Matthew Gifford

Contemporary political discourse

Sitting at a stop light on my drive home from work, I noticed some unusual motion in my rearview mirror. Behind me was a late-middle-aged woman in a light blue RAV4. She flapped her left arm up and down stiffly out of her window. Then she pointed several times at the rear of my car. Was something wrong with it? More awkward flapping. I was confused. I finally realized that her thumb was pointed down. She was expressing disapproval. Of what? Oh yeah! My wife had put a Bernie Sanders “HONK for a political revolution!” bumper sticker on the car.

I wanted to get out and speak with her about her opinion. But the middle of W Burnside during rush hour is no place to have a political discussion. So, when the light turned green, I smiled into the rearview mirror and drove away.

Several minutes later, I stopped at a red light at the corner of NW Miller and NW Cornell. There she was in my mirror again, flapping away. It’s common for people commuting from Portland to Hillsboro to take this route. Still, was she following me? I wanted to get out and confront her. But this was not the place to do it. I was becoming frustrated. When the light turned green, I gave a look of disgust into the rearview mirror and drove away.

About a mile down NW Cornell, traffic came to a standstill because of construction. Of course, she was still behind me. When she noticed that she had my attention, she pointed at the bumper sticker again. Then she made a circular motion beside her head with her index finger. Now I was angry. I contemplated getting out of my car. But I was sure that it would turn into a road rage incident. And what if she was deranged? That seemed probable, at this point. Or even deranged and armed?

So, I sat in traffic, seething about my inability to respond. Was she a Clinton supporter who first heard about Sanders from the previous night’s Democratic debate? Did the little yarn cross hanging from her rearview mirror mean that she was likely a Republican? Why did she feel the need to express her disapproval to me? What was it about Sanders that she found so distasteful? So many questions; no answers.

Traffic started moving again. A few hundred feet down the road, I took a left. She did not. I may have made a rude gesture as we parted.

October 21, 2015

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