A few weeks ago, I went to pick up The Critter at preschool. Since all the parents descend on the school at the same time to pick up their kids, parking spaces are at a premium. I was delighted to find an available, if tight, space to stow the family vehicle.
Following extraction from the playground (often a task of some difficulty), The Critter and I made our way back to the car, at which point I opened the rear door to put him in his car seat for the drive home. As I mentioned, the space was tight, and when I opened the door and navigated my son into his seat it gently bumped the car next to me, which was occupied by another father putting his own kids in. I hope you will take my word when I promise that I am not editing my memory in a self-serving way. It did not bang, slam, dent, ram or otherwise traumatize the other car’s door, and my door’s speed and force were so low that nobody could possibly worry that it could have caused any damage unless the automobile in question had side panels made of balsa wood. Really, I promise.
“Oops” I thought to myself, with roughly the same degree of concern as when a little bit of jelly escapes over the side when I make my kid a PB&J sandwich. Had another car door bumped mine in a similar manner, I hasten to assure you that it wouldn’t have bothered me in the least, and it never occurred to me that anyone else would have a different reaction.
I proceeded to get into the driver’s seat, only to glance over and see the other father giving me a Look. Now, as I’ve said, it never in a million years would have occurred to me that anyone would be bothered by a low-velocity door-to-door bump, so my assumption was that my getting my kid and myself into the car had somehow impeded his egress. Thus, I motioned that he could back out first. With an irritated wave, he directed me to pull out myself, which I did after giving one of those perfunctory “thanks” waves in return.
I looked over my shoulder to reverse out of my spot, and when I turned my head back around was treated to the sight of him getting out of his car and making a big show of checking the area where my door had touched, accompanied by an ostentatiously disgusted shake of the head. The scene was obviously intended for my viewing, as a wait of twenty seconds would have allowed him to do so without my knowing. But no, I was meant to see.
I rolled down the window and asked, with a mix of concern and confusion, if there was any mark on the door. He replied with annoyed terseness “no.” At which time he got in his car and I drove away.
So… is this a big thing? Am I meant to go through an elaborate ritual of penance if my door comes into contact with another car’s? Did I transgress some social norm that everyone else knows? I swear I would have done the appropriate “soooooooooooo sorry!” pantomime if I had had even the slightest inkling of concern that I’d actually damaged the car. Is said pantomime necessary regardless?
And have any of you ever committed some faux pas you didn’t know existed until after you’d done it? (The other time I did that was when I tried to tip a bartender in England. You’d think I’d relieved myself on the bar. Embarrassing.)