It’s been a tough few weeks for me (whine, whinge, snivel) so it’s not my fault I lost my temper. It’s not – is it?
I’ve been given a huge project to help write for work and not enough time to write it. There’s a career decision to be made and I hate making decisions. I need to see a dentist about an aching tooth. I have had a low grade headache for the past three days. I’ve been short on sleep so my back has been aching and, ummm, give me time and I’m sure I can think up some more excuses.
Oh yeah – the “straw that broke the camels back” one – I walked all the way down to the post office, trying to do the right thing by my health, to pick up a parcel and the postie (postal delivery man/woman) had taken it home with him (or her)!
I didn’t go off at the post office staff. The other woman who came in to pick up a parcel did even though she GOT her parcel! She was mad that the postie did not come to her door to try and deliver it though.
I asked the post office staff for the contact details so I could lodge a complaint and I asked them to throw the parcel out if it was junk mail. Then I walked back home.
Did I mention it was a hot day and I am no longer used to walking? How about the shoes? Did I mention my shoes were NOT made for walking and my feet were hurting?
As I was coming up the sidewalk towards my place I saw two young women had stopped in the middle of the path to have a chat. One had a double width pram (Australian for perambulator or baby carriage) with two children in it and it was taking up all but a small sliver of the footpath. Her friend was taking up most of the space on the nature strip beside her.
I plodded towards them expecting the sidewalk-hogging woman to move the pram aside just a little so I would be able to pass when I got to them. She did not even look at me. She stayed firmly planted taking up almost the entire footpath.
I did not feel like extending my walk, not by so much as an inch, so I squared my shoulders and shoved past the pram bumping it, gently, just a fraction to the side.
I treated her to the same attitude she was giving me – she did not exist and neither did her sidewalk-hogging pusher (Australian for push-chair, baby carriage or pram)!
As her pram moved under her hand she noticed me. So far so good. Then she showed exactly how bad mannered she really was.
“EXCUSE YOU!” She said with, in my opinion, unjustified censure.
My old temper flared as I turned around. Several thoughts raced through my head all at the same time.
I am gonna punch you in the mouth so hard you’ll have to stick a toothbrush up your arse to clean your teeth you ignorant b***h!
Nope – there’s two of them!
I don’t care! I can take them BOTH! They are half my size and nowhere near ready for this so I could flatten them both before they had time to fight back!
OI! There are CHILDREN present! You will frighten them and make them CRY!
OK, OK, no violence – fine.
I glared at her and said: “No! EXCUSE YOU for hogging the footpath!”
The stupid cow STILL couldn’t see she was in the wrong!
“You could have gone AROUND!” she said.
My fists curled and I had to remind myself there were children present.
“I shouldn’t HAVE to go around!” I spat and then my control slipped completely as I added: “YOU should not be HOGGING the F***ING FOOTPATH!”
She was silent so I turned and walked off. She waited a few seconds then, fairly quietly, she said: “Get a life.”
I didn’t turn around. I wanted to but I knew I would only go off at her and it would prolong the encounter. I was regaining control over myself so I settled for just putting my hand behind my back and giving her the finger.
I walked a couple more steps and, just before I reached my place, the other lady said something too softly for me to hear. I resisted the urge, again, to turn around and go back. This time I put both hands behind my back and gave them each a finger before turning into my yard.
The idea of getting in my car and driving up onto the sidewalk just for the pleasure of watching them RUN out of my way did cross my mind but I had myself under control by then so I dismissed it.
By the time I got inside the shame was setting in. I swore in front of children and, worst of all, I let my temper drag me down into the gutter.
There was no need for that scene and I knew it. All I had to do was say “Excuse me” when I reached her and she would have moved aside. I was the one at fault for not asking for what I wanted. It happened, I know, because of the way I was thinking as I neared them.
“This is a FOOT path not a mother’s meeting room!” I was grumbling to myself. “It’s not Gossipy Crescent or Nattering Lane here. It is a public path and I am a member of the public. I am entitled to my fair share of this path! She SHOULD move aside without me HAVING to ask her. If she is going to be rude enough to hog the path I will be just as rude back and shove her pram aside.”
None of that scene, none of my unpleasant feelings, would have happened if I had been thinking: “Gee, must be an interesting conversation she’s having. She hasn’t even noticed me. Wonder what she’s talking about that is so interesting? I shall eavesdrop as I go by and find out. Might have to ask her to move the pram if she doesn’t notice me soon though.”
The good news is my anger management skills DID step in and stop me from going the next step and threatening her with violence. I DID keep walking away from the scene instead of going back and prolonging it with a few choice descriptions of her and her woefully ignorant parents who clearly had failed to teach her even the most basic of good manners.
This whole issue comes down to the entry I wrote about manners. They are almost a thing of the past now and I have yet to accept it. It’s a different world today and people are NOT being taught good manners.
I have two choices.
I can cling to my belief that people SHOULD have good manners and I will go on being upset when they DON’T have them.
Or I can accept that people simply have not been taught good manners and those who have learned them are unlearning them in response to the rudeness they are being subjected to daily.
If I cease to expect people to have good manners I will not be upset when they turn out to be every bit as ignorant as I expect them to be. I will, instead, get a bit of a kick on the occasions when I run into someone who DOES have good manners.
I can’t change the world. I can’t impose my standards or values on anyone else. I can’t make people be the way I want them to be. All I can do to make sure I never have to go through such a scene again is change ME.
So that is what I am going to do. Lower my expectations and accept that people are not being taught good manners any more. They can’t give me what they have never learned so I shall pity them for their poor upbringing instead of getting angry from now on.
R.I.P. the social oil. The demise of good manners will, you can be certain, lead to more and more incidents of road rage, pedestrian rage, and anger of all kinds.
Good manners are the way people in social settings show respect for each other. Lack of respect can, and does, provoke rage in people. That lady is probably wondering why people are so touchy and rude these days. She obviously didn’t understand she was being bad mannered to block other people’s access to the public footpath so there are probably other things she doesn’t know.
If I had been a six foot, tattooed, grumpy looking man she would probably have moved the pram without even thinking about it. As time goes by, and manners get worse, I suspect more and more harmless looking people will start to have incidents of rage as they react to being treated with no respect dozens of times a day.
That woman will, I have absolutely no doubt about this, be subjected to many more incidents of other peoples rage over the coming years and she will never understand why. If I had not learned anger management years ago I most certainly would have got my car and made her run or gone up to her and waved my fist in her face!
She has experienced social rage at least once, from me, and she was only in her late 20’s or early 30’s whereas I, on the other hand, am almost 50 and I have never been the target of social rage. I would say that is because I usually use the manners my mother taught me. If I do something wrong I say sorry and it turns an angry frown into a smile almost every time!
If I choose to go on using good manners I can take comfort in knowing I am reducing the chances of ever becoming a target of someone else’s social rage. If I stop expecting other people to have good manners I will probably not experience social rage myself again. I don’t like being a puppet on the strings of anger.
I know this much – next time I get a parcel pick up notice I’m taking the car to go get it!