loved it. I loved the dawdle time, the kick the rock time, but if this is the new face of driving home from the grocery store, I’m going out to eat more.