making ’em pay

2 09 2009

Last evening, I endured a situation of minor inconvenience. I had bought my mother a sandwich in a restaurant, and when I took it home to her, we learned that they had mixed up the order. It had cheese. Mom wanted no cheese. The ticket said no cheese. But cheese there was. Before the more astute of you jump to any conclusions, it’s not a family thing. Mom actually likes cheese, unlike me; it just happens that she doesn’t like it on this particular sandwich. She was disappointed to the reach of not even eating the sandwich, so I volunteered to venture back and have the order remade.

When I got there, a woman had just finished ordering and was standing aside the counter with her receipt. I stepped to the counter and explained the situation to an employee, who apologized and stepped to the back to ensure the sandwich was remade properly.

“No worries?” the woman beside me at the counter offered. “I’m sorry?” I said. She continued: “You told her “no worries” about them screwin’ up your order. You had to drive all the way back here after getting home to learn that these idiots can’t even make a sandwich right. I tell you, I’d be pretty pissed. You stopped in here for convenience on your way home from work (shhh), and all they can do for you is screw up your day even more. I’d be lettin’ them hear about it. They need to refund your money or give you something free. You ought not be so nice about it.”

“Well, everyone makes mistakes,” I proffered. “What help is it if I make them feel bad about making a mistake? I don’t mind so much.”

“You’re a sucker, then. You got screwed over, and someone should pay besides you.”

I smiled and said that I’d bear the brunt for the lot of us. But, I thought, this woman’s attitude of harsh entitlement is certainly more than norm than the exception. People have become unbelievable watchdogs of their personal spheres, obviously to the exception of their recognizing others’ personal spheres, and are quite reactionary and brutal when they perceive a violation.

I was later speaking with a friend who had gone to visit her favorite Aunt last weekend. Her Aunt was moving, and she wanted to help out, so she flew a few hundred miles to assist and spend some time with family. Her Aunt was stressed about the move, which I understand, but her loss of sunny disposition had been accompanied by an additional uncharacteristic aggression. She frequently made rude comments about my friend’s other side of the family, about my friend’s life in general, and consequently made her feel crappy and sorry that she had come to help at all. “But,” my friend told me, “I know she was stressed about the move. Not that I’m making excuses for her, but I know she wouldn’t have said those things except that she was frustrated and anxious.” As her Aunt was dropping her off at the airport, she admitted that she knew she hadn’t been treating her very well, and apologized, citing the anxiety of the move as the source of her barbs.

Really? Having a stressful time in your life in no way licenses you to take it out on other people. It makes no sense whatsoever. I promise it didn’t make her Aunt feel any better. I promise that yelling at a sandwich maker for getting an order wrong isn’t going to make you feel better. The whole idea of making someone else share one’s frustrations and angers in no way relieves one of their initial pain. In fact, it only serves to amplify it, to give one something about which they should feel badly later. So what’s the point??

Speaking of which, have you been in a relationship with someone that one day ended and you decided that you needed to do everything you could to try to hurt them, like steal their cat, not let them have their stuff back, send hate texts, or forbid any of your original friends to continue being friends with them? I’m just wondering. Because I would like to know what the draw is. I would like to understand what you believe you’re gaining by entrenching yourself in battle instead of getting on with yourself. Sure, you get to muck up their getting on a little bit, but not as much as you’re miring yourself. I don’t think. Seriously, if you know why, and it makes sense, I don’t get it at all. I’ve just heard that sometimes some people do such things, it’s true. I’ve read about it on INTERNET.

“Into each life a little rain must fall.” So the scene card in My Blue Heaven reads. Ignoring the wildly weatherist implications of rain being an undesirable state of weather, the concept stands as an immutable truth. When it rains, and let’s make this a rain of fire, isn’t it true that you have a choice? You can shelter yourself and understand that experience teaches us that fire rain doesn’t fall forever, and the skies will clear and you will be able to go on happily as before. Or you can curse the fire rain and try to drag others out into it so that you’re not alone in it. If you choose the latter, how does your experience of being rain-burned change?

I’m just saying, you have a choice.

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