I’ll say it right up front. This post will hardly be politically correct. It won’t be mean either. Just my honest opinions.
A couple of days ago I needed to pick up a few routine supplies like some TracFone time, batteries, coffee, and trail mix. That meant a quick trip to the discount department store not quite a mile from my little house. I quickly located all the necessary items and headed to a checkout station. I noticed that one of my favorite clerks was on duty at a checkout. I get a kick out of her because she’s so perky, friendly and genuine. I don’t think she has ever had a bad day in her life. If she has ever felt grumpy or mean, she’s hidden it from me. I decided that I needed a mood boost, so I waited in her checkout lane.
I was second in line, just behind an older woman. My favorite clerk performed her usual fast, cheerful work. She was just as friendly and helpful as anyone can be. The customer responded to questions with some grunts and snide comments, then walked out the door. As usual, the friendly clerk greeted me with her happy demeanor and whisked through my transaction efficiently and cheerfully. She wished me a pleasant “good evening” and I responded in kind. I walked out the door feeling happy and glad that I had shopped in that store.
Soon, the customer who had been ahead of me in the checkout motioned me over to her Oldsmobile. I thought she might need help, so I hurried towards her. The customer asked me if the clerk isn’t about the most annoying person on the face of the earth? How can anybody tolerate such a person?
I was taken aback. So I quickly answered, “I think the clerk is one of the nicest, most genuinely kind people I’ve ever met. I said I would be proud to call her my friend if I knew her better”. That’s all I could say before the older woman got into her Oldsmobile and harshly slammed the door. She flashed me a terrible scowl while doing so.
The woman’s extreme negativity didn’t totally ruin my evening, but I did feel bummed out about the encounter. I did try some armchair psychological analysis in my head for the next couple of hours. I finally shrugged her mood off to being “that time of the month” or she was suffering from a body ache of some sort. The incident continues to nag at my thoughts today. I know it shouldn’t but the depth of that customer’s aversion to kindness and a friendly attitude strikes me as somehow perverse.
I’m sure you have had more than your fair share of encounters with agressively mean behavior from our fellow humans. We all have. The encounters often leave us stunned and wondering what the home life of the mean person is like. Did he or she grow up in an abusive home? Was he or she teased as a child? Is he or she simply displaying psychopathic behavior? Questions, questions, and more questions.
As a kid, I had to put up with enough schoolyard bullies to cast a dramatical series on teevee. I was once physically pounced upon by a few of them one day in junior high school because I was perceived as “different”. Luckily, the assistant principal of the school was just leaving the school building and broke up the “fight”. I didn’t suffer a detention, but I did get interrogated by the principal and by my folks. I didn’t “rat” on the bullies because I knew that they’d make my life even more hellish if I would have spoken up. I later found out that the ringleader of the gang of bullies came from a “broken home” and that he’d been physically abused by his alcoholic mother. I got an explanation, but it didn’t explain away the bully’s lack of personal responsibility nor his lack of empathy. After all, many people come from abusive, dysfunctional homes and don’t exhibit mean streaks nor physically assault their peers. Only a small proportion go on to become bullies and convicted felons.
I’ve often wondered why so many people have become fans of professionally mean people. There are some so-called personalities and commentators who make a fortune by simply smearing and attacking politicians, and members of minority groups. The attacks aren’t just quick jabs. Rather, the professionally mean people practice repeated attacks and vendettas against their fellow humans. It seems to me that the fans, dittoheads, and other assorted folks who regularly tune into the negative programming, listen to the diatribes in order to validate their own bigotry and hatred.
There certainly seems to be a bottomless pit of demand for mean spirited media programming for that “market share” of listeners. I honestly don’t understand how mean programmers and their fan base can be openly acceptable to society. Maybe the rest of us are afraid to confront the commentators? Just like my deference to the “authority” of the junior high school bullies?
Only a few vocal individuals stand up to the mean, angry politicos and commentators. Usually they, themselves, become targets of the self-same bloviators. Meantime, the level of social discourse continues its downward spiral into deeper and darker levels of libel and slander. As the hostility and untruths continually repeat over and over, the world suffers. Real solutions to our manifold problems aren’t given fair hearings. Blistering negative, unhelpful contrarian opinionating washes civilized discussion out of the way.
We stand to lose what’s left of our way of life unless we take a stand to remain positive, uplifting and inclusive in our thoughts and actions. I for one, will continue to advocate for the downtrodden and unpopular minorities in our small world. I do not plan to be negative in kind while doing so.
I know we can do much better than to simply, passively stand on the sidelines while the domestic bullies terrorize the rest of us.
On a smaller scale, I hope the customer I encountered has gotten rid of her body ache and her, hopefully temporary, negative demeanor.
The Blue Jay of Happiness continues to recommend the practice of empathy and compassion as lifestyle skills.