Behaving Badly

Over the weekend, I made my weekly pilgrimage to Target, shrine of everything-you-need and even more that you probably don’t need, but hey, it’s cute and in the dollar bin!

The first game at Target is always finding a parking spot. I cruised down one aisle, but all of the spots were taken, so I decided to take a right and try the next aisle over.

As I made the turn, a middle-aged couple were walking from the store out into that aisle. They were walking right down the middle of the aisle, to be specific. I wasn’t in a hurry, though, so I slowly inched forward behind them. The woman drifted over to the far left side, but the man remained in the middle of the aisle, clearly planning to keep his course.

He did start to drift to the right side, though, leaving the middle of the road open for me. I guessed that they must have different cars, since they were on different sides of the aisle and he had fallen behind her in pace, so I slowly drove between them (with plenty of room on each side) and then pulled into an open space on the left, pausing to make sure the woman wasn’t going to cross the open space. She instead went to the car just before the space.

As I put the car in park, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the man beside my window. Apparently they were taking the same car. He was opening up the passenger door of his car, and in that side-glance instant, I caught him peering into my window, his eyes attempting to bore holes into me with hatred.

I was immediately uncomfortable and turned my head to the passenger seat, taking extra time to gather up my purse and put away my keys. Did I really see that or was that side-glance misinterpreted? Confused, I turned back and prepared to get out of the car, knowing he was still likely right there.

As I opened the door, my eyes trying to remain anywhere but near a human being, I was aware that he was already in his car. But my eyes again drifted up and there staring right at me from the passenger seat in the next car over, was a man I’d never met before, with a look on his face like he was about to jump out of his car and beat me. In that quick glance, his eyes, his body language communicated that he hated me. I’ve never seen so much negative energy coming off of a person before, especially towards someone he didn’t even know.

I quickly closed my door and walked away, still unsure of exactly what happened and not wanting to wait around to give the guy a chance to speak. What could I have done to make this person so angry? I kept my car well behind them when they were walking to their car, never wanting to be pushy. And if he was upset that I was somehow pushy for trying to drive down that aisle, did that infraction truly deserve that severe of a response? Even if he was just having a bad day, why take it out on me?

I’d like to think this was an isolated incident, but I’ll admit I’m seeing it more and more every day.

Like the person yelling at a customer service representative because they didn’t ring up the right sale price at the register.

Like the guy weaving through traffic, nearly causing accidents because he’s more important than anyone else on the road and deserves to get there first.

Like a parent blowing up at a neighbor for having the nerve to ask her child to please not walk through her flower garden, screaming that no one tells her child what to do but her.

People – we’re losing our ability to interact with each other.When the world around you feels more like a reality TV show and less like actual reality, something is wrong.

Our society is teetering towards a loss of all civility. It’s like people are rebelling from the politically correct atmosphere of the last decade and swinging to the polar opposite. Maybe all of the power of anonymity on the internet is spilling over into our day-to-day behavior? (Note to offenders: when you act like an internet troll to the people in your community, we actually know who you are. And then don’t like you.) 

We’re becoming a Jerry Springer culture, zero-to-pissed-off-and-swinging in 2.3 seconds. If someone does something that inconveniences you, clearly they meant to do it and therefore deserve to be punished. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is unheard of, and if done generally means that you’ll be the loser when the other person chooses to strike first in the war of angry words.

 I’m so sick of it.

Look, I’m socially awkward, but even I know the basics of how to behave in public. Be nice to people. Give them the benefit of the doubt. If you’re upset, bring it up to the person calmly and rationally and give the other person a chance to explain or make it right.

People who get angry all the time intimidate me – I never know when they’re going to blow up next. My coping mechanism is to conjure up the image of screeching chimpanzees: out-of-control and primitive, which is really how these people are behaving. And when you imagine them as chimps, they look ridiculous.
My challenge to all of you is to practice kindness this week. Do something nice at a moment when no one expects it. If you feel like you’re about to yell, pause and ask yourself if it’s really worth it to pummel the other person with all of that negativity. Slow down. Make others smile.
And for goodness sake, show some understanding and love to all of the random people you interact with in public each day. Don’t be the chimpanzee in the room.
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Comments

  1. tofuforyou says:

    Amen!!

  2. Love this, Christina. Everything you said is true.

    Going to practice a bit more kindness this week.

  3. I am always amazed by the shock people show when I am pleasant to them. Like no one is ever nice and it is just sad. This could be so much longer, but I need to go stop a puppy from dragging the cat water across the dining room

  4. I’ve been blog hopping based on a friend’s rec.

    YOur blog is my fave from the list of 10 she gave me.

    The others were too hard to navigate. I enjoy your posts and your style. I’ll subscribe, your site feels friendly right away. And funny, too.

  5. Great to see you Christina. What a weird experience in Target… and I do have to admit, I’m seeing this behavior more and more. Was glad that the event yesterday, despite the huge crowd, seemed truly wholesome and warm. Smiles seem to go a long way now, as they are unexpected – probably why it feels so good to do it in this crazy world.

  6. Absolutely. Random acts, all the TIME. Tell people jokes (tasteful), hold open doors with a smile and always look people who service you in any way in the eyes and say “thank you.” I think we’d all be surprised how much those simple things can change the world.

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