adjective \ˈnebē, -bi\
dialectal : rudely inquisitive
Ever see the episode of Seinfeld in which George thinks of a clever comeback well after an insulting encounter with a coworker? That’s how I felt yesterday morning when someone rudely questioned my parenting.
It was a Sunday, and I was on my way to my church early for a parish focus group meeting. I left the boys at home with their mother, but my daughter decided to come along with me. We were waiting at the bus stop when it happened.
I was looking down at my smart phone. Moments before I had checked Google Maps to make sure that we were waiting on the right side of the street for the bus we needed. When I had finished that task, I proceeded to take a quick look at something frivolous. I was nearly finished when a man in his 30s or 40s drove up to the stop sign at the corner, leaned out the window, and said something to me. I had a hard time hearing him, so I asked him to repeat himself. The second time I asked for repetition it was because I couldn’t believe what I’d heard.
“Quit textin’, and watch your kid!”, he said.
What?! She wasn’t doing anything destructive or dangerous! We were at a bus stop we’ve been to every weekday since September, since that’s where my oldest gets dropped off after kindergarten. Every day I’m there with my two younger kids. They run around and do silly things, but I make sure they’re considerate of other people and that they don’t wander into the street. I know my kids, and I know that bus stop well. This guy didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
I was furious, flat-footed, and flustered. All I could think of to say at the time was “I can watch my own damn kid!” With that I waved him along dismissively. Minutes later I felt like George Costanza, having thought of a better comeback and wishing I’d had the opportunity to use it.
“Quit being nebby, and drive your car!”, I could have said. But I didn’t.
The funny thing is, the more I thought about it as I stewed over my missed opportunity, the more I became glad I hadn’t said it.
Sure, the guy was being presumptuous, judgmental, and rude. However, he was also looking out for the well-being of one of my children. On the whole, I should be grateful for that. Too often people (myself included) succumb to the bystander effect and fail to speak up or act on behalf of those in harm’s way. So, I still think I responded poorly, but a snappier comeback wouldn’t have been a good response. Rather, I should have thanked him.
“Thank you for your concern, but I have the situation under control.”
I should have just said that and smiled, instead of sneering and waving him away like a pest. After all, I was on my way to church, and retaliation is hardly befitting a Christian on any day, but especially not so on the Sabbath.
Humility and peace should have guided that conversation. I should have sought to imitate Jesus instead of George.