It was a bit chilly here in the Cincinnati area this past Saturday. Nonetheless, a group of adult volunteers and our church's youth worked together on a cookout held outside the exit doors of the local Sam's Club.
The sale of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and soft drinks--usually summer fare--went surprisingly well on a day when many of us, during our six hour stint, held our hands over the grill to warm up. But chilly fingers were a small sacrifice for a good cause. The proceeds from the sale will support a youth service trip this coming summer.
We met and talked with a lot of great people during the cookout. But one person, one with whom we never talked, who never got out of his car, really ticked me off.
Sometime in the early afternoon, we were startled to hear frenetic honking from a car close to us. We turned to see the person who was making all the noise. It was a man who looked to be in his thirties.
On and on he honked, his eyes, filled with anger, fixed on some target behind us.
I turned to see the object of his wrath.
It was a woman, pushing a shopping cart out of Sam's. When she realized that the honking was directed at her, a look of quaking terror crossed her face. On recognizing the car that was waiting for her, she sped to it, clearly hoping to placate the anger of the terrorist behind the wheel. (And maybe, to avoid further public embarrassment.) All the while, this guy kept honking the horn.
We were probably no more than fifteen feet from the man who was doing this and several of us couldn't help but comment. "Okay, she sees you," I said, maybe loud enough to be heard by the guy behind the wheel if he hadn't been making so much noise.
When the woman pushed her cart over to the car, the guy at last stopped pounding on the steering column. The woman opened the door, put the items from the cart into the car, and then wheeled the cart back to the sidewalk. She got into the car and it drove off.
The incessant, impatient honking. The look of terror on the woman's face. Even if we surmise that the man had a crippling condition that kept him confined behind the wheel, prevented him from getting out of the car to wave and call to her, made it impossible for him to help unload the contents of the cart into the car, those two pieces of evidence say a lot. Their message is simple and clear: Sexism is alive and unfortunately, thriving in our society.
Every time I emerge from my cocoon to see that awful fact, it comes as a surprise. I grew up in a home where my father changed the oil and changed diapers, fixed cars and fixed dinner. And it wasn't as though my folks were Blue state, tree-hugging disciples of Betty Friedan. Nothing of the kind. They just realized a fundamental fact of life: Women and men are both human beings and so, equal. And neither one is meant to be the boss.
I only wish that people like the cro-magnon with the horn knew that. Even more, I wish that the frightened woman with the shopping cart could know it, too.