Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Blowing Kisses

It's been a great biking summer, but tough on the bike. Yesterday I had a flat tire two blocks from the office. Two new inner tubes later, life is good again, but you never know what tomorrow will bring.

I left for work early hoping to make it there well-ahead of a new patient, not wanting his first impression of me to be

me shlepping my bicycle through the waiting room, looking like I need therapy bad.

And flats happen and school is in session, meaning there will be unusually heavy traffic, more buses, more pedestrians, many more shapes and sizes of young people walking in pairs, three and four across on the sidewalk, unlikely to make room perchance I hop a curb to avoid colliding with a truck.

In the summer the sidewalks by schools are virtually pedestrian-free. But not anymore.

This is boring, isn't it? You don't need to know about bike traffic. You want to know about blowing kisses, the title of this post, not blowing tires and dodging silly children who don't smile. (They weren't smiling yesterday).

The Story

Maybe it's because my granddaughter threw huge kisses to us on Skype last night that this is on my mind. She's two years old and famous for her one-liners.
"What's that in your hair, honey?"
"Oh, that's just tomato sauce."
I'd share more, but it's stealing material.

Or maybe it's because of the smacker Barack Obama gave Nancy Pelosi at the convention. To be fair, he kissed all of the women within reach after his speech (maybe the men, too) and I'm pretty sure that John McCain will be in an amorous mood, as well. But that public display of affection feels a little extreme to me and unnecessary. My ethnic-cultural bias, for sure.

So this morning on my bike, about a mile away from home, I reach my first traffic-congested intersection and am seeking eye contact before crossing in front of a car. It's a good idea to do that because most drivers won't intentionally run over people if they've made eye contact first. I get the nod and flash a smile even as she's creeping closer and closer towards me.

And moments later, there's an encounter with my first school bus; the poor driver is really working to make it through traffic. He's not giving me any green-light looks, no looks at all, communicating that if I cut ahead of him, it may be my last conscious decision. I wait, edge up carefully. And then, out of nowhere, he looks down condescendingly and waves me on.

This is going to be a super day, if you believe in omens. I wave back.

Finally, at the most congested intersection ever, one without any stop signs or traffic lights, another driver sees me waiting at the curb for a break in the traffic, stops on a dime and waves me forward as if to say, 'Go! We're good!'

This is so unusual. This driver doesn't have to do this. She's got the right of way and I'm waiting patiently, not daring to expect a courtesy from anyone. She (maybe it's a he, must it matter?) doesn't mind at all, has literally stopped traffic for miles! For me.

What do I do?

Overcome with emotion, I throw a huge kiss, delivering it by my hand, drawing an invisible forcefield, a one hundred eighty-degree arc in the air that says, I love you.

Then I die of embarrassment. Did I just do that? Throw a total stranger a kiss? Isn't flashing a smile enough? What's this world coming to when total strangers throw kisses?

A few blocks away from the high school an African American policewoman is directing pedestrian traffic at the cross walk by the gas station. I stop and smile, take in the traffic signals, then say under my breath, "Do I go or do I stay?"*

She's heard me. "What?"

"Aw nothing. I'm just waiting for a green."

She smiles and warns, "This is the worst corner. You better be careful. The cars will ignore the pedestrians right here, right where we're standing, because of the curb cut. They'll mow you down just to get to the gas station to avoid the light."

"You better be careful, too," I say.

"Oh, I am. I am," she nods, seriously.

"I've never seen you before. But then I'm never this early for work. Do you work this corner every day?"

"Oh, I'm here three years. Replaced the last lady. She died." She lowers her voice. "Cancer."

I sneak a glance at the stoplight, the Walk sign is flashing, but decide to wait a minute longer.

"Wow, that must have been bad."

"It was. It was. But life goes on, you know?"

"I know. It sure does."

And I get the craziest urge, such a strong one, but I can resist it, I don't throw her that kiss of appreciation as I take off. It just feels way too loose to me.

"See you around!" I cry.

therapydoc

*Do I go or do I stay is a recurring theme in family therapy.

12 comments:

April_optimist said...

I'm always fascinated by the power (impact?) of smiling at strangers, telling someone she looks fantastic in what she's wearing, letting someone go ahead in line, or yes, blowing kisses. Not just the impact on the other person but on me as well. It's a rather nice way to go through life....

therapydoc said...

But April, you're an optimist. You can't help it.

Molly said...

Do I go or do I stay? I ask that a lot. Pleased to have found this blog and looking forward to reading more.

A Living Nadneyda said...

Go for it!

Having grown up in the U.S., where a warm two-handed handshake is borderline wild for some, it took me forever to get used to the classic Middle-Eastern greeting of a kiss on each check (only woman-to-woman / man-to-man among religious populations), but now it comes so naturally I can't help myself. I also feel completely normal greeting patients' mothers, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, with kisses on the cheek, considered unheard behavior and a total breech of etiquette in the U.S.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Great post!

I'm a big believer in the wave-and-smile when someone lets me in or is otherwise considerate.

But I hadn't thought of blowing a kiss! In some situations, when someone has been REALLY nice (and does not seem either overly uptight or sleazy), I think it might be just the perfect gesture. I'll have to give it a try!

Leora said...

My Sephardic women friends give me huggy-kissies and expect me to respond warmly. I'm one of those "can't express much emotion physically" types, like ALN mentioned. I only blow kisses at my kids. With my daughter it works fine; with my boys, I get an embarrassed "go away mom" kinda look.

Anonymous said...

now you got the song in my head now..my friend debbie is always singing should i say or go now.....you got to leave me now should I stay or go?

therapydoc said...

Yeah, sorry about giving you the song. I did it on purpose.

The only way to get it out of your head is to give it to someone else, and you just gave it to me.

Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

What does the policewoman being African American have to do with the story?

therapydoc said...

Anon.

Stories aren't all about action, verbs. I like adjectives, too. That's what African American is to me.

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I liked this post and it brought up a lot for me - the reality that day to day intereactions can evoke strong emotional responses such as appreciation and empathy.

In regard to the the last comment and your resonse it reminds me of a dvar torah and story at a meal yesteday. after the story someone asked me what a detail had to do with the story - it somehow rubbed him the wrong way. and i said it was simply a true piece/detail of the story.

therapydoc said...

Thanks, rabbi.