Story #1 (of 3): Irimi
A few weeks ago, I was in a car accident. Well, I hit another car in a parking lot. It was a very crowded, unmarked lot with chaotic parking. I was driving my big Chevy Tahoe. I thought I had done a masterful job at backing out in very tight quarters, and was pulling away, when I heard the metal-crumpling sound of my passenger door — I had sideswiped the rear bumper of a car I didn’t see. Argh. So much for ma’ai, right? The rear bumper of the other car was dented, and the tail light cracked. My truck had a big white line down the side, with a little dent.
The owner of the car was not present — probably in the restaurant. Since I had my wife, daughter, and mother-in-law with me, I decided to leave a note with all my pertinent information, and drive everybody home (about 40 minutes).
About 3 miles down the road, my phone rang with an unfamiliar number, so I assumed it was the owner of the car I’d hit. The irate man on the other end shouted at me incessantly, demanding that I turn around and return to the restaurant, stating that he had already called the police, claiming a hit-and-run. I tried to explain that this was no such thing, and a matter for the insurance companies one we completed the exchange of information, but he was having none of it so I shouted back at him in frustration, and turned the car around.
When I arrived, I left my family at the other end of the lot and walked toward the scene of the crime. The man spotted me immediately and I could see him tense up. He was what you might call a “typical” backwoods guy, complete with backwards baseball cap and chewing tobacco. I also noticed that he was a little smaller than me, didn’t seem to be drunk, and might be carrying a weapon.
Just about when we met, before he could speak, I reach out my hand to shake his, which he accepted, put my other hand on his shoulder, and said “Hi, my name’s Mike. I’m the guy who hit your car. I’m really sorry I yelled you on the phone.”
He softened immediately, mumbling “It’s alright, man. It’s actually not my car — it’s hers (motioning to his girlfriend).”
So, my Irimi had both immediately diffused the situation and deflected it to move onto another (more reasonable) partner.
(For the record... no, I didn’t really plan this out ahead of time, though I did resolve to take charge, and the hand on the shoulder was intentional. )
Story #2: Atemi from afar
I’m in the parking lot of a grocery store near my house. It’s late — maybe 10:45 pm. Only a couple of cars in the lot. I’m walking in, kinda looking at my phone as I walk (yes, guilty), when I pass, on the way to her car, a very attractive woman (again, guilty). I sneak a peak over my shoulder. As I continue, a bad-ass looking dude in a white Ford Mustang, with engine rumbling low and window rolled down, trolls past me toward the woman, rolls past her, and then backs up next to her car (remember, the lot is almost empty). I notice what’s going on over my shoulder, and by this time at the entryway to the grocery store, where there happens to be a store employee, standing and watching the whole thing. I make eye contact with a quick over-the-shoulder nod that’s says “you seeing this?”, and he up-nods back. So I stand beside him and we both watch the scene.
About 20 seconds later, the Mustang pulls away.
So, maybe this was nothing. Maybe the Mustang was gonna pull away anyway. But I don’t think so. I think the Atemi that the store employee and I executed from across the lot put the Mustang dude off his game. I actually think the woman in the car was oblivious to all of it. She was gone when I got out of the store.
Story #3: Assess
Just the other day — same grocery store parking lot. I’m driving on my way out, when an SUV rolls past me heading the opposite direction. A big black woman is driving (forgive me, but the stereotype is important to the story).
Right on her tail — just feet away — is a beat up pickup truck driven by a long-haired, bearded redneck looking guy. He is blaring his horn repeatedly, and looks agitated. I’m thinking “Dude, I wouldn’t mess with her if I were you...”
I watch the scene play out in my rear-view mirror. They come to a stop in the parking lot, and the woman gets out — shall we say “rather confrontationally.” They guy gets out, too, and I’m thinking “Oh, shit, here we go...”
The guy motions frantically to the back of her car, and crouches down underneath to point something out. She looks, too, and they have a conversation.
Clearly, they guy had just been trying to get her attention because something was wrong with her car.
I shake my head and think “wow, was I ever wrong about that.”