Most of us have probably done this, to one degree or another. Maybe you don't do it for something little, but if you feel really wronged, maybe then it feels OK to start screaming at someone? If you don't have utensils at your table in the restaurant, do you kindly ask for them, or do you snarkily ask, "SILVERWARE???" I know I've been everywhere along this spectrum, and I'm not proud of it, but now I do my best to keep calm and see if I can improve the situation.
Shortly before our baby was born, I went to Babies R Us to buy a huge pile of stuff that we still needed and hadn't been given to us at any of the baby showers. My wife was very pregnant, so she stayed home and I was on my own. I went to a couple other stores first and I hadn't slept much the night before or eaten properly, so by the time I picked out my products I was tired and suffering from low blood sugar.
It took a while to get everything rung up and I could feel my head getting foggier by the second. I started to dream of a frozen custard from Culver's as a cure for my hypoglycemia. With such a large purchase, I had several 20% off coupons that were going to save me around $100. In my reduced mental state, I didn't give them to the cashier right away. One item in my cart had a promotion where you receive a $10 gift card just for buying it. The cashier processed the gift card and announced how much I had to pay for this heap of stuff that now occupied at least 5 large plastic bags.
I handed her my coupons and then the fun began. She tried to scan one and a look of concern came over her face. She tried again and her concern turned to worry. Then she asked a coworker if she could run the coupons and the answer was, "No, you'll have to start over." Ugh.
She called for a supervisor, who spent a few more minutes trying to see if she might outwit the cash register. No luck. They both looked at me the way someone might look while approaching a wild animal, expecting to get torn to shreds, and prepared to give me the bad news. I knew that we were going to have to take everything out of the bags and begin again.
Now, I admit, this wasn't what I needed at that moment and I was feeling particularly bad. It would have been relatively easy to dress her down for not asking for my coupons at the right time, or to complain that "they need to fix THEIR system," or to spill out all my problems to try to make them feel bad. I've seen countless people do those exact things.
A couple years ago, at the car wash, a man ahead of me stopped his truck at the entrance and was having some sort of too-long talk with one of the attendants. I didn't know why he was holding up the line but it appeared that it was over now. I had just signed up for their car wash club where you pay monthly for unlimited washes. So after I went through, I had to pull around to ask the attendant to affix a transponder sticker to my windshield. Here I found that the man had returned and he was loaded for bear. He went on and on and on about how the wash hadn't gotten a little bit of mud off the bottom of his truck and how he had told them that this would happen. He yelled the entire time as he explained how terrible they all were and how they aren't any good at doing their jobs.
I waited patiently while hoping this would end soon because I had somewhere else to be. The attendant maintained a zen-like composure and when he was given a chance to speak, he told the man all he had to do was ask to go through again at no charge. In fact, he said, the man could go through as many times as were needed to clean his truck. Thank God the attendant remained calm and kept this from escalating.
After the man ran through the wash a second time, I saw him stop and get out of his truck and examine it carefully. Then, to my amusement, he turned to face the building and gave it a series of attitude-filled annoyed looks. That will teach those water nozzles to do their jobs! And the dryer fans were cowering in fear. I couldn't stop laughing!
The car wash scene memories flashed through my mind there at the Babies R Us counter. The two ladies had braced themselves for what they feared might come next. I just said, "OK." Relief washed over them. I really wanted to get out of there, but complaining or yelling about it wasn't going to help anybody. And it wasn't the cashier's fault that the system wouldn't let her take my coupons, nor should she have to stand trial for the "crimes" of the programmers who designed it that way.
Within a few minutes, we were done and she thanked me profusely for my patience. I've been told the same many times over in my life. I always explain that there are plenty of people who would be nasty so I choose to be kind instead. Wouldn't it be nice if more people thought that way?
As I drove home, I thought all about what had happened. When I reached my house, I realized I had made one big error: I forgot to stop at Culver's!
This was based on the Daily Thought from Oct. 12, 2012: Choose to be Kind.