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24 February 2010
We went to a social event recently and as we were getting ready to leave, standing with a group of people by the door, one of the women in the group turned to me and said "What's wrong with your back? Your shoulders are rounded. You've been hunched over your computer too much."
I didn't really know what to say and, since I was in the process of leaving anyway, I just left, but I was kind of embarrassed by the whole thing and I could feel my face flush as I walked out of the building.
My mother started telling me to stand up straight when I was in high school and told me often that I was hunching my shoulders. My shoulders have been rounded for a very long time and I never really think of it until I see photos of myself, especially photos where I have taken great pains to "stand up straight" and still have the pronounced rounded shoulders. My shoulders have been rounded for decades and apparently this woman just never noticed before.
It shocked me that someone would go out of her way to point that out at the party, with other people around.
This is a woman who is really very sweet and I'm sure she thought she was being helpful and didn't think twice about pointing out my rounded shoulders to the group. I'm sure she would be appalled if she realized how I reacted to her comment.
But really, can you see yourself standing in a group of people and saying "Hey! You have a big wart on the side of your nose. Have you seen a doctor about that?" Even if your relationship is one where speaking about such things would seem appropriate, it is certainly not appropriate to do it with others around. No matter how helpful you think you're being, adding public embarrassment to the issue is not going to do any good. And probably the person does already know there is a big wart on their nose, just as I am well aware that my shoulders are rounded.
I guess we Americans are, by nature, fixers. It's something that is both good about us, and bad about us. Somehow we feel it is not only our right, but our duty to offer helpful suggestions. But we need to be more aware of where and how we approach what we think is a problem. In the middle of a party is not the place to do it, especially when it concerns someone's physical appearance.
Walt called yesterday afternoon from the Burbank airport and told me he'd be home in two hours. Good thing I'd tidied up a little bit in the afternoon. Usually he gives me a day's warning.
At the appointed hour, I got in the car and headed for the airport. He was scheduled to arrive at 7 p.m. I was a little early, so I didn't feel rushed when I merged onto I-5.
Truth be told, I don't like that stretch of I-5. Seems like there are always huge trucks barreling up behind you and there are a couple of overpasses which make me feel claustrophobic. I like giving myself extra time so I don't feel I have to rush through all that traffic. It also helps to play an audio book and I was really into my latest Harry Bosh adventure when I noticed a "truck" seemed to be following very close. The lights were very bright.
I didn't realize it wasn't a truck until the highway patrol guy started his siren a couple of times. It was just as we were approaching the high overpass over the river and I didn't want to pull over to the side of the road, so I put on my blinker, indicating that I would be pulling off, and continued to drive on until the rest stop I knew was just beyond the bridge.
What is it about being pulled over by a cop? I sat there shaking like a leaf. I was pretty sure I hadn't been speeding. I knew our license was up to date. I couldn't think of what I had done wrong,
The guy approached me and I apologized for not pulling off right away. I asked him what the problem was and he asked if I knew what speed I'd been driving. I told him I wasn't sure -- and I wasn't because the needles on the dashboard stopped lighting up years ago, so it's always just an educated guess at your speed (I didn't tell him that, of course), but I was fairly certain I hadn't been speeding.
No. I hadn't been speeding. In fact, I was going too slow. I had been driving 45 mph and the minimum speed on that freeway was 55 mph. I've become the little old lady my father alternately laughed at and got angry with, who chugged along at very slow speeds on the freeway. The officer told me that if I drove that slow, I was in danger of being run down by trucks.
He examined my license for a very long time and asked me if I'd been drinking. I assured him I had not (unless water counts). I told him I was just going to the airport and I would probably have my husband drive home. It never hurts to play the little old lady card! In truth, I was going slow because I am always nervous on that stretch of freeway at night and because I couldn't see the speed anyway on the dashboard. And I was all wrapped up in my audiobook and not in any great hurry.
But he let me go with a warning to drive faster next time (when's the last time a highway patrol officer told you to drive faster?) and we both went on our way. I only had one exit to go before I got off...and when Walt got back in the car I made sure to drive at least 60 mph all the way home -- you have to squint to see the needles of the speedometer in the lights of passing cars, but it can be done, if you've been warned not to drive too slow.
Naptime in Boston