I Got Yelled At By Two Strangers Last Week. What I did to deserve it, What I Said in Response, and what it taught me about the power of my thoughts
I have a problem.
A curse, really.
I’m your stereotypical Canadian. I’m very friendly – overly friendly at times. I apologize a lot for things I don’t need to apologize for, just to keep the peace. In fact, I once apologized to a woman who ran into me and stepped on my foot while I was grocery shopping a few years ago. She didn’t even look up from her phone. Yeah. That happened.
And last week, I was perusing the prepared salads at the new Erewhon (health food store in LA) in Venice, completely overcome by the scope of all the delicious looking food. The man behind the counter asked if I wanted a sample, and I jumped at the chance (free samples? Duh.). I was noshing on a kale salad while doing another stroll across the display case when I heard a man say, “You could say excuse me, you know.”
Startled, I looked to my left and noticed a man standing in front of the counter where I had just passed, but far enough back that I didn’t see him. But apparently, close enough that I should have said excuse me.
I don’t like to make waves, and I certainly like to right my wrongs as soon as I realize I’ve made them, so I immediately said, “Oh I’m so sorry! You’re right! Excuse me!”
To which he snorted back, “Yeah, well…you know…for next time.” His tone was somewhat taken aback that I was so nice, and still a pompous asshole who was just wanting to be a jerk (oh, I’m sorry, did I say that out loud?).
His response made me mad, but rather than punch him in the jaw (which is what I really wanted to do), “I said curtly, “Yeah. I get it. Thank you.”
The man clearly was unhappy with life, and was just taking it out on me. But I couldn’t help but to retrace my steps and ask myself if I was really in the wrong or if he was just a jackass (I’m pretty sure he was just a jackass). And a week later, I’m still carrying it (clearly).
On Friday, my daughter, Madison, and I flew to Montreal – our first solo trip without my husband, Ted! She did amazingly well on the flight, and since we were flying standby, we ended up in business class (it was the last seat left on the flight). It was really great, except for the fact that the flight attendant seemed to have it out for me. I’m not sure what I did, but she was so annoyed with me the entire flight, and she let it show. Or at least, that was my perception. I finally had a heart to heart with myself and reasoned that I must just be being overly sensitive and making things up in my head, because what reason did she have to be upset? Yes. It must be in my head, I decided.
But near the end of the flight while we were still in the air, she announced a request that everyone stay seated to let the passengers who had connecting flights off the plane since we were so delayed. But once we got to the gate, no one stayed seated (they never do. It’s so rude). Not a single person. As a general rule follower, I was prepared to wait it out (even though no one else was) because where else did I have to go? But the guy in the window seat next to me wanted to get out, and every single other passenger in front of us had deplaned, so I just got up with Madison and went. As I was saying thank you to the flight attendant on the way out, she said to me forcefully, “Do you have a connecting flight?” knowing full well that I did not (she had the manifest). I responded that I did not. “Well you know you could have waited, uh?” she said in the bitchiest bitchy she could force out. There were so many things I wanted to say. But I said nothing and walked off the plane.
I felt like a high school student being confronted by the meanest most popular girl in school. In a word, small.
I didn’t hear her confront a single one of the other passengers who all deplaned before me who also didn’t have a connection. It was clear to me now that her behavior for the entire flight had not, in fact, been in my head.
So I waited on the bridge for the stroller. And then I waited until all the passengers got off the plane so I could talk to her.
“Did I do something to upset you, Tania?” (her name was Tania), I said after all the passengers had gotten off the plane, “Because I wasn’t trying to cause any trouble on the plane, and you seemed to not like me very much.”
She was clearly taken aback that I would have the nerve to confront her, and she responded, “The entire flight? No, you weren’t causing any trouble. I just thought that you should have waited for everyone to get off.”
I didn’t take the opportunity to point out that my waiting wouldn’t have made a difference since all the other passengers were clearly not listening to her, and that she should have made another announcement once the plane got to the gate that asked people once again to wait for the connectors to get off. So I just told her, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t sure what to do. The man next to me wanted to get off, and I had to move for him anyway, and since we were right at the front of the plane, I decided to just get off.”
She responded by saying, “Oh, I thought you were together!”
I said no, we weren’t, and took my very tired but still cooperative daughter and our stroller down the bridge and into the terminal. I allowed it to happen (I have to own my part in it), but she took what should have been a lovely experience in business class and made me wish I hadn’t gotten that seat.
I think she felt silly because she made the mistake of assuming I was with the poor gentleman next to me, and as a result, she gave him bad service as well (didn’t offer us any food, treated us like dirt on her shoe, etc.).
The point of all of this is to say that despite knowing I’m a good person, despite knowing I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m still carrying these two stories – the one about the man in the grocery store getting mad at me for not being mindful, and the one about the flight attendant being mad at me for the same reason.
There are two reasons for bringing this all up:
The first is that mindfulness seems to be the theme, and given my last post, I have some insecurities about my state of mindfulness these days. Namely, I’m worried that I’m not practicing it often enough. So I’m clearly carrying these two stories as evidence for my critical voice that’s been telling me I need to be more mindful. I’m not saying that I wasn’t being mindful in these situations, but I am saying that these situations acted as a good indication that I still have things to work on in this department. So whether I was being mindful in these situations or not is not the point. The point is that there are other situations in my life that need work. So I’ll take the lesson and try to leave the bitter taste of being scolded by complete strangers behind.
The second reason I bring this up – and more importantly – is to demonstrate that our power is wherever our thoughts are. We have the choice to feel empowered. We also have the choice to feel degraded. It may not seem like it, but we do have that choice. But our power is where our thoughts are. And if our thoughts are telling us that we are bad people, if our thoughts are stuck inside the stories that make us feel less than, if they are stuck in thinking about things we wish we would have said or done differently, then it is really hard to feel empowered. It’s really hard to take back our power when our thoughts are ruled by our insecurities, frustrations and anger.
Our thoughts are a powerful driver that dictate our state of being. We need to protect them.
Right now, those two people have my power. I gave it to them. And I’m working on getting it back. I’m working on choosing to take the lesson and to leave the rest. And I will get there. Not because I will get to seek them out and give them an ear full, but instead because I will take back control of my thoughts, reshape them, and get back to a state of being that is peaceful and empowered.
I share this all with you to ask you: where are your thoughts? What state of being are they putting you in? And if you don’t like that state, would you like to change it?
Love, love, love,