Photo: The Bay Sarasota

The Bay: A Park for All, Even Those Who Rear-End You

Posted on March 21, 2024 by Andrew Spector, TPF Fellow 2023/24

Back in August, on my third day in Florida, while on the way to the DMV to get my Florida driver’s license, I got rear-ended.

I was at a red light on Washington Ave when an oversized Ram truck love-tapped my Corolla. Optimistic, amidst the stopped traffic, I got out of my car to check for damage. It didn’t look quite like it once did, so I signaled to the driver to meet me in the nearest parking lot.

“Did I hit you?”

“Yes sir.”

We decided to not go through insurance. Instead, I would take the car to the shop, get a quote, and let him know how much to pay me.

In retrospect, I probably should have gotten more information. We exchanged phone numbers and first names. Later, I kicked myself for not asking his last name or getting his insurance, just in case. But I trusted him. He had pulled over when I had signaled, immediately admitted fault, apologized, and verbally committed to paying me back. Still.

Over the next month and a half, I kept him up to date via phone call and text message. I would get nervous when he didn’t respond to texts, but he’d always pick up the phone, usually on the first ring. Ultimately, on a beautiful Sarasota October morning, he followed through, meeting me at the shop with over a thousand dollars in cash.

“I’ll see you around,” he said. I had previously told him I just moved here. “Enjoy Sarasota.”

I never expected to see him again. For some reason, I thought that people who rear-end you fit into the category of enter your life momentarily and leave forever. Like someone who cuts you in line or bumps into you walking down the street. An anonymous messenger of inconvenience fleetingly appearing and disappearing in the story of your life.

But I keep running into him at The Bay.

I walk through The Bay nearly every day, and only a couple weeks after we financially reconciled, there he was. With a friend. Looking out at the sparkling waters. Enjoying the same view that I frequently enjoy. We made eye contact, smiled, waved, and exchanged a spirited “How ya doin’? Good!” before moving on.

I regret to share that it wasn’t until that short interaction that I fully humanized him. Before, he was the guy who rear-ended me that followed through on his commitment to pay. I didn’t dislike him; in fact, I respected him. But he was one-dimensional to me, and I thought about him only in terms of how he treated me.

After I saw him at The Bay, I recognized him as a real, complex human with needs, desires, agency, emotions, and people in his life who care about him – just like me, just like all of us. For the first time, I got curious about him. How often does he come here? Who’s his friend? What does he feel when he looks out at the water?

I have an intuition that, at that moment, he humanized me in a similar way. I was no longer the random guy he rear-ended and seemed to doubt his commitment to pay. Why was I alone? Am I enjoying my time in Sarasota? How often do I come here? We both became people who have lives outside our car situation. This recognition has only grown stronger each time we’ve run into each other at The Bay.

Isn’t this the power of common spaces like The Bay? Places where all residents can come together and be in community. On the same ground. Surrounded by nature. Everyone a real, complex human. Rear-enders and rear-ended alike.

 

 


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