It was 5:21 last Tuesday when I careened into my new identity as That Crazy Lady. Had there been witnesses other than the immediate players, it may have warranted a short blurb in the local paper. Perhaps with a photo of the Crazy Lady and the Teenage Dog-Walker smiling, side-by-side. But the street was quite empty as I left a bewildered and bemused young woman on the sidewalk.
It started, as suburban dramas do, with a relay race between various child-related activities. After coaxing my preschooler into the car, I rumbled along at 20 miles per hour to pick up my son from karate. I had left him with cross kata and downblocks to pick up the younger child from preschool, and now we were late. Oh dear.
I sped up to 25.
That’s when I saw her. With a sweet dog snuffling into a lilac bush, a lovely girl stood patiently, white earbuds applied, watching her pup enjoy the wet smells of spring. Nice, I thought. Suburbia.
And then, disaster. With a sickening sklunsh of muddy water, my tire created a mini-tsunami that covered the girl in puddle. I could feel my shoulders and eyebrows arch in unison. OH NO!
The rearview mirror confirmed the worst. I saw her look down, look back, then sag in acceptance of what the fates had dealt. Crap crap crappity crap.
And then, I shrugged. Whatever. I mean, what could I do? Apologize? Oh sure, I’d go around the block, find the dog-walker, apologize…then what? Never mind.
But I did mind. And I did go around the block. I did find her. I parked the car ahead of her. And I didn’t think about whether or not it would be offensive as I pulled a ten dollar bill from my wallet ($5 would be too little; $20 too much). I didn’t think that her dog might growl at an unfamiliar person jogging towards her beloved person. I didn’t think; I just did.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry about splashing you back there. I didn’t mean to. I hit the puddle. I didn’t mean to.” I reached out and touched her arm, just below the shoulder. It was meant to show sincerity. Earnestness. I didn’t think that she might be worried that a stranger had run up babbling apologies. I kept talking. “Here, take this.” The ten dollar bill pressed into her hand.
The lovely teenager gave me a look more amused than offended. “You don’t have to pay me.” I may have noticed the first tremor of worry between her eyebrows.
“Oh, I know I know I know. It’s just that I’ve been splashed, and I know how it can ruin your day. It sucks. It really sucks. Do what you want with the cash. Keep it, give it away. Whatever.”
Her hand closed over the money with a shrug. “Okay.” A smile. “Have a good day.”
“You have a good day!” And with that, I pranced back to my car and had a very good day.