Compulsion to Say Something

I was waiting for the elevator in the lobby of my building. Not my building but the building that I live in. Some folks had just left on an elevator. I waited for the door to close and the sign to let me know that they were headed to the second floor before pressing the button to call another elevator. There are three.

While waiting, someone else joined me in the lobby. A younger man, about half my age perhaps, maybe slightly older. When the next elevator arrived, I happened to be standing next to it. The feeling when that happens is similar to lining up just so with the doors of a subway car when it stops. I waited for the doors to open to see if anyone was coming out. Buddy didn’t wait. He started walking right in.

We met in the doorway. I turned to him and asked if he didn’t see me waiting for the elevator. I spoke to him the same way I would a student who’s been acting out of turn, trying to make the class laugh or some such tomfoolery. He apologized.

As I was exiting the elevator on my floor. Well, not my floor but you know what I mean, I nodded to him as I would anyone else who still had to go higher up.

That was a couple of days ago. This morning, someone quickly backed out of their parking stall and right onto the ramp between the second and third floors of the parking garage. I was heading up from the third and she was heading down from the second. I had to stop for her awkwardly. The ramp are quite steep.

I followed her through the maze of the parking garage and out onto the street. The light was red at the next intersection, she was in the right lane (a lane reserved for buses, taxis, bicycles, motorcycles, and emergency vehicles at the time) and I was in the left. I rolled down the passenger-side window of the car and signalled for her to roll down her window. She did. I told her that what she did was quite dangerous. She said, “I apologize,” and left it at that. I think I had a perplexed look on my face. When the light turned green and I took off, on my way to work.

People seem to apologize without ever saying they’re sorry and without any sincerity. It’s as if they’ve read the situation and decided that the best way for them to get out of the situation is to just apologize and move on. There’s no indication of any intention to do better.

I’m not bothered so much by the response that people give me, even though they seem trite, but by my compulsion to say anything at all. This is a new thing for me. Before, I would curse at them outside of earshot. I don’t know what’s changed and I don’t like it. My patience has run out, I guess.

Why do I feel compelled to say anything? What is my intention in doing so? Are other people writing about their interactions with me on their blogs?


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