Aside from the underlying outrage most of us feel about Trayvon Martin, and the fact that his killer has not been arrested, in recent weeks, he came to mind quite pointedly.
On one of the coldest mornings of the year, I was walking down Great Falls Street with my dog, when Darth Vader turned the corner of Fisher and Great Falls. He was huge, in a black parka and pants - also wearing a hood. He had heavy boots and a confident stride, and a black wool scarf wrapped over his face. His eyes were barely visible.
Darth saw me. Then waved cheerfully. As he approached, he pulled away the scarf with his big paw like mittens. That's when Darth turned into Ann, a friend and neighbor.
"You have no idea what you looked like just now," I told her. "I couldn't think who you were!"
"Oh," she laughed."I dress like this in the cold because I get terrible wind burn." We chatted briefly. She was on the way to the metro, going to a conference later in the week, up in Vermont.
"You can take your snowshoes," I said.
"Absolutely!" she answered.
A few days ago, as I walked down our trusting little tree lined road with my dog, an enormous diesel truck on outsized tires thundered towards me. It was painted flat black. Its tires were almost as big as me. Stashed on the roof were a number of threatening red canisters. The truck pulled up along side me and stopped. The driver leaned out the window, grinning. It was Russian Alex.
Russian Alex went to school with our son Alex, and still lives up the road with his family. When he was fifteen, and had first moved here from Moscow, we took him to fly a kite at West Potomac Park. He used to be a frequent visitor, and whenever we meet he's always very friendly. "Your truck is a monster!" I said. "It scared me."
"I know," he said smiling broadly. "It's a Ford Excursion."
"But it takes up most of the road. How does it feel to drive down here in this?"
"Oh, pretty big, pretty big," he chuckled amiably. He asked how I was, what the family was up to, sent his best to my son Alex. He revved the engine, and it roared to life. "See you later, and don't be afraid!" he called out, and as he pulled away, I noted a skull painted on the rear windscreen.
I was pulling into a parking garage at Cafe Deluxe in Tyson's Corner last month, when the SUV in front of me, stopped. I stopped as well. I waited. The SUV began to back up towards me. I lent on my horn. He didn't stop. He crunched right into me.
He got out of his car, a plump white guy in chinos and Izod shirt. "Didn't you see my signal lights?" he yelled accusingly.
"Clearly not," I said. "Didn't you see me stopped behind you?"
"Unbelievable!" he shouted.
I got out of my car, trembling, and went round the front to inspect for damage. In the dim lighting I didn't see any.
"My car's ok. Yours is ok too," he said.
"All right then," he said, and stalked away.
I felt threatened by his attitude. Stupid of me, but true. I remembered in Rome, when cars got pranged, people didn't pay much attention. I should have asked for his insurance information. But I didn't.
He got back into his car, and drove away, shaking his head at my stupidity (and his own good luck).
Later I discovered that my car had been badly damaged. The insurance covered it - but the bill was $1400.00. I shouldn't have trusted that white guy in chinos.