I conducted a secret shop at a bank in Arlington, Virginia. Took about 30 minutes to get there with traffic. Traffic was actually pretty good. That is until I got to Columbia Pike. There was a little construction going on and cars had to merge to the right. A cab driver put his right signal on and indicated that he wanted to get in front of me. Not! Cab drivers are notorious for jumping in front of cars, then coming to a complete stop to pick up a passenger. They wreak havoc for cars on the road and I wasn’t having any of that. So I inched forward so he couldn’t get it. The next two cars behind me did the same thing. Will that teach the cab driver a lesson? I doubt it, but it felt good blocking him. So, I made it to the bank and conducted the shop. The representative I spoke with was very polite and professional. When it was time to leave, I noticed a little old lady standing in the lobby. She was asking people for a ride. When she saw me as I was leaving, she said, “Are you going down Columbia Pike and could you give me a ride, just two miles down the street in Pentagon City?” To myself, I said, “What’s the harm?” The lady was 4’9″ tall, petite, with a hump in her back. She was a white woman with her silver hair neatly tucked in a bun. What could she do to me? So, I said OK and proceeded to take her down the street. We went outside the bank and it had started to rain again. I pointed to my car at the parking meter but she didn’t want to get wet. OK.
She said she was going to ask someone in the bank if they had an umbrella and suggested I pull my car around. I said OK. The rain was really coming down and I remembered I had to photograph the exterior of the bank. So I quickly took pictures of the bank and ran back to the car. I started it and pulled into the lot and made my way to the front entrance. She came out and opened the door. I asked her, “Are you able to open and close the door?” It was an innocent question. She looked frail and weak. She looked at me and retorted, “Are you able to open and close the door?” I said yes and she said, “Well, so am I.” She took offense to my question and I apologized. She said she has feelings too. I felt bad for asking.
So, we make it out of the lot and at the traffic light, the rain really started to come down. She said, “You have to put your wiper blades on and you need to have it on high because the rain can completely cover the windshield and you won’t be able to see.” I put the blades on high. Then she said, “And what’s this fan blowing, it’s too hot. It’s irritating. I need air.” I turned the heat off and opened a window for her. She started messing with the window switch and I put the window lock on. I opened her window and she started playing with the button saying, “I’m trying to roll the window up.” I rolled it up to her and she said, “Thank you.” She even said, “I should have got in the back seat.” It was clear that she was irritated.
Then, she said, “My name is Karen.” I said, “My name is Joan.” But that didn’t change the strange vibe I felt with this woman. Driving a little ways up the street, and she says, “You may want to get in your right lane, there’s construction up ahead. I can see it from my side.” The implication here was that I should have seen the construction ahead but there was an SUV ahead of me. That’s why I couldn’t see like she did. But I kept quiet. Then she told me to make a right and there would be another right but there is no sign. So I made the right and at the second right, as she said, there was no sign. Soon we were at her stop. She asked that I give her a minute to get out. I waited patiently, she got out and said, “Thank you.” I told her to enjoy her weekend. She said OK and that ride was finished. I was able to breathe easy because for the last 20 minutes, this person I didn’t know, had complete control over the ride. And, I had regressed completely to that of a small child and allowed this stranger to dominate the ride. The burning question in my mind was: “Who was being testing; Me or Her?”
Written by Joan Farley