“Go home!!!” The exasperated driver yelled at the man in the van who nearly missed her as he merged into her lane.
Aggressive and erratic driving is a common sight in the Catskills in the summer.
The Sullivan County population triples from Fourth of July to Labor Day when the orthodox Jewish community makes the otherwise quiet towns their home.
I am one of those drivers exasperated by the ruthless driving skills of our summer visitors. At times, I am infuriated by the long lines at a cash register while they argue over a 50 cent coupon with their 5 kids on tow.
It is disconcerting and undoubtedly exasperating for a small town to deal with a two month rush of aggressive and reckless driving, the parallel parking on the one busy street, and the congested stores that update their shelves to accommodate the summer shoppers.
I am also a neighbor to one of the many summer bungalows bursting with men in black pants and white shirts and women in long skirts and wigs and I must drive slowly while they take half the road on their Saturday stroll.
I have at times questioned their customs. Their long walks in the blasting sun covered in long coats and hats. I am perplexed by their great rigor in observing the Shabbat. And so much more.
It is so easy to judge the unknown.
It is much more comfortable to stay in our own little world and forget how eccentric some of our customs are to the outsiders. We, Catholics, wave palms on Palm Sunday, mourn in abstinence on Good Friday and go all out on Easter. North Americans celebrate Thanks Giving. Irish party on Saint Patrick’s Day until their noses turn red. And as such, there are a number of customs by different cultures that are unusual, yet accepted, not judged nor condemned while others are.
I, for one, must reflect on my own ethnicity. I, too, am questioned and judged. I am Colombian. 100% tanned, Sofia Vergara accent, hard worker, soccer lover.
Much to everyone’s dismay I don’t dance even if my life depended on it. Although most of my counterparts drink strong black coffee, I am partial to the flavored weak Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla. And even more shocking is the fact that I don’t smoke pot, never have, I don’t sell drugs nor use them and never picked any coffee beans – neither did Juan Valdez.
I am an average Colombian like millions of others. An average human being living an ordinary life. The Colombian stereotype the media perpetuates is simply that, a stereotype.
As it is with most minorities and ethnic groups, our ordinary life is similar to that of most. We raise kids to love life, be happy, have good values, good morals, respect others.
The crimes that raise to the top of the headlines are exceptions, not the norm. Some stray. It happens in every culture and every group and as my Grandmother used to say, there is one in every family.
I must take that perspective when I am cut off in my commute from work. The man in the van ahead of me is an isolated occurrence. Most drive carefully and peacefully hoping to get home safely to see their many kids. The woman who shoves her cart with no regard to others in the store is not a replica of their entire community. She is simply someone who disregards others. My neighbors are peaceful, quiet, and do I dare say…friendly. They, like the rest of us, live an ordinary life in their own way. They teach their kids their customs and like we parents do, hope for the best.
Now when I question their judgment in walking in the blazing sun in their long coats and hats, I must remember that they are probably thinking the same about my runs in the hot sun or in the pouring rain as I pass them. I, too, take half the road when I run with my group.
Each group could be more tolerant. Sometimes beautiful things can be learned from the unknown. But we won’t learn them if we tell them to “Go home!”
Live and let live.