I was brought up to believe, as Quakers do, that all people have Light inside them. Even the ones you don’t like. It’s an idea that I remind myself of pretty frequently, especially when teaching; in fact, it helps to go one step further and remind myself that people have reasons for being the way they are (even if those don’t amount to valid excuses).
I was in the grocery store today. It was a gloomy, draggy day, and I was tired. I pushed my cart along one aisle behind a woman, also pushing a cart and accompanied by a young girl, maybe her teenage daughter. As we neared the end of the aisle, they encountered someone they knew and greeted. They rolled to a stop, abreast, at the end of the aisle; I stopped a few feet behind them. I could see there wasn’t enough space for me to get by.
I did not ram this woman violently with my cart. I didn’t even tap her lightly on the bum with it. I didn’t try to barge through. I didn’t clear my throat or sigh peevishly or even make a sound. I stood there, and after perhaps 2.5 seconds, this woman turned around and saw me.
Okay, maybe I did have a moment where I thought, Sure, great place to stop, lady. But I was weary enough that I didn’t really care that I was at a standstill, certainly wasn’t going to muster the energy to say something. So I was stunned when this woman moved forward to let me by, staring disconcertingly at me, and said, in a tone that indicated I was not only slow-witted but also offensive and ugly, “Uh… ‘Excuse me‘ would be good!”
I went with my automatic response, which was to say mildly, “I can wait,” as I trundled past her – and heard her scoff at my back. Meanwhile, in my head, my jaw had dropped and I was momentarily at a loss for thoughts at the very notion that someone could be so rude to me out of nowhere, when she was the one who stopped in the middle of the aisle.
Then, as I continued with my shopping, Mental Dilovely snapped out of it, stalked back to the woman in question and got unlovely on her ass. Are you effing KIDDING ME?? Do you also flip the bird at the cashier on your way out and smack your kids when they ask you a question? Did your mother never tell you not to use that tonavoice? [“Tone of voice” was always one word to me when I was little.] Did none of your teachers ever call you on your nasty attitude? Or maybe you got scolded and oppressed all the time, so now that you’re big, you’ve decided it’s your prerogative to spew vitriol at random shoppers at the grocery store. Well, lady, if this is what you show of yourself to total strangers, then there must be lots of folks out there who think you’re a B*TCH.
I, at least, will take a moment to consider the possibility that perhaps your dog just died or you just found out you have cancer or you were bullied as a kid or maybe someone peed in your cornflakes every single day of your life. (Even if that’s true, though… doesn’t mean you’re not an icky person, right now.)
Then I shall blog you out of my system and stop wasting thoughts on you.