Coolness yields to warmth at a traffic light

It was spotlessly new and brilliantly white on the outside, though its interior was thickly dark. The car's chrome sparkled like stars. You couldn't miss it, stopped there at the traffic light; not so much for the way it looked but for the way it sounded. A "rapper" car would best describe it. The music on the CD player pounded and thumped so heavily that the whole earth around us seemed to shudder.

Looking to my left, I saw the car's only occupant, a tense-looking young man at the wheel. From the hardened scowl on his face, he didn't seem like anyone I'd want to mess with.

"He's only trying to get attention," I reassured myself. I decided to look in the other direction. The traffic light was still red. Everyone sat, waiting. The beat drummed on, assaulting my ears relentlessly, making it increasingly impossible to think. On that warm Sunday morning I was unprepared for such an intrusion.

But I forgot my vow not to look his way. The music was insistent. And as I turned to look, a wondrous scenario caught me. A rusty old brown automobile - not sparkling, not clean - was just ahead of the white car. A curly-headed little girl, maybe 3 years old, sat in the back seat. She should've been strapped into a car seat, but wasn't. No doubt attracted to the commotion behind her, she turned around and stood up.

Not the least bit intimidated, she looked straight into the man's frowning face and smiled sweetly.

Then, raising her tiny arms, she waved at him with all the joy she seemed able to muster. Now I was captivated. I studied the driver of the car next to me, wondering how this tough guy would react.

For a second or two, he made no response. I held my breath.

Then, as though the air was being let out of a balloon, the tense atmosphere deflated and crumpled. The driver responded to the little girl's greeting with gentle, carefree waves of both his hands. Now tossing his head back while chuckling, he inched his car forward as the light changed.

And when he turned down his music, the day itself seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.

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