Mr. Move It and Negativity Bias

Social distancing continues, but school ended this week, so the teachers put on a little car parade through our rural area. It was a sweet gesture and my kids were tickled to see the procession.

As we buckled up to leave, an older man in a silver sedan slowed next to our car. “You’re in a safety zone!” he yelled. In response to my assuredly puzzled expression, he persisted, face turning tomato red: “A SAFETY zone.” Still puzzled, with his blood pressure clearly skyrocketing, he screamed “Move it!” and floored his car through the nearby stop sign.

You’re going to have to trust me on something here: Whatever a safety zone is, I was not parked in one. How do I know? Common sense. People park here frequently, because it’s well off the roads. I was the last one to leave, but about 10 other families parked there as well. No prohibitive signs. And the fact that I had interacted with a county maintenance worker moments before who was not concerned about my somehow impeding the “safety” of that “zone.”

That out of the way, I can admit that I was horrified. Yelled at my a complete stranger? Whew. Not fun. And for a hot minute, my thought process went something like, “well that ruins that memory.” My vision of the event would, I was sure, forever include this screaming man rather than my kindergartener’s tentative-but-hopeful waves to her teacher, or the way my 2nd grader jumped up and down when the procession appeared over the hill.

And truly, I have personal precedent to back up that initial belief. The negativity bias is alive and real, regardless of how glass-half-full a person you might be. (For another take on the negativity bias in action, check out this post over on Sarah’s blog). I can think of several events that, while pleasant and happy in totality, were nonetheless marred in their memory by one disastrous moment.

So that was the ugh I felt driving away. A good memory, ruined.

But … I tried a little trick. And it was thanks to the offender himself, Mr. Move It. That term – “safety zone” – the more I ran that through my head, the funnier I thought it was. And whenever I think of funny, I think The Office and Parks and Recreation. And suddenly, in my mind, Mr. Move It became a character. He’d probably fit better into the cast of Parks and Rec, so that’s where I landed. Thinking through all the storylines of how Leslie Knope or Ann Perkins might respond to Mr. Move It, well that made the whole thing a whole lot more enjoyable an exercise.

Via Buzzfeed

And as the day wore on, I could laugh about it. Once I could laugh about it, it was easier to make the next leap to compassion. Because if my parking in what he perceived as a safety zone made him that mad, then what’s it like to be this guy when someone cuts in line in front of him? Or traffic is bad? Or the candidate he loathes gets elected president? It sucks to be that guy is what.

Turns out I couldn’t erase this guy from my memory of the parade. But I was able to make him a somewhat amusing supporting cast member. And that feels pretty consistent with what Leslie Knope would do, too.

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