While out for a stroll, I was about to step into a crosswalk when I noticed that the driver of the black Jeep headed my way was looking at his floor and reaching for something under his seat. Sure enough, he looked up just in time to slam on his brakes, but not in time to avoid sliding through the crosswalk and into the intersection. Fortunate to be a witness to this rather than a victim, my mind began thinking the usual. What if I had been an elderly person with a cane? Or a parent pushing a stroller?
That’s when the most amazing thing happened. The driver rolled down his window and said “I’m sorry.” Not in a sarcastic tone, not in an obligatory “please don’t take a picture of my license plate and turn me in” demeanor, but with a genuine voice that expressed “I can’t believe I just did something that stupid and dangerous.”
Perhaps you are wondering why I qualified this as an “amazing” thing? I’ve had a home in Chicago for thirteen years, and I don’t own a car. That’s a lot of walking, in an area dense with cars and people, and there’s no way I could count the number of times I (or someone standing next to me) has almost been hit by a vehicle that’s run through an intersection, turned too tight and driven up on the curb, etc. In all those years, I’ve never heard a driver apologize to a pedestrian.
Back to the story, what do you think I did when the driver said he was sorry? I waved, smiled and said “It’s okay”. And you know what? It was okay because there was an acknowledgment of error and at least a chance he’ll do whatever is needed to avoid a repeat of the mistake.
Do I think “I’m sorry” solves everything? Of course not. I don’t like excuses or shrugging things off with a casual apology any more than the next person. However, there are times when sorry is the right thing to say and hearing it is the solution.
So, later during my walk, I suddenly saw a vehicle heading towards me on the sidewalk, which was a bit scary until I realized they were trying to park. So in the spirit of this blog post, I would like to let this driver know that I’m sorry the road isn’t big enough to fit your needs.