My Parking Job Upset A Veteran, But I Couldn’t Make Myself Apologize

I was not about to apologize, which was surprising, because my entire adult, post-therapy life I have hoped for a moment of clarity right before I blurt out “I’m sorry” wherein I could pause and think about whether there was anything I should actually be apologizing for.

Why in the world did I choose last Friday morning? What made me stare down an agitated, confrontational American war veteran in the grocery store parking lot instead of being a good damn girl and just saying it?

I don’t know why, but I knew in that first micro-second of pause that I was not in the mood. I was not in the mood to be bullied and frightened or to play the role of the dutiful, penitent woman whose car she parked a wee too close to his van. I wasn’t available to act like a ditzy, over-burdened mother who should apologize from now until next Arbor Day for not guiding my mini-van to the center of those two yellow lines.

I’m fucking sorry I didn’t hit the bullseye for you.

As I had approached my car on the way out of the store, I was wheeling around the Queen of the Universe my daughter in the grocery cart designed to look like a purple taxi cab.  I registered that he was pacing between our cars, but I didn’t think much of it.  I was busy looking for my keys, explaining to Sadie why she couldn’t open all three boxes of Triscuits at once, and wondering whether the skinny jeans fad was finally waning.

I was a woman with a great deal on her mind.

Even though I had seen him, I was startled when he first spoke to me.

“Did you ever think that maybe you parked too close to my car?” he asked gruffly.

I don’t like to be startled, especially when I have one of my children with me.  I looked him straight in the eye; I knew the script: I  was supposed to say ‘I’m sorry’ and RUSH to throw my bags in the trunk and get my daughter strapped in her car seat with all due haste so that he would know how truly sorry I am.

Instead, there was that momentary pause.  I took deep breath.  (Honestly, he was right; my parking job was probably about a C+,  and that’s only if we were graded on a curve.)  But I wasn’t sorry.

So, I said, “No sir, I didn’t think about that.”  I wasn’t hostile or contemptuous; I was honest.  I answered the question that he asked, and I told him the truth, as if I had been prepped for this Friday morning show-down by a lawyer who coached me not to offer extra information. Just answer the question you were asked.

As far as I was concerned the matter was addressed, his question having been asked and answered.  I did my best to not let the adrenaline surge hurl me into urgent mode.  I put away my groceries and got Sadie settled.  My heart was thumping louder than a stereo at a frat party.

As I drove away, I checked my rearview mirror to see if he was following me or aiming a weapon at me.  He wasn’t. He had driven off in another direction and left me with my thoughts and the sound of Sadie munching on buy-one-get-one-free Nabisco products.

I ranted a little bit: fuck him and his fucking menacing vibe….how dare he scare me in the parking lot like that.

But there was no need for a rant.  It was nothing more than a 30-second human interaction where he said what he needed to say, and I, in turn, didn’t force myself to say something I didn’t want to say.

That was all.

Having dismissed my rants, I was left with a thin joyful residue of triumph for having looked him in the eye like an adult who wasn’t obligated to apologize for every damn thing.  And it felt pretty good.

God bless America.


75 thoughts on “My Parking Job Upset A Veteran, But I Couldn’t Make Myself Apologize

  1. You were nicer than I would have been. Right after I thanked him for his service, I would have responded with: “Did you ever think that you are a jerk who could have gotten out just fine but have no life and must therefore harrass a tired mom?”

    And yay for you for standing up for yourself. What a jerk!

  2. wooo weee nice! (although i’m now a little afraid of you – heehee) and you know what, sometimes we don’t want to apologize for every f’n thing and we shouldn’t. i like your moment not to follow the rules.
    i am curious about your meeting of love yesterday… so many emotions in a 24 hour period!!!

  3. I say “sorry” way too much, so good for you for holding your ground. You answered his question, and you weren’t rude. Veteran or not, he’s clearly the one with issues. I mean, let go of your anger already, geez. People who park too close sometimes piss me off, too, but I don’t hang around waiting for them. I just take pictures and send it to 😉

  4. Good FOR YOU!! I’m a huge fan of the vets, my dad being one who served in Vietnam also, but you are SO right – sometimes you don’t need to be bullied by who a person is and their tone. I was in a similar situation once – you know how one person parks on the line so every person in succession has to park over to one side to make all the cars fit? I just happened to be the last in that line and I parked too close to a car – and a pregnant woman really let me have it – as if I *knew* the car was being driven by a pregnant woman and I parked too close on PURPOSE just to make her day worse. I drove away so angry for not standing up for myself even though technically I was in the wrong – she made me feel like the WORST person in the world, for simply behaving like a person who had a right to park in a parking space (I was inside the line, just really close to it.)

    Those damn spaces are too small anyway! Didn’t they get the memo that minivans and SUVs are all over the place now?

  5. I am a knee-jerk apologizer, too. I have, in fact, wished for a light-up “Sorry” sign above my car for when I accidentally make a bad move as a motorist. Then again, I have encountered assholes while driving to whom I would make a concerted effort NOT to apologize even when they obviously think I should. Why are people so much nastier in/around cars?

    LOVE Triscuits.

  6. Good for you for responding like that! I usually end up apologizing like that, even when I shouldn’t. I say “I’m sorry” and in my head I finish “That you’re such a bag of dicks.” But only I hear that part.

  7. You were far nicer than I would have been, especially considering you had your daughter with you. I don’t mind people saying something to me, but the fact that you categorized him as being menacing would set me off. I really don’t like people making me edgy when I have my kids with me and I probably tend to come off as a bit bitchy because of that fact.

    • I was sort of hoping I would be more Mama Bear about it too. and I felt he was menacing, but I am a very paranoid person. So, it’s hard to say.

      On Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 9:02 PM, Outlaw Mama

  8. Sorry is so overused. Good for you for speaking like the adult you are and not cowering. He was wrong to try and intimidate you. Of course I was left wondering what I would have said and I truly do not know!

  9. Love it. I am a classic over-apologizer, so I would have given 55 excuses as to why it happened with an “I’m sorry” for each. Seriously. Shit happens, Guy, get over it. And to confront you in front of your kid? That’s not right.

  10. Yay!!! Good for you for not saying a reflexive sorry! (plus, even if your parking WAS only a C+, to approach a lady with a child in a menacing way is damn creepy…even if you were OVER the line you don’t get a sorry for acting like a creep)

  11. Well he did ask you a yes/no question, so you gave him the answer to his question. Sounds like you took the wind out of his sails 🙂 Plus, that was probably a nice model for your daughter to see you not get drawn in to a needless confrontation.

  12. Why do you buy 3 boxes of Triscuits at the same time? Was there a buy 2 get 1 free or buy 1 get 2 free? I think you might be sorry about that. If you parked the width of a Triscuits box from his car he has nothing to complain about. Good for you for answering his question. Saying you’re sorry can be held against you in a court of law, as you well know. Women apologize far too often. That’s got to change.. we can follow your example.

  13. I’m Canadian. I’ve apologized to walls I’ve bumped into. I think you should teach a class on this novel “thinking about whether there’s something to apologize for” idea, and I should take time off work to attend.

  14. Oh Christie, you are such a better person than I am. Sigh. I had a similar interaction when I was 8 months pregnant last year, except I wasn’t nice about it. I believe I said something along the lines of, “If you weren’t such a moron and your ugly giant SUV wasn’t over the line, maybe I wouldn’t be that close,” and some other stuff until the older woman who had started yelling at me ran away.

    Even worse? I’m not sorry. Who starts with a pregnant woman in 35 degree heat (sorry I don’t know what that is in American temperatures – it’s hot)? I’m a little shocked he would say anything to someone who was with her toddler too.

  15. I long for moments like these. You know. The ones where you say the right thing at precisely the right moment. Behave like a confident grown up. Those.

  16. Good for you! And you were respectful. You said “Sir”. I probably would’ve let the adrenaline get the better of me. I think you handled it well. But I know how moments like these can get under our skin and just niggle at us.

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