Guest Post by Eva Hughes

I was forwarded this Facebook post written by Eva Hughes about the effect that current events are having on our society, especially within diverse urban neighborhoods such as Bayside, Queens in New York City. 

The Text2Speech version is available here:

***

If this is a portent of daily life to come in NYC, I’m not gonna make it.

Around the corner from my house is a strip of mom and pop stores – butcher, cleaners, greengrocer etc. At the end of the block are the service roads and the on and off ramps for a local small expressway.

In other words, it’s a busy, tight 250 feet of NYC streetscape; most of the time, people seem to be aware that how they drive/park/stop etc can impact the many people around them very quickly, and good manners usually win the day.

But this is 2020. Nothing is “normal” anymore.

As I signaled to get off at my exit, I see there is a jam up, cars backed up all the way up the ramp to where I was on the expressway, I could see the left turn toward home, and the long line of cars ahead of me, bumper to bumper, at a standstill all the way.

While approximately just 400 feet from my front door (and having to go peepee), I sat through THREE light changes before the cars in front of me finally began to crawl in the direction of the setting sun.

Making the turn at last, shielding my eyes from the weakish late afternoon rays, I suss the situation: steady, heavy traffic in both directions, with a double parked car in my lane, right outside the pizza parlor.

By the time I draw abreast and parallel with the big, gleaming white, Mercedes SUV causing this slow motion mayhem, I have my temper well in hand; I tell myself “no screaming, no sarcasm, just straight up say something that might, maybe, perhaps will give them a freaking pang of conscience for the blatant, selfish inconveniencing and frustrating of scores of people who already are at the end of their impeachment/Covid/murder hornets/protests/riots/no work for months ropes. Aren’t we supposed to be “alone together”, yanno, being extra nice to each other right now?

I turn my face to the car, speech ready. A young, attractive, decked-out and perfectly coifed 20-something black woman is behind the wheel. Jutting jaw set, window down, staring straight ahead. There is another female in the passenger seat, but I can’t really see her.

Me: “Excuse me?? Do you realize that by double parking here, you have traffic backed up across the Clearview and all the way down the off ramp to the actual expressway? It took me 15 minutes to go about 2 blocks.”

The passenger leans across the driver to meet my eyes, as the driver leans back to give the passenger full access to me.

Passenger:

“F*CK YOU AND YOUR “OFF RAMP” B*TCH!! 15 MINUTES, HUH?? DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS??
IT’S BLACK LIVES MATTER O’CLOCK, B*ITCH!!
(…followed by a torrent of similar profanity and abuse, use your imagination.)

There was now a UPS truck making a U turn on the corner in front of me, adding to the chaos and making sure that I stay stuck next to this SUV and the raving nut inside.

Just then, as the cars began to move, the passenger was winding down on her public address, deciding to end it with the ultimate putdown of the moment for a white woman:

“…..and dont you f*cking forget that, KAREN!!”

And at that moment the two 16ish year old girls and a slightly older boy, all white, who had stopped on the sidewalk to witness the diatribe emanating from the Mercedes, decided to give a whoop and a holler — and then, fists in the air, they started CHANTING:

“NO RACIST KARENS!! NO RACIST KARENS!!”

The traffic was moving now, and just as I saw passenger highfiving the 3 sidewalk kids, the driver found her voice:

“Damn, that’s some piece of shit car you have there, KAREN!!!!”

Uproarious laughter and squealing all around.

As I make the turn on my corner, the Chinese delivery guy looks at me, shakes his head and gives me an empathic smile, with a sly thumbs up directly in front of his chin so they couldnt see it.

I have a very deep and distinct feeling that this is a taste of the future…..at least here in the big city…….

I just want to clarify: it’s not so much that I was personally insulted in this exchange. I dont feel wounded, I didnt get teary or anything.

The thing here is that I am scared.
I’m scared that having seen race relations steadily setback since 2008, that the Spring of 2020 is the catalyst that will turn EVERYTHING into an issue of race.

This small situation on a Bayside, Queens street was dragged through the mud of ugly race baiting, when it had NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING whatever to do wth it.

I’m AFRAID that communication is BROKEN, that fairness and civility are GONE, that this whole thing will be used as a cudgel and as a manipulative force for a LONG time.

IOW, I’m afraid that all of this might go in a direction that makes urban living, unliveable.

Bayside, Queens Traffic Jam