I have mentioned that I once worked the drive-thru at a doughnut shop for four days. I don’t know why I took that job. It was full time, 4am to noon. I already had a full time job that was from 2pm to 10pm, so I had clearly lost my mind that week. I was nineteen years old at the time, and not filled with a ton of motivation. It doesn’t matter. On the fourth day, I went into the manager’s office for a little chat about how this might be the wrong fit for me. He kind of agreed.
I had a little time before heading to my more glamorous job as a Meijer Shoe Department Clerk, so I figured I would just get there early and hang out in the employee break room. I climbed into my 1979 Plymouth Horizon (that’s right) and left that doughnut shop for the last time. It was great. I turned left out of the parking lot and stopped at the light- a little embarrassed at the horrible noise my brakes had been making the past week every time I stopped. Oh, well. I was too broke to fix that…. maybe quitting my job was premature? At least I didn’t have to leave the house at 3:30 in the morning anymore.
I was almost excited to get to my other job. If you have been paying attention to these things I write, you may recall that this was a job where I could perfect my skills of taking naps without getting caught. It was a skill I most likely acquired on this particular week. But as I was walking into the store, a man in a truck pulled up next to me and tried to get my attention.
He was angry. That brake sound my car was making? He assumed it was the sound of me slamming on my brakes. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. He wanted me to know that he knew I could have run that light. You know, that light a few miles away that I had stopped at outside of the doughnut shop? The same light he was stopped at when he decided he was going to follow me all the way to Meijer’s to confront me over something he believed “almost” happened.
He looked at my shirt and laughed. He asked me if I worked at the doughnut shop and if I knew some guy (who I didn’t know). He claimed he was friends with the owner and would have me fired. My only response was, “and you followed me to Meijer’s for this?” Then he told me that he knew the chief of police, and that he was on his way to investigate. Sure he was. Investigate what, exactly?
I said, “thanks” and walked into the store.
Why do people do these things? I mean, how exactly did he imagine this whole scene playing out? He wanted to fight with me. He was upset that I didn’t fight back harder. But, why?
He picked a battle that could not possibly have had a positive outcome. He needed a stranger to know how he felt- and when that didn’t seem to make an impact, he needed that stranger to feel as if he were important and had some kind of power over them. Except…. he really didn’t have any power at all. He made a fool of himself.
It’s like when a customer at work gets angry and tries to tell an employee that they secretly work for the corporate office. What’s the best scenario here? That for a moment the employee will believe them? That for just that moment, the employee will feel bad about not giving the customer what they wanted…. because they are afraid for their job?
That never works. I can’t tell you how many customer complaint calls I have had to handle about employees who did nothing wrong. Let me tell you a secret. When you call someone’s supervisor to complain, it is very obvious to that supervisor when you are just seeking revenge for your hurt ego. Or just looking for someone who can force that employee to acknowledge that you were right…. or else. Does it really matter?
And people do it all of the time. We don’t always choose our battles wisely. We let emotions take over, and we don’t just do it to strangers. We usually do it to those closest to us. Sometimes we use Facebook as our canvas of stupidity. Be careful about that. My phone makes it very easy to take pictures of my Facebook screenshots. And, I will confess that when someone writes something ridiculous- I have been known to save that image. Sometimes I share it with others.
Bloggers can be very guilty of this behavior, too. Somebody offends you, and you already have this following of readers…. Why not turn them against that person, too? This is even more satisfying, because it may actually happen.
Unlike that guy who didn’t really call the police chief, or the customer who doesn’t really work for the corporate office- you may have actual influence.
You are also transparent.
I get it. We all get it. We are all guilty of letting our emotions overcome our reasoning now and again. We need support for what we are feeling. Maybe we have truly been wronged, and we cannot calm that overwhelming need for the other person to see that they were truly the bad guy.
Even if they apologize, it doesn’t really work out. You now have that gnawing feeling that people are judging you for your reaction. And they are. Suddenly it is not the other person’s reputation on the line- it’s yours. You might react to this feeling by making things even worse, or you might just try and erase the whole thing. Vent your frustrations, by all means. But maybe be careful about calling people out. For your own sake.
I am not judging. That’s the other bit of advice here- stop judging people for giving in to their emotions. So you lost your mind and gave away too much information about why your boyfriend is an asshole today. Maybe I have an image of that Facebook status that you deleted five minutes after you posted it. Hey, I’m not going to pretend I think it was a smart move. I may even get a few laughs out at your expense. But I won’t hold it against you. Hopefully your boyfriend will not hold it against you. You already feel pretty dumb about it. Maybe you feel great about it. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we make the same mistake a thousand times.
It is an instinct for us to react in certain ways out of emotion. We can be unreasonable when we are angry, hurt, or even when we are in love. We do stupid things. We are cruel to each other. We make fools of ourselves over and over again. We become bullies. We make empty threats. We embarrass each other. We hold our friendship for ransom until others meet our demands. We make ourselves look bad, and we push people away.
And we almost always regret it.
So anyway, I’m just putting a reminder out there that we all need sometimes. That includes me. Let’s make a rule to never react while emotion is in control. It’s a good rule for both personal and public life. Let’s choose our battles wisely by choosing only the ones that have a clear path to a positive outcome. But maybe even more important, is for us to be forgiving when we break that rule. If they don’t already feel dumb about it- they probably will soon. Give them another chance.
Except for the guy who followed me to Meijer’s in 1995. Dude, I am still judging you for that.