I'm a nice person. That isn't saying I don't have my moments of fury, or disappointment, but in general I find that when I wake up I want to be as nice to as many people as I can be. It's fun to watch people smile as I walk down the hall and address them by name. It's nice to be remembered and thought of.
Lately I've been wondering why. What compels me to want to be nice and helpful to people? Why do I find more interest in assisting others than assisting myself?
The answer came yesterday, when I stopped at Stop & Shop on the way home. I stepped out of my car to find two ladies that seem very frustrated. They had locked their keys in their trunk and were trying to wedge their arms into the car and open the lock.
I tried really hard to be nice. They wanted me to jam my arm in and trip the lock. My niceness was tested when I realized I couldn't do that. There was just no way I was sticking my hand in a stranger's car and risking the possibility of damaging the car or myself.
So I tried giving her several other options. I offered to call the police (she laughed and told me there was no way she was getting the police involved) or a tow truck or a locksmith. The only think she would allow me to do is stick my arm into her car.
I said no, and walked into the store.
When I came out, they were still there, searching for an answer. I smiled at them and asked if there was anything else I could do, but she said that I wasn't being helpful. So I began to enter my car to leave when she screamed at me that "this wouldn't have happened to me if I wasn't black!"
As I sped off, I was more confused than anything. I wanted to know what she meant. Was she accusing me of being unhelpful because she was black, or did she blame her race on the fact that she locked her keys in her trunk? How did her race have anything to do with it?
It jostled me a bit, and as I returned home I pondered why I felt so bad. I was wondering if I could have been nicer and helped her more. But most of all, I was angry at her for screaming at me when all I did was stop and talk to her.
That's why I am the way I am. I don't like being screamed at or made fun of or totally ignored. I want people to be nice to me, and the only way I can do that is to set a precedent. If the woman had not screamed at me, I would have done almost anything to help her. But instead I smiled curtly and drove away.