I drive down Georgia Avenue towards DC nearly every day and meet one or more of these drivers each journey: 20 in a 35; Ride-a-Tail; Stops for No Discernible Reason; Slows for Turn But Does Not; Slows for Turn With No Signal; Swerves into Adjacent Lane Because a Bus/Pedestrian/Uber has Stopped in Theirs (Obviously); Crosses Three Lanes of Traffic to Get On Beltway; Turning Left from Lane Marked ‘No Left Turns;’ Still Reading Text 10 Seconds After Green.
These drivers make me angry. Furious. I gesture. I shout. I roll down my window to scream toothless threats into the wind until my face is wet with spit.
They’re doing this to me.
They are hurting me.
No, of course they’re not. Like me, they’re just trying to get through the day without falling through an open manhole or slipping on a banana peel. They’re thinking about work. Their sick Aunt. What to make for dinner.
I’m a person of greater than modest means. Still: Getting out of bed, making coffee, dressing myself & the kid, driving to school and then work, working, doing work that matters, reading a few pages on the can, trolling Twitter and FB for pictures of your beautiful tropical holiday between stories describing of our impending political/environmental doom, buying groceries, feeding myself, the family, bath time, 3 books and a song, paying bills and doing dishes, watching a little TV while locked into work email with a customer just starting her day in Asia, holding my tiny family close, clacking out 200 words… that’s all I can squeeze out most days. That’s success. I don’t owe the universe more than that.
Women who do it solo1, likely with more children and far fewer resources than my family, are the only people who can every rightly claim to be “owning” this life. That they don’t collectively say “Fuck this” and seize the halls of power is a testament to how steep – and exhausting – are the barriers we demand women surmount before the day even begins.
Some of you, though, are ethereal beings – pixies, imps, demi-gods – who can push out a novel or a business or music in the spaces between the events that take up a normal day. Do you have a staff? Shadow henchmen? Office space that sits on the periphery of time-space? Maybe you don’t. Is there an accounting at the end of the day that is suppressed, omitted from the public record? I’d guess yes.
In work and life, I can over promise and under deliver. Sometimes I try to connect with people and I fail. I try again and fail again and that failure carriers a great weight. We’re all just trying to muddle through the day. I’m (mostly) succeeding at my core responsibilities and the core is fucking hard.
You know that.
Driving down Georgia, I know nothing about the souls of those drivers, if they are good or bad people. I can think: “She’s self-involved. He hates his family. Maybe that guy’s a Adolf Hitler and Hugh Hefner chimera wrapped up in a $5000 suit, a JD and an S-Class.” But I don’t know. I do know that I am deeply distrustful of any system that applies a value to a human being. I do know that humans make mistakes and and are exclusively focused on just getting through the day.
You don’t know, either. You think you know the specific quality in people creates conflict, but you don’t know.
I forget anniversaries. I miss conference calls. I say the “right” thing the wrong way. I drift over into your lane while singing along to the Beatles. I am human. I make mistakes and spend 99% of my brain cycles trying not to trip over my own mess.
You might call this privilege. Ok.
Expecting perfection and attributing anything short of it to a trait other than “human” is to set yourself up for unending misery.
Good luck in 2019.
- Know it’s exclusively women. Take a good think on why you object, Men, when anyone makes that evident observation. ↩