Apparently the guy driving his pimped out hoopty through our neighborhood does.
He doesn't live here. I've never seen him around here hanging out at anyone's house. I've never seen that car drive by on any of our streets. Our quiet little neighborhood is almost entirely older couples that have lived here since the neighborhood was built in the 50's or young families like ours. This guy was WAY out of place.
Maisie and I were on the last stretch of our walk which zigzags through the four blocks that make up our little neighborhood in Berclair. Maisie was totally zonked out in the stroller. People rarely drive by on our walks because most everyone in the neighborhood is at work, unless they are retirees or stay at home moms, like myself.
I was enjoying the fresh air and peaceful noon-time sun when I heard a car coming up behind us. I was walking in the street to help keep Maisie asleep so I moved over toward the sidewalk. The car slowed down and rolled along at pace with me. I looked over to see a young guy smiling at me.
"Hey" I said.
"I knowz whe' yoo goin'" he said, still smiling.
"Oh yeah? Where?" I thought this should be interesting.
"You walkin' that bay-beh". Not as profound as I had hoped.
"Yep" I acknowledged.
"You want my help?" he said offering me a ride in his hoopty.
"Nope, thanks, I'm fine".
"Ok" he said, still keeping pace with me and smiling.
"I like your car" What the hell did I just say? I am such an idiot. I ALWAYS feel like I have to say something to make sure people know I'm not mean and that I didn't hurt their feelings.
He looked at me with a different kind of smile. "Whe' yo man at?"
"He's at work" I said, no longer smiling.
"Oh, a'right". He finally sped up and drove away.
All at once I felt like laughing, I felt angry, I felt vulnerable, I felt like a mother bear.
I wished I had paid more attention to the details of his car so I could report it. I wished I didn't always feel like I had to put people at ease, especially when THEY are the ones making things awkward. I wished I had asked him point-blank what he was doing and what he was trying to get out of me. I wished the whole exchange had never happened.
Did he just happen to see me walking as he drove by on the main road and decided I looked like a vulnerable girl he could get in to his car? Had he been following me for a while and I was unaware of it? How could he really think I might possible take him up on his offer?
I am so grateful he wasn't pushy, that he didn't stop his car and get out, that he apparently decided I wasn't going to play his game and he should move on to someone else.
But I am way pissed off. Way.
The line in my head and my heart between prejudice and the need to feel safe as a women walking my daughter in the middle of the day on a quiet street of our family-filled neighborhood is very unclear. Should I have handled the situation differently? Should I be reacting differently, either to one extreme or the other? Why can't I feel sure about the way I did handle it and the way I am reacting? Am I becoming hypersensitive to offense?