An open letter to the man who screamed at me (this time).

(Edited to add: This all went down last Thursday, and I gave myself a week to see if that would elicit a gentler, more forgiving response to the man in question. It didn’t.)


Dear Sir,

Not half an hour ago, you shouted at me with rage in your voice and disgust in your eyes.

You- you– stepped in front of my (stopped!) van at the edge of my alley, steps from my garage.

“Honk your EFFING* HORN.”

(*You did not say “effing.”)

This surprised me. Because my hand was, at the time, poised over my steering wheel. I had been about to do the double-honk alley thing that I always do. That all Chicagoans always do. I must’ve looked surprised because you then followed up with a condescending glare, shoulder lunge, and a stare-down as you slowly strode across the alley to the other side of the street.

Yeah,” you said.

And I felt myself wanting to defend, to explain. I had been about to honk! I wasn’t even near the end of the alley yet! Give me another ten feet and I would’ve, I wanted to joke, to diffuse the rage you surprised me with.

And then I felt myself get every bit as disgusted at the penetrating stare you were still giving me.

Because someone must’ve taught you it was okay to talk to women like that.

To a stranger like that.

To a person like that.

You continued to glare over your shoulder as you walked away- and then I realized that what you’d been feeling hadn’t been concern. You’d been feeling…entitled.

Entitled to walk across alleys and side streets without a moment’s pause which, admittedly, is a big fear of mine and something for which I’m always on high alert. For my 4, 6, and 8 year-olds, that is.

How magical it must be, I thought, to be able to scream at someone- anyone– for your own gut reactions…as long as they’re not personally threatening to you. Why shouldn’t you step out into streets and alleys without slowing in the slightest? You’ve got places to be! And anyone who’s wrong enough to enter your path? Eff ’em. Verbally eff ’em. (Bonus points if there’s a preschooler watching from the backseat.)

And so I smiled at you.

(Like I’ve been taught to do).

I smiled and smiled.

Because I knew that a man like you would eventually yell at the wrong person, someone who didn’t feel compelled to let shock and apologies wash over her while she was being berated. Someone who might. Just. Let. The. Car. Keep. Going.

That person probably wouldn’t smile, either.

(I never claimed to be kind 100% of the time. Peppermint Petty, that’s me.)

There. Now I’m smiling.

Yours in traffic karma,


car karma




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