Even as I look down at him, this short brown man in a blue beanie and silver chain, he stands inches above me in moral stature, saying, It's not okay. Even if you're late, it's not okay.
I shake like a leaf under his hands. He has every right to sock me for nearly causing his early demise. Instead he places firm hands around my bony biceps, a bold and totally appropriate move.
There was frost on my windshield... I'm so late for work! I wail.
He stares into my soul, shaking his head nononononono, imparting on me the life-long lesson I had just slammed head-long into for the umpteenth time in 30 years:
If you go fast enough for long enough, you'll eventually hit an end. And it probably won't be the one you were driving toward.
The time is precisely 15 minutes before I am supposed to be gracefully waking up my 6:45AM yoga class. I am sure I'd set my alarm for 5:30AM, so that I could ride my bicycle into the city and suck down a bleary-eyed coffee before teaching my first fitness class of the day. Instead I'd woken with a start at 6:23AM and flew out of bed like a someone who'd fallen asleep with popcorn on the oven.
I pulled on a huge T-shirt, a pair of cheap black boots, and yoga pants. I grabbed a pack of gum and my ever-ready backpack. I tore out of the front door, ran through my apartment building, plunged into the rain without a jacket, peeled open the dinged-up door to my Corolla, ignored the frost on every window, reversed without looking, gunned it up the street, breezed past the stop sign, looked right, and turned left.
Then slammed on my brakes as a beautiful white SUV swerved to avoid me.
Silence, as my eyes finally opened.
The SUV and I both hesitated breathlessly on the side of the road, exhaust creating gentle clouds around us. And then I looked at my watch. I could still make it.
My yogis needed me! They had gotten up and made it to class; they were there waiting for me! Sure, I would make $22 teaching it. Parking gobbled up $6. But it was my duty.
So I hit the gas.
To my horror, The SUV turned around and started following me. Like a rabbit under a hawk, I drove faster. He did, too. Oh. My. God.
A momentary chase ensued. Then I took another hard left, swerved to avoid another white car, and felt like I got hit between the eyeballs by a ping pong ball: JUST STOP.
Now I was standing in the rain, crying like an 8-year-old. Ironically, this is a scene I'd been in countless times before. In front of my mom, my dad, my ex boyfriend, my best friend, a Shaman...
Me hopping around a-la Alice in Wonderland, chanting, I'm late, I'm late, to a very important date! No time to wait! No time to wait! I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!
And them saying: It doesn't matter.
He has an accent, something from parts South. His car is nicer than mine; he is dressed for the weather. I have the fleeting thought that he must wonder what the Hell I do for a living, if this hodge-podge of a body cover was my work outfit.
Listen, listen, it doesn't matter. The job, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. You can't drive like that. You will hurt something.
His big brown eyes peer at me with a mixture of caution, pity, and awe. He's not saying my job is meaningless. What he's saying is: if I show up to work dead, my job doesn't matter. If I show up to my work having killed someone else, my job doesn't matter. It's not just about the job: there's work in getting there, too. Be careful with the work. All of it.
Meekly, I whimper, Okay, I'll call my boss. Then, I'm sorry.
I climb back into Carl the Corolla and drive slowly up the street. He watches me from behind his windshield, but he doesn't pursue. I call the gym: I'm not going to make it to class; I've gotten in a near-accident. I'm so sorry. Please tell my yogis how sorry I am.
I drag myself back to bed and tell my groggy partner everything. That guy was right, I say.
Like a bug in a Venus fly trap, I disappear into my partner's compassionate embrace. He's seen me learn this lesson before: I guess it's kind of like watching someone getting their teeth cleaned.
When I wake up later, I realize that I am mildly feverish: headache, throat ache, chest ache, stuffy nose, the works. That must have been why I overslept, even after an early bedtime the night before.
And so, I cancel all of my appointments.
The world is telling me to write. It's the only habit that has ever slowed me down.
Dear Man in the White SUV: My mom says, "Thank you."
Emily Stewart is an insatiably curious merrymaker and busy-body.
Everything on this website is Copyright © 2017 by Emily E. Stewart, Sole Trader. All rights reserved.
Special thanks to Paul K. Porter, who's pictures appear most frequently on the site, for being the best yoga retreat photographer EVER.