Despite what my children might say to the contrary, over the years I have matured into a pretty easy-going person. I can usually keep my emotions in check, I seldom raise my voice, and I try to look at every situation from all perspectives. I know not everyone will always agree with me or do what I think should be done, but most of the time I can accept these differences, “agree to disagree,” and simply move on. I keep a cool head and a calm demeanor. Usually.
I haven’t always been this way. For years I took every little injustice as a personal affront and every disagreement as an assault on my dignity and honor and intelligence. How could he be so mean? How could she be so stupid? Why couldn’t they see that I was right and they were wrong? I would be furious–but in most cases, the instigators of my fury never knew the extent of my wrath because I kept it all locked inside me.
Then I was diagnosed with severe high blood pressure, and it took over a year for my doctor to find the right combination of meds to get my blood pressure back into the normal range. Suddenly, I was faced with the very real possibility that my anger would kill me if I didn’t let it go. So I let it go. I learned to “ease up,” to chill, to say “whatever” and mean it. This letting go hasn’t been easy, and sometimes I still falter, but I can usually take a deep breath, count to ten (or fifty), and trash the toxins.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t still quite a few frustrations that seep their way under my skin, but they no longer make my blood boil and my head pound. I won’t let them. They are minor irritants that I would like to remove from my world, but if I can’t, I’ll do my best to ignore them.
- Young men who wear their pants so far below their waistlines that I am witness to at least eight inches of their undies. I don’t want to know what color your boxers are today; I really don’t. When you walk with your legs spread apart to keep your pants from falling to your ankles, it looks really uncomfortable (and really stupid), and I can’t help wondering what future hip and back problems are already in the making because of your unnatural gait.
- Salesmen who insist on talking to my husband instead of me. I don’t know how your household operates, Mr. Chauvinist, but in mine we have what is called an “equal partnership”–oh, except for one thing. The checkbook is carried in MY purse–not his back pocket–and my purse and I are headed out the door.
- People who are rude to secretaries, waitresses, checkers, and others they consider to be “subordinate.” Walk a mile in their shoes; it will be one of the hardest miles you ever walk. They provide valuable services, and yet they don’t make enough money, they don’t set policy, and they have very little control over their work environment. (They do, however, have the ability to “lose” your urgent phone message, spit in your food, and “accidentally” scan your most expensive items twice.)
- Personal space invaders. You don’t have to stand six inches from my face in order for me to see you and hear you. Sometimes your cologne is overpowering, and sometimes it’s your coffee breath. Back off.
- Old folks who stop in the middle of the aisle to visit with other old folks. I’m sure you are nice people, probably the world’s greatest grandparents (with the coffee cups to prove it), and you haven’t seen each other since Wednesday night’s church service–but please move out of my way. I say “excuse me,” but you are so engrossed in your stories about Sister Myrtle’s cats and Brother Bob’s gout that you can’t hear me; I try to manuever around your stalled carts, but there’s no room and you’re not budging. After waiting patiently for several minutes, certain that one of you will finally realize (or care) that you’re blocking traffic, I finally re-trace my steps and attempt to head down the next aisle, where an entirely different set of old folks is catching up on everything that’s happened since last they met.
- Smart girls who play dumb. Stupidity is not cute, and any boy/man who can’t appreciate you for your intelligence won’t appreciate you for anything else, either.
- People who don’t start meetings on time. Much of the information presented in meetings could have just as effectively been dispensed through email or a 10-minute phone call. For those times when a face-to-face is deemed essential, let’s assume that all parties involved do have other work to do, and let’s “get the show on the road.”
- Motorcyclists who won’t wear helmets. Some of you are my friends, and I know from previous conversations that you will argue about the rush of the wind and the infringement on your civil rights. I’m tired of arguing with you, so let me just say that my heart goes out to the patrolman who has to try to sleep at night after working the scene of your accident. Severe head trauma does not a pretty picture make.
- Salespeople who call me by my first name. I’m not talking about the locals who have known me forever; I’m talking about the ones in a neighboring town who take my check, look at it, and say “Thank you, Karen,” as they’re handing me my receipt. A few months ago a male checker at Wal-Mart did this, and now every time I see him there, he says, “Can I help you, Karen?” “Are you finding everything you need, Karen?” “How are you today, Karen?” This FREAKS ME OUT! How does he remember my name? Does he also remember my phone number and address that were printed on the check? This is just plain creepy.
- People who cough up a lung and then spit it on the sidewalk. I understand the need to cough; I even understand the need to occasionally spit in public–but it doesn’t have to be on the sidewalk where the rest of us have to look at it and (hopefully) step around it. Please, find a trash can or a thick, grassy area.
- People who share the most intimate details of their private lives via loud, public cell phone conversations. Maybe the person on the other end of the phone is enjoying the verbal replay of last night’s sexual exploits, but the rest of us are extremely uncomfortable (and that part about you —- and then he —yeah, that was just disgusting. Do you kiss your mama with that mouth?).
Yes, I find these people mildly annoying, irritating, and sometimes even offensive, but there are probably a few people out there (one or two at least) who find me the same–but, I promise you, not for the same reasons!