When my kids were little I was taking them to school one morning when I saw a parking ticket guy hiding behind a tree.
He was waiting to tag cars if parents were gone more than 5 minutes. I was walking so I was safe from his depredations, but I dislike gratuitous rule enforcement. There was parking available. And he was being ridiculously covert. So I did think an unfriendly thought about him, but then continued on my way.
A couple of blocks later, parking ticket guy zoomed past on his scooter and got hit by a truck in the middle of the intersection.
Both vehicles were going slow so I don’t think he was hurt, but he was bounced off his scooter. The truck driver and I converged to see if he was okay, but he put up both hands to ward us off. He pulled out his phone, explained that he’d been hit and asked for back up. We tried to approach him again, but he refused to talk to us and pushed us away, giving every indication that he would physically resist our attempts to aid him. Parking meter guy clearly saw us as hostile antagonists in his drama, and so he stayed on his bottom in the middle of the intersection, blocking traffic, and rocking back and forth to soothe himself.
He was probably in shock. Someone called 911. More people gathered and tried to assist without success. I could see that they were going to stick around, and as I was late for work, I departed.
But I’ve thought about this incident a lot.
I’m sure his belief that the general public had hostile intent was based on his experience as a predacious parking ticket guy. He probably was in receipt of verbal abuse on a daily basis. Partly because of the way he approached his job, but even when a ticket is justifiable, no one loves a parking ticket guy. It seemed he had generalized these experiences into his views about humanity, and was refusing to have a different kind of relational experience at a time when he could have really used one.
I have wondered, since that day, how often I do the same thing. How often do I stay defended and assume my environment is unsympathetic?
Weirdly (or not), through reflecting on this pre-paleo I could see that in some ways this is exactly what I was doing.
I was the parking ticket guy: holding up traffic (prana); trying ineffectively to self-soothe (with carbs); assuming the world was cruel (I had evidence to prove it!); warding off compassion (from all kinds of sources, including from myself) with a bag of rice chips and then a bowl of krispies and then a muffin and then some lasagna;
Once I understood this, I had to then ask myself:
- How was I behaving that was reinforcing my belief that I needed to stay defended?
- How was I refusing to accept help?
- Why did I think that the world couldn’t be different?
- Where was I impeding the flow?
When I came accept that I was the parking ticket guy, I had to figure out what to do about it. And I did. I went paleo.
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