Tonight I backed into someone's car. Or she backed it into mine. Whatever the case, the collision was an accurate definition of an accident.
Before I got out of my car to consult with the other driver, I could see her in my rear view mirror. Clearly, she was unhappy with this turn of events.
The conversation went like this:
Her: "Can you please watch where you are going?!"
Me: "Well...you were backing up as well."
Her: "But I was backing up first!"
Me: "Maybe. But I didn't see you, and I wouldn't purposely try to hit another car. Are you okay?"
At this point she starts to well up, her hand goes to her forehead, and she tells me she's very stressed. So, I press her and ask the things one asks in these situations.
Are you sure you're okay? Is your car okay? Do you need something? Can I call someone for you? (She starts to cry now.) Do you need a hug?
She's not willing to let me off the hook - she's needs to be the victim for a bit, I think. But something shifts ever-so-slightly when I ask her if she needs a hug.
She brushes some dust off the back of her car and exclaims that she's glad her car is fine, and jumps in her vehicle without looking back. It occurs to me she hasn't asked me if I'm okay, if my car is okay. Then I start to well up, too, because human decency and all.
As I start to drive away I think about something I learned in the past year: Essentially, I believe, we're all just talking to ourselves. The other driver was telling herself to look where she's going.
And earlier in the afternoon, I'd had this down slide in my mood because I was feeling as if I couldn't get enough accomplished in the hours of my day.
I was asking the stressed-out driver the questions I wished someone had asked me earlier that day.
"There's no one else out there," I hear my teacher Kelley Kosow say from wherever she is in the world.
Understanding that this is true, I take myself to a yoga class shortly after the parking-lot incident. I get to catch my breath, get to be still for a bit. I ensure my own okay-ness, examine the gifts of my encounter with a stressed-out driver.
And of course, the gifts are there.