By Kevil Tice ~
My father always taught me to pay attention to my surroundings. Since I started driving during a time when cellphones didn’t have a voice programed to tell you which way to go if you got lost and my father claimed I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag, he encouraged me to remember landmarks. Now, many years later, I have a habit of remembering houses and colors of buildings and trees. Cow pastures. Crooked mailboxes. Abandoned cars. Anything.
With all of the tragedies that have occurred across the globe involving African Americans, I have now found myself paying attention to individuals. Individuals who I never thought I would have to second guess. Sure, we could argue that I should have always been leery of any and everybody. And I’ll admit that I was a bit sheltered growing up and tended to trust a bit more than I should have. Wherever I am from … however I was raised … Never would I have thought that I would actually become afraid of any type of law enforcement … until now.
A few weeks ago, as usual, I was having lunch while sitting in my car. I was parked under a tree at a park with the windows cracked. I always adjust the mirrors to have a clear view of my surroundings, so I noticed the Park Ranger truck circling the lot. I wasn’t bothered that he was driving around the park. I wasn’t bothered that he was driving at an extremely slow speed. I wasn’t bothered until he drove up beside my vehicle and stopped … leaving me trapped between his truck and the curb. I instantly felt my heart swell up and lodge itself into the center of my throat. I just stared at him through the small crack. He rolled his window down and began to motion for me to do the same, but all I could do was start remembering … white truck, Park Ranger sticker, white male, red cheeks, 300 pounds, clean shaven, white shirt … I looked into his face and noticed that he was watching me remember him. His eyes looked heavy and sad as he yelled, “Don’t worry!” I turned the key and let my window down lower …
“Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble.”
I forced a smile but he knew I was nervous. He returned a smile anyway and informed me that a new park was set to open soon and the view was much nicer. He told me where it was located and assured me that delivering that information was all he wanted. I nodded and thanked him for the suggestion but had very little to say otherwise. I clearly wanted no parts in that interaction and he took no pleasure in continuing to make me uncomfortable.
“I’m just trying to let as many people as possible know about it ma’am. Enjoy your afternoon.”
He waved and slowly drove away. My heart eased its way back into the proper position. My palms stopped sweating. I started to wonder if I had made him feel bad. And, if I did, I wondered if he understood.
I started remembering again … Remembering when I only had to remember landmarks …