Friday, February 24, 2012

Do People Seem EDGIER Latey?!?

My husband recently had a flight to Costa Rica for business. While he was waiting in line to use the bathroom, he felt someone push hard into the back of his knees causing him to jerk forward. When my husband turned around, the man who had done the pushing stated rudely "get your butt out of my face!" My husband apologized and then was asked by the man "if he wanted to take it outside like a man when they got to the airport?" 

Honestly, guys, do you really still use that line, it sounds so dated and well, silly? It makes me think of an old black and white film,  starring perhaps someone like Frank Sinatra. You know the ones I am talking about where there is a skinny, gangly bunch of sailors on a weekend pass about to start a brawl in a local dive bar from all that pent up masculine energy? Geesh.

After that "take it like a man comment," my husband felt the tension inside him increasing, but recalling his wife's repetitious talks about being empathetic my husband said to the man "You must be be really tired, and looking forward to a drink?" To which the angry man said " I don't need anything except your butt outta my face!" And my husband wisely ended it there. They were soon to land and at that point it seemed better to just end it rather then continuing apologizing or involving the flight attendant.

I too had an encounter with someone rather over the top that left me most perplexed. It occurred at a Lowes Store. The man in front of me online at a self check out was having difficulty using the credit card machine. I had no where I needed to be at that particular moment in time, so I was perfectly content to wait while he struggled to make it work. By the third time his card was rejected I asked if the man wanted some help to which he yelled at me in a loud belligerent voice to "back off lady and leave me alone. Who do you think you are to bother me and ask me if I need help. I am fine." And it did not end there he proceeded to go on and on and on and on and on, all the while glaring at me, finally getting his card to work, grabbing his bag and huffing angrily out the door. And he was STILL saying ugly things about me as he walked out and left the store.

Needless to say, I was completely baffled by this man's outburst. as was my husband by his plane mate. I apologized several times, just as my husband did on his flight. It did not seem to do any good though, and in fact seemed to make our situations somewhat more tense. What is also rather ironic to note is that not one person came to my husband's or my aid in either situation. There were many people on that crowded flight who heard the nasty discourse, just as their were at least 20 customers and employees at the store who literally stood there and said not a word. Perhaps if it had come to blows, someone would have intervened? Or not, since no one really knows for certain.

Why is it that tragedies like 9/11 bring us so close together only to separate us once the intensity  of emotion dies down.  Our empathetic and sympathetic emotions kick in to high gear when we see people suffering on a grander scale then we would normally feel while waiting online at a grocery store, sitting on a plane or driving our car.

Why is it we feel our personal space is invaded upon instead of taking the time to maybe ask yourself are you the one being rude or expecting too much, or in a hurry, or embarrassed or what ever else you are feeling. I think more often then not peole who overreact in situations like these, are not truly in touch with what it is that they are feeling and instead take it as a personal affront and lash out at the person who they perceive as causing them  pain right at that moment in time.

Years ago when I was a "career woman" in Boston I was returning home from work one hot and steamy summer evening evening to my apartment.  Perhaps I was 26 at the time. As I was leaving the car, I over heard three girls shouting cruel and horrible things to a forth girl, who all looked to be about 20 or so. Without a thought, I dropped my briefcase and purse, running over across the lawn in my high heels to help the girl. I would expect  just the sight of my petite frame, in my peach silk summer suit, high heels and perefecly coiffed hair was enough to shock the girls into silence. I shouted as I ran saying "what is going on here and leave her alone!" The building manager, having heard my shouts, got there just as they were all leaving in their cars, to take care of the young girl who luckily was shaken but unhurt. Days later in the mail I received a thank you card, unsigned but with a handwritten note that read"thank you for what you did for me" There was an extra little surprise in the envelope that shall remain nameless, but lets just say it was appreciated! I was so touched and moved by this sweet gesture that it still makes me feel all warm inside just to retell it.

Sure, I could have been hurt. Sure I could have just gone inside and called the building manager on the phone (this was years and years before cell phones) but I didn't. I did what all of us should be able to do far more then we do, care enough about another human being to want to help. That is who I am, and always will be and that is how I am raising my son. Who indeed has already shown incredible empathy for such a young boy. One more empathetic soul in the universe is indeed a VERY GOOD thing!

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