This morning I pulled the car down my driveway and stopped at the sight of a thick yellow hose running across where I needed to exit. The construction has gone on all week, starting well before the permitted hour and continuing until dark. But usually we can get around the mess.
I glanced to and fro, looking for some indication of humanity. No one. I waited. I tapped my horn. Still no one. What the heck, I decided. They see people live here. If they left a hose it must be safe to drive over it.
When I started forward, all hell broke loose. A gang of MGE workers catapulted down the block screaming Stop! Stop! so I did, halfway over the rubber and almost in the street. I rolled down the window and said, What?
Lady, didn’t you see the hose? I sighed. Of course I had. The bright yellow snake, three or four inches in diameter, strung down the block across all of the driveways. How could I have missed it? What I had not seen was any warning indicators or notices not to drive on it.
They hollered at me for a few minutes and then told me to go ahead the rest of the way. The experience soured me all day. I found myself conducting an inner dialogue, scolding myself for not having gotten out of the car and walked a block to look for advice. What if I hurt the car? What if I damaged their hose?
How could I have been so stupid?
When I got home this afternoon, I found out that my neighbor had the same experience, except she had kept driving. The gaggle of men yelled at her boyfriend since she had made her escape. With thirty years between us, she stood complacently in their doorway. She shrugged and said, They should have communicated better. She seemed unfazed. She certainly didn’t hold herself accountable.
I learned a lesson today. I have gone around my entire life assuming myself to be at fault whenever things go awry. It never occurred to me that my perception might be skewed — not really, that is. I have acknowledged that it’s an academic possibility but never believed it.
Some people can look the facts dead in the eye and believe the contrary of what they see. I observe it every day, in my clients, my colleagues, my friends, myself. Everywhere I went today, people told me what they thought; of politics, of Missouri; of Kansas; of their spouses; of the interactions between us; of their children. I laughed a little. I mentioned a time or two that there might be information that they had not considered, but nobody wanted to hear any refutation of their convictions. One person even told me to keep it to myself. He believes what he believes, regardless of contradictory evidence.
But I feel differently about this Corinne-is-always-to-blame thing. My ears pricked when my neighbor said that she had done exactly as I had, but put the responsibility for the situation in the hands of those surly workers whose hose had no doubt taken quite a beating under the wheels of everybody trying to go about their plans for the day. She’s right. I can say it now: I didn’t cause the hose to be there; I wasn’t the person who failed to instruct people as to how to deal with the situation; and I had no idea that anybody cared whether I drove over the hose or not. It was not my fault.
It’s the third day of the forty-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.