Friday, August 10, 2012

An Open Letter to the Soccer Mom We Encountered on King Edward Ave. Today

Sarah and I couldn't put it off any longer: we had to do laundry today. So we took our heavy load down to a great little place on Danforth near Main that I have had a really good experience with in the past. While our clothes were in the wash, we sauntered over to Popeye's Chicken for lunch; while they were in the dryer we browsed through the nearby Canadian Tire and then grabbed a coffee and doughnut at the Timmy's just down the street. We loaded up the clean clothes, dropped by Sobey's to pick up a great dinner deal they offered today (the kids are with us later on), then headed home relaxed and happy with the afternoon. The light changed against us at Danforth and Gledhill so we turned north to drive through the back streets to our apartment. There are speed bumps on Gledhill; I decided to swing over to King Edward to avoid them. And that's where it all began.

Here is my open letter to the Mom who, with kids in tow, stepped briefly (I hope) out of her right mind today in the middle of King Edward Ave.


Artistic recreation of our experience
Hi, Mom. How are you doing now? Is your blood pressure back to normal? Should we be worried about your health or that of your kids? The display you put on for our benefit today left us more than a little rattled and concerned that you might get worse before you get better. I get that your road is under construction and likely has been for a long while. I get that the new garbage services - privatized under the gloating countenance of our idiot mayor - leave quite a bit to be desired. I get that you might be tired of having your two school-aged kids underfoot all summer long, especially a summer that's been this hot. I can relate to all of that. I've had bad days, too, many more than I could ever count. But you know what? You having a bad day is never, ever a good catalyst for losing all concept of reason and civility in front of your kids.

Inconsiderate drivers are everywhere
Because I think it's entirely possible that you had a blackout and cannot remember the events, here's what happened: we turned onto King Edward -- the street you live on, at number 75 -- at the very south end and slowly proceeded north. You stopped your car in the dead centre of the street, nearly a full block ahead of us, facing south and fully able to see and comprehend that we were approaching your car. This didn't faze you in the slightest as you stepped out of your van and left the driver's door wide open so that no vehicles would be able to pass you from either direction, with no indicators of any kind flashing as a warning. You then walked (and not quickly) a short distance away, stepping over the curb, and proceeded to perform some kind of task that we could not really see from where we were. As we came upon your car, still in the middle of the street, still impassable, we saw that you were shuffling some garbage bins around. We drew to a halt - we had no choice - and waited while you finished your machinations and returned to your car, finally closing your door as you did so. Why you were handling those garbage bins was anyone's guess; my thought was that they could have been in the middle of the road and in your way so you had stepped out to clear the path for everyone. Apparently, though, I gave you too much credit. After you closed your door I proceeded to continue up the street and go around you, having been stopped for several seconds already. As we drew even with your car, you suddenly put your left-turn indicator on and only at that point - and certainly no sooner - did it become clear that you were trying to pull into your driveway, which I can only imagine had been blocked by the empty bins a few moments earlier. By then we were already past the point of no return and had to continue to pass you; however, as we did so I heard you screaming at your closed window (mine was open) and gesticulating wildly. For a moment I thought you were warning us about imminent danger ahead, but I could not make out what you were saying to me. So when I saw you leap out of your car in your driveway and wave your arms at me I pulled over a little further up the street and stepped out of the car to give you a chance to pass along whatever information you thought was so important that you had to scream it at me in front of your kids. (Despite your apparent rage I couldn't be 100% sure there wasn't some sort of emergency, so I thought I should stop and find out.) When you repeated your muffled words for me, it turned out to be the rather mundane and rhetorical question, "You couldn't have waited for me?" At that point, wishing I had simply kept going and not stopped to check on your well-being, I calmly informed you that I had already waited for you for several seconds and had you given any indication - such as your turn signal - before I had drawn even with your car that you were trying to go into that driveway then there was a very good chance we would have let you pass before continuing on our way, well-mannered citizens that we are. I have no idea whether you heard any of this, though, as you shouted over top of my words the entire time I was speaking. Then you dismissively made some rather rude gestures with your hands and turned your attention to your children, who had witnessed the whole exchange. At some point you gave my partner and me the finger in front of them. I know you swore more than once and your arms virtually never stopped moving maniacally as you shouted. Your meltdown would have been appalling enough had you been standing there alone; to act the way you did in front of your children is far beyond egregious. I'm not particularly proud of my own role in this incident; however, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself for yours.

Speaks for itself, no?
Now, because you clearly need some help with this concept, here is what should have happened. Perhaps you can read this section to your children so that they don't perpetuate your rudeness and ignorance into their own adulthoods. In the first place, even if you were frustrated with the garbage bins blocking your path and even though you own a home on a certain street, you do not have the right to completely block said street just because you feel like it. This may be the hardest concept for you of all, because unfortunately this city in which we live has come down with a wicked case of "Sense of Entitlement" over the past many years and it seems to be a tough thing to fix. But let me be clear about this point, again: you do not have the right to block an entire roadway simply because you yourself are being inconvenienced in some way. Your car should have been all the way over to the right-hand side of the road and your door should not have been left open, forcing us to come to a halt. If you had done these things properly in the first place, then we would have been long past you by the time you returned to your car and there would have been no need for your little fit that followed. However, you did jump out of your car in the middle of the road and forgot to close your door behind you, but there was still time to recover from that oversight. At that point, the moment you saw us coming toward you you should have either gone back to the car and moved it out of our way or worked at double-time to perform the tasks at hand: namely, moving the bins out of your path. You also should have given us some sort of indication of what was happening: leaving your left-turn indicator on or, better still, some sort of sheepish and apologetic wave to us in acknowledgment of the fact that you were now inconveniencing us for absolutely no reason whatsoever other than your own abject selfishness.

Might be buying this from Zazzle
But let's assume you had a momentary lapse of judgment because you were angry with the garbage collectors. Let's assume you had already held us up with your inconsiderate actions and had returned to your car and closed your door. There was still time to salvage a little bit of civility from the moment: you could have motioned for us to pass and waved your thanks for us having waited for you in the first place. At the very least, you could have just kept your mouth shut while we drove past and perhaps at that point your poor kids would not even have known anything was wrong in the first place. (And speaking of your kids, you left them in the middle of the street in a car with the engine running and no indicators going while you stepped out of that car and moved away from it. I think you had already relinquished any claim to "Mom of the Year" at that very moment.) But you did not keep your mouth shut, choosing instead to draw attention to your selfish lack of respect for anyone else on the planet and, worse still, indicating to your children that this was the right thing to do and somehow we were in the wrong here. Let me assure you, unequivocally: there wasn't a thing you did during the whole time we were on your street that can be considered as "the right thing to do". Not one thing.

Manners: not just for children
So congratulations, Mom: you are today's poster child for why I despair for the future of the human race. You are competent enough to own a driver's license and a car; you have produced a minimum of two offspring and are raising them in your image; you apparently own property in the most expensive city in Canada; and yet not only is your gut instinct to be uncivil and selfish and ill-mannered but you appear to be incapable of recognizing this as a fault when the opportunity arises to make amends. Instead of yelling at us that we "could have waited" for you - which we most certainly did do - you should have first of all not made us wait for you at all unless it was our choice to do so; failing that, you should have been sincerely and manifestly grateful that we did wait for you after you inconvenienced us so unnecessarily. Let me make this part perfectly clear: it was not the wait that we minded, not at all; rather, it was the assumption that your needs superseded ours and that we should wait for you, and do so without question and with no need of acknowledgment.

It is that assumption that I cannot let pass without comment. For it is that assumption that is at the root of myriad other problems that plague our city and make me want to scream most days I travel about within it. We are all in this together and if you can't innately understand that then perhaps you might at least figure out a way to teach it to your kids. That is the very least you should do, because your kids looked terribly embarrassed by your actions today and, therefore, I think there might still be hope for them.

It's sure worth a try and, more than that, you owe it to them to do so. Best of luck.


That's it for the letter. You know, I thought I would feel better at this point, but I really don't. Sigh. Well, thanks for reading, at least.


  1. As is with many societal ills, a lack of empathy is the root of these kinds of problems. I was lucky enough to work for Roots of Empathy for a short period of time, and I believe that empathy is a fundamental skill that needs to be taught in schools. I personally believe that civility (if not genuine caring for others) comes from education and programs such as this.

    1. Perhaps. I'm pretty sure I learned mine at home, though, and that's just not happening any more. We can't put everything on the schools, although I don't disagree that the Roots of Empathy is a great program and should probably be more widespread.


I've kept my comments open and moderation-free for many years, but I've been forced to now review them before they post due to the actions of one member of my family. I apologize for having to take this stance, but that's the way the world is headed, sad to say. Thank you for your understanding.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...