Something happened to me today. I've kind of been expecting it. Fearing it, in fact. That's a real photo of my 14-year-old van, except for the license plate. You can see it has stickers from both of Obama's elections, Planned Parenthood, and Hillary 2016, which I carried in my van for a couple of weeks before I gathered the courage to stick it on there. I've openly supported HRC from the beginning, even from the last election. But putting that on, and now leaving it on after the election .... it's been hard. I feel like a target. I feel paranoid. And yet I refuse to take it off, my Hillary sticker. She won the election as far as I'm concerned, so I'm leaving the winner on my van.
And yet, I know my van sticks out. Most people didn't put up yard signs, didn't apply bumper stickers like they have in past elections. I'm one of the rare ones. And I know a lot of people have taken theirs off. They don't feel safe. We're all hearing and reading the stories. Today it was a 75-year-old Florida man was pulled from his car and attacked because of his rainbow bumper stickers. The attacker yelled over and over, "You know my new president says we can kill all you faggots now." An isolated incident? Maybe.
My story happened at the Air Force base, which is a place where I definitely feel conspicuous in my van. The majority of military people tend toward the right, some pretty far right. I don't understand it, because we've got this Republican congress that keeps cutting benefits and embroiling us in wars. I could go on, but I'll just say that my van really sticks out in the medical center parking lot on base. As I drove through looking for a parking space this morning, I saw hardly any bumper stickers on any cars there.
And again when I left I noticed how the back of my van stuck out like a woman in Congress. I felt conspicuous getting into it, and I admit that's all on me. Nobody said or did anything to me. I'm just feeling paranoid, and I think with good cause.
It wasn't until I was sitting at a stop light waiting to turn and go to the commissary that I saw the note somebody had slipped under my windshield wiper. A hand-written note on a small piece of white paper. I couldn't read what was on it. There was underlining, and I could just make out the word "nation."
Oh, great. I thought. Somebody's probably giving me shit because of my bumper stickers. I wonder how nasty it's going to be.
I made my turn and as I drove down the short highway, I couldn't stop looking at that note. On the one hand, I was curious. On the other, I kind of wished it would blow away so I wouldn't have to feel the reaction I just knew I was going to have. I've been expecting this, so I couldn't be surprised by whatever was on it. I wanted to see it and I didn't, and yet, I knew I'd be writing about it tonight, no matter what it said.
I finally got to the commissary and found a parking space. I got out, lifted the wiper and pulled out the note. On one side were what looked like printed directions. I cringed as I turned it over. This is what I saw.
|"You are not alone. We're still stronger together. #pantsuitnation|
My eyes filled with tears. I looked around as if I hadn't just driven a couple of miles away from the medical center parking lot. I read it again. And again, as I stood there in the chilly winter sunshine. And then I tucked it into the pocket of my jeans and walked across the parking lot to the commissary. I felt about a foot taller. I still had tears in my eyes, but I felt a surge of confidence. Of sisterhood. That no matter what happens, I'm not alone. I felt like I could breathe, really breathe, for the first time in almost 2 weeks.
I pulled that note out of my pocket several times as I shopped, and I felt the same swell of pride and connection I'd felt the first time I read it. I couldn't wait to show it to Coraline and suggest we do the same thing if we ever saw another car with a Hillary bumper sticker.
Later, as I was driving home on the freeway I passed a big black dual-cab pickup. I was going quite a bit faster than he was. I passed him on the left and didn't really pay much attention. I had my cruise control set at 10 over, and I was passing a lot of people. After I had passed this guy though, he sped up and pulled alongside me and just stayed there. I needed to get over so I could exit, so I sped up a little to get in front of him. He sped up too. I slowed down to slide in behind him. He slowed down. He was obviously doing it on purpose. I hit the gas, shot ahead of him, and managed to get in front of him. I was going 80 in a 60, but my exit was only 1/4 mile ahead.
He exited behind me, and of course as luck would have it, I had to stop at a red light at the end of the ramp. He pulled up as close to my bumper as he could and glared at me the whole time we sat there. Finally the light turned green, and I turned left. As the pickup pulled up where I'd been, I noticed he rolled down his window and shouted something at the panhandler who was sitting on the curb with his begging box. I expected him to turn behind me, but he went straight and then he was gone and so was I.
I am not crazy. I don't really know what that guy's problem was. Maybe he's just one of those assholes who can't stand to be passed. And maybe he wasn't glaring at me. Maybe he was just angry because his wife had asked him for a divorce that morning because he voted for Trump. I hear that's a thing.
And you know what? It doesn't matter. Because we are still here and we are still stronger together. Our story may have taken a tragic turn, but we will not lose our momentum. We will not let a man like Donald Trump become our new normal in the White House. And we will force a return to civility in spite of him.
I'm going to suggest this: If you get a chance, leave somebody a note during this week of giving thanks. Leave a stranger a note or leave one for someone you love. Do both. You never know what a difference it can make in someone's life.