Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Little Bit Forward

A couple months ago, I wrote a a blog about just being nicer to each other—cooperating instead of competing—especially when it comes to parenting.

I know I can get tunnel vision pretty easily. We all tend to think I just need to get through this…and not really look around us. So I’ve been trying to pick up my head and look around for chances to do something nice. And I’ve seen signs of others doing the same—even during season here is southwest Florida!

Just yesterday, a really nice barista let me get my coffee even though I was two cents short. You’d better believe I’ll be going back with a nice tip next time! So there’s the kindness of strangers on top of the generosity of our friends, which constantly awes and inspires me.

And that’s good, because I have a dilemma. How do you…deflect?...truly rude people without adding to the darkness of the world? How can you nicely point out to someone that they really need to back the #@$% off?

I don’t usually get upset about things that happen to me. (My kids are another story; see below.) Yesterday in Michael’s, though…

Two registers were open and each had a customer. I got in line behind one, then realized that there were about five adorable older ladies lined up across the main aisle, kind of between the fake flower displays. I said, “Oh, sorry!” and went to the back of the line. The first adorable older lady said, “We’re just taking turns with whichever register comes open.” Sounded good to me. And they were even leaving the main aisle clear for traffic—so thoughtful!

Enter middle-aged, well-dressed, Loud Woman, who “cuts” in line as I did, then sees the line, as I did. Please read her lines below in the most bossy, judgmental, superior tone you can imagine.

“This is ridiculous! You can’t do that! You’re holding everyone up.” (Turning to bystander.) “I mean, what if they had five registers open? You can’t just stand in one line.”

Loud Woman then walked up to the ladies, one at time and said, “Pick a line.” then “Which line are you getting in?” And when someone else came up and looked puzzled, she said, “Everyone has to pick a line. This lady was holding everyone up.” (Indicating the first lady who had been waiting across the aisle.)

Now, to me, this is not only completely illogical, false, and untrue (which always makes me want to open the offender’s mind with a giant Common Sense Bat), it’s also disrespectful of our elders, insulting, and borderline verbal abuse.

So the lady “holding everyone up” finally, goaded by the third variation on that theme, said, “I was not,” checked out and left. By then, Loud Woman got to me.

“Pick a line.”

Moment of truth. What do I do?

And seriously, I had time to (in split-second flashes) consider the things I WANTED to do and what Loud Woman might learn from those things if I did them and even give fleeting consideration to the thought that I don’t know her story and she’s just doing her best like the rest of us.

All I could come up with was nothing.

I looked in her eyes for a good moment, then moved into a line.

Really, what could I have said? Maybe, with time, I can get to something like, “Thank you for trying to help.” (I’m trying to imagine what Ghandi would say in that situation.) And, in a perfect world, maybe that would give her the clarity, support, and space to realize she could do things better. I don’t know, though.

And that’s just when it’s me and strangers! When someone’s rude to my kids….

You may have heard about the waiter who recently went to bat for a boy with Down’s Syndrome. If not, you can read about it here. I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to do what he did, and thank goodness the management supported him! As someone who’s had people ask to switch tables or switch seats in church or make loud comments on an airplane because of my children, I am so grateful that there are folks like him!

And before anyone quibbles (which they should, since my kids are capable of being truly obnoxious!), I would not be offended if someone moved away from my family because our kids were acting up. I am only offended when they just LOOK at the kids and leave/make rude comments, which is what happened in all three instances above.

So the big question is: then what do you do? I admit that those were, “Honey, please hold me down so I don’t get arrested” moments for me. But, in the end, the best revenge is living well. All the people in question got to see our kids make it through dinner, church, or the plane ride without going nuts, so they had the opportunity to learn if they wanted.

I can aim for Ghandi-esque behavior. I’m really TRYING to add to the light in the world, here!

On the other hand…
To the %$# who keeps driving really fast around the corner where my daughter and her friends get on the bus every morning WHILE the bus is parked there with its lights flashing and the children are crossing the street to board it…you’re a different story. This mom is getting medieval on you.

Fair warning.

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