Merriam-Webster tells us that “contrite” comes from the Latin word that means “to grind, bruise.” Ouch. It means “feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming, as in a contrite criminal or a contrite apology, or contrite sighs.”
Can one laugh and still be contrite? You tell me:
This morning was my turn to drive the girls’ carpool to school. It rained hard last night and was still coming down as we made our way in rush hour traffic along a street filled with potholes and narrow lanes of traffic. Big construction projects crowd both sides of the street. We were in the curb lane and moving about 20 mph when I heard a big spooooooooshhhh. It wasn’t the short spoosh of a small puddle but the smooth and satisfying sound of a longer one. I hadn’t even seen the puddle ahead, and if I had, cars on my immediate left would have prevented me from skirting around it. No big deal – I love driving through big puddles — unless someone’s there.
And someone was there, standing on the sidewalk right in front of the puddle. Didn’t get a good look at him but had the impression of a pony tail or dreadlocks. Overcoat but no suit.
As you can see from my self-defensive justification, I don’t know if I could have avoided doing this terribly unfriendly thing. I honestly didn’t see the puddle. I felt bad – contrite – about being so un-neighborly. Who needs to start their day like that, suddenly getting doused with a wall of water while you’re just standing there minding your own business?
Lauren had a bird’s-eye view from the passenger seat and was laughing hysterically. The first words out of my mouth were, “Oh no. Did I get him?” She was doubled over and could only nod as if to say, “Are you kidding?” She hadn’t seen the puddle coming up either. But these things never happen to you, and surely your own Dad wouldn’t be so thoughtless, so inattentive, so brazen as to actually drive through a puddle and soak an innocent bystander, would he?
I started to laugh as the cartoonish nature of the scene hit me. Easy for me, of course, still warm and dry in the car and not dripping wet on the sidewalk. But my conscience required me to confess my crime to the other ladies in the car.
* * * * * * * * * *
To that guy: I’m sorry for having nailed you this morning, and I hope that you received some more welcome surprises today than the one I gave you.
To Lauren – was it okay for me to laugh even while feeling contrite about what happened? I think I hope so.