My Lane

It’s not often that someone will just stand in my way and refuse to move.

It happened once when I was driving to a community center in a neighborhood that was having a hard time with young men not having enough worthwhile things to do. They stood in the street looking at me, very casually but with a clear message. This was their street and I was on it. At first, I was incredulous. Was it really their intention to keep me from passing? I contemplated backing up my car and going around the block.  But instead I just stopped and looked at them, smiled a little. I figured that neither getting angry nor looking scared would work well. They waited two or three minutes, talking among themselves, ignoring me, and then they shrugged themselves on to the sidewalk.

It happened once years ago at work when a woman who thought I was flirting with her boyfriend parked herself in the middle of a very narrow passageway and dared me to run into her. Co-workers sitting in a row of desks turned to watch. I inched by the blockading woman and she clipped me with her shoulder. Unbelievably, she was looking to have a physical fight, a situation where we would push each other and somebody’s hair would get pulled. Mine was longer, easier to grab. I thought of this when I kept walking. She’s going to grab my damn hair, I thought. Right here in this office. But nothing else happened. I decided she’d bumped me by accident.

It happened today at the pool. Two teenage girls were playing in a lane meant for lap swim. I eyed their lane for a while and figured I could swim tight to the right side and leave them plenty of room for fooling around. I started well enough, I smiled at them and swam a clean stroke around them. But on the return, they were square in my path, first both and then just one. I lifted my head and said “Excuse me” as I approached but she stayed there until I was less than an arms length away, diving under just as I passed. This repeated itself with every length; one of them parking herself in my path, glancing at me, flapping around in the water,  and me swimming right up to and then over her. I’ll be damned if this brat will get me to stop and stand up, I thought. So I am just going to keep swimming and if I hit her, I hit her.

I’m not normally belligerent. I don’t go looking for trouble. And I will generally get out of other people’s way. But not always. Not today or tomorrow and probably not the day after that. I’m going to swim in my lane and folks need to get out of my way.

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