Jenny Kanevsky takes a hard look at her behavior and realizes the opposite of entitlement is respect.
Years ago, I lived in Seattle, and exercised at a popular local YMCA. In my 11 years there, membership had grown far beyond the little building and neighborhood parking availability. I mean, parking really sucked. I realize this is not a huge social issue, but stay with me here. I need to own my entitlement.
One morning, I was especially frustrated by circling the block. I’d dropped off the kids, it was the busy time at the gym, and I was stressed about getting in, getting started, then finishing. Go go go. I remember feeling so much anxiety: I need to park now! And, suddenly I thought I’d scored. I saw a spot. Was that another car waiting? In my entitled mind, I lied to myself. I had a better angle. I pulled in and “stole” the spot. The other driver was apoplectic; motioned that she had been waiting. I ignored her. I knew I was wrong, even though I allowed myself two seconds of smug relief. She sped off. Then, I felt like an asshole. I mean really bad. If my kids had been in the car, I’d never have pulled that stunt. That should be my litmus test, I thought. I felt sick. Who was I? No one special, just a person like her, living her life.
I sat for a few minutes. I needed to do something. I couldn’t just tell myself, “Oh, you won’t do that again. You’re stressed out, it’s OK. You get a pass.” No pass. That’s bullshit. I had acted out of entitlement.
I went into the gym looking for the driver. I didn’t know her, although I knew a lot of the members. She was sitting on the lobby couch talking to a friend, in fact, an acquaintance of mine. She was laughing and talking, didn’t notice me. I went up to her. She jolted silent, but still smiled.
“I just stole your parking spot and I’m sorry. I have no excuse. I wanted to work out more than do the right thing.”
She looked at me, paused, and smiled. “Thank you for apologizing. I really appreciate it.” And it was over. She touched my arm. “Doesn’t the parking suck here? It’s so stressful.”
“It does,” I said, “and today, I let it get the best of me. Thanks for accepting my apology.”
She nodded. “We all mess up. I’m glad you said something. Thank you.”
The next time I saw her we smiled and said “Hello.”
Whether it be your everyday and unsafe I need to be in front of your car on the freeway at all costs, or the belief that because of your skin color, or your God, or where you fall on the socio-economic ladder, you are entitled to more freedoms and greater latitude to exist, to make a mistake, to commit a crime, or to walk the streets at night, that’s entitlement and it’s reprehensible.
At best, it creates dangerous freeways, road rage, and frustration at the grocery store. Everyone’s time is valuable. We wait in line for a reason; we live in a community. We need to share the roads, grocery store aisles, our parking lots: all of the public spaces we inhabit. At worst, and what should be on our radar daily, is that entitlement gets people killed, jailed, raped, and dehumanized. Entitlement perpetuates an unjust society and maintains horrific conditions for a large percentage of the population of these United States, otherwise known as the Home of the Free. It’s happening globally, yes, and that’s reprehensible too.
But look in your own backyard, really watch or read the news, not FOX, the real news. If you are honest, if you pay real attention, there is no question that white people are treated differently than black or brown people. Rich people are treated differently than the poor. That’s it. That’s the simple truth. And it’s crazy-making to witness. Imagine living it every day. Living as if you are less than, fearing for your or your child’s life because of skin color or religion.
Imagine watching the entitled get away with, well, frankly, murder and not being heard. We must all be enraged, and we must all check our behavior, check others’ behavior. It is all of our responsibility to fight this. We are all created equal, remember?
And while that may feel overwhelming and you may wonder: What does it have to do with stealing a parking spot? I think it has everything to do with it. I put myself above that woman for five minutes and I was wrong. And I did something about it. I don’t want an award. I’m embarrassed about that incident, but I remind myself of it to keep in check. I’m no better than anyone else.
So, if it feels overwhelming, know it doesn’t have to be. You can make a difference. Start small. Be kind. Be aware of how you think about others around you. Admit the entitlements you feel and stop. Just stop. It can be little things, be a kind driver, open a door and notice others in the world. More importantly, if you feel you are better than because of your the texture of you hair, the color of your skin, the God you worship, get over your damn self and acknowledge that we must change how we view our fellow citizens. It’s time for a new day.
We live in a community. Everyone has needs. Mine are not more pressing than yours. My skin color or position in the parking lot does not give me greater opportunity. It’s reprehensible to believe otherwise. Own your actions, own your beliefs. Be the change. An entire race or gender or sexual orientation of people does not deserve to live feeling less than. We are all created equal.