“What made you think that you didn’t have to pay?” The young female parking attendant said to me in the most arrogant, condescending voice I’d ever heard in my life.
As I calmly tried to explain the situation – she cut me off mid-sentence.
“What made you think that you didn’t have to pay?”
I was driving out of the University of Virginia Central Grounds garage this past weekend and back to the hotel with my 16 year old mentee, Averi. We were returning from a full day of UVa. Black Alumni weekend activities, including a seminar with the University President, yard show and a Silent March to the University President’s house in support of UVa. student / Kappa Alpha Psi member Martese Johnson. I brought Averi with me to expose her to college life, greek life and Zeta in particular.
“What made you think that you didn’t have to pay?” the parking attendant demanded again.
Upon picking up our conference packet, the registration brochure stated that free parking was available at various lots throughout the weekend. (I missed the fine print that read which parking lots were actually free.) However, parking was free at the Central Grounds garage the day before, and as we approached the gate, I noticed that it was already up so I assumed that parking would be free again. The fact that there were no cars exiting the garage at the time didn’t help either. Realizing my mistake upon hearing the attendant call back to me, I backed up slowly to apologize and explain.
Ignoring me, she demanded a fourth time, “What made you think that you didn’t have to pay?”
“How many times is she going to ask me that?” I thought.
As my blood boiled and the New Yorker in me wanted so bad to verbally take this woman down, I remembered that not only was I a Christian woman, I was in full Zeta gear, and my very impressionable mentee was sitting right next to me, watching my every move. I looked over at Averi, who looked back at me with anticipation. “There is absolutely no reason for you to use that condescending tone with me. I made an honest mistake and I have no issue at all paying the parking charge, it was a simple misunderstanding.” I said.
However great it may have felt temporarily to let her have it verbally, the cost of losing my cool would have been too great. I refused to give that parking lot attendant ammunition for saying anything negative about Zeta. I also refused to set a bad example for my mentee.
“I wasn’t being condescending,” she replied dryly, “but what made you think you didn’t have to pay?”
“Jesus be a fence“ I thought as I handed her my credit card and replied calmly, “How much do I owe you?”
The attendant replied sarcastically with, “That’ll be $19 and we DON’T accept credit cards.” She was now grinning from ear to ear with a look that said, “So whatcha gunna do now?”
I took out a $20 bill, handed it to her, smiled and said. “May God bless you and keep you.” Then I drove off – so fed up that I didn’t even wait for my change.
A few moments later my mentee looked at me and said, “I don’t know what her problem was, but you handled that really well.”
No one ever said taking the Finer path was easy. Believe me when I say it took EVERY ounce of my being to address that parking lot attendant calmly and with FINER resolve. However great it may have felt temporarily to let her have it verbally, the cost of losing my cool would have been too great. I refused to give that parking lot attendant ammunition for saying anything negative about Zeta. I also refused to set a bad example for my mentee.
When confronted with less-than-finer people and situations, regardless of how you might want to initially respond, remember that you always have a choice.
And it ALWAYS pays to be Finer.