Any Excuse to Be Angry

There have been a lot of Facebook fights of late. People are scared, and they’re only brave enough to lash out if they can do it from a distance with very few consequences. I try really hard not to feed the trolls, but, as with everyone else, my patience is paper thin.

As I write this, I’m watching a live video feed with my governor and multiple nurses, in celebration of National Nurses Day. Even as these heroes talk about what it’s like to work on COVID-19 wards, trolls are commenting that it’s all lies, and that no one is really sick, and that this is just some twisted conspiracy to keep people from working. Attacking nurses on National Nurses Day seems like a new low to me.

I was also attacked online the other day for saying that as a bridgetender, I blow my horn at 8 pm to thank the frontline workers. This guy immediately jumped on there, infuriated by the number of times we bridgetenders have made him late to work. He said a bridge opening for a sailboat would often cause him a 20 minute delay.

First of all, the average bridge opening only lasts 4 ½ minutes from the time the traffic light turns red to the time the traffic gates rise back up, and I’ve never, EVER seen it take an additional 15 ½ minutes to clear traffic afterward. I’ve never seen that in 19 years as an operator. It may feel like you’re sitting there for 20 minutes, but trust me, you’re not.

I often wonder why people who get so irritated at drawbridges don’t simply take a different route. But I think it feels safe to be outraged at an inanimate object. Those iron girders can take it.

I think a lot of people are angry about any number of things, and don’t have the skills to deal with their anger, and therefore express anger at ridiculous things instead. That guy that jumped on my case told me that Seattle drawbridges are a pet peeve of his, and that any time a bridge opens, it infuriates him.

Um…  Get over it? It’s a situation that isn’t going to change. Why would you allow fury into your life several times a week? Either take a different route, or reframe it as an opportunity to step out of your car and get some fresh air, or maybe try and figure out why you have so much anger inside of you, and get some help to learn how to deal with it effectively.

Becoming infuriated by something you know you’ll be exposed to multiple times in the course of your life seems rather self-destructive, and frankly, insane, to me. Getting upset at a drawbridge is about as silly as getting upset every time it rains. Rain happens. Bridge openings happen. What on earth is the point of all your impotent rage?

I suppose, in light of all the anger that’s floating around out there, the rest of us just need to breathe deeply and not let their anger enter into us. Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t become one yourself.

But man, that’s easier said than done these days.

trollfeed

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Dude, Take a Breath

I was running errands recently, and one of the things on the to-do list was a stop at the post office. I had pulled into the suicide lane (aka the middle lane) of a busy 4 lane highway, because I had to make a left turn to get into the parking lot. I had plenty of time to assess the situation, because there was a lot of oncoming traffic to wait for.

As I sat there, I saw a man walking up the sidewalk. When there was a gap in the traffic, I noted that he was at least 20 feet from the driveway, and moving slowly, so I decided it was safe to make my move. And then he sped up.

But by that time, I was already committed. I was crossing the oncoming lanes, and cars were coming. When I passed in front of him, he was still a good 10 feet from the driveway, so I thought nothing of it.

I parked. It took a moment to gather my belongings. That turned out to be very, very fortunate, because the next thing I knew, the guy was pounding on my window and screaming at me.

“You b**ch! You almost killed me! You didn’t even see me.”

I tried to remain calm. I said, “Of course I saw you. That’s why I didn’t kill you.”

The whole time, he’s beating on my window, and I’m praying that the glass will hold, and feeling grateful that I had remained in my car long enough to have this conversation with a bit of a barrier between us. Because the man was unhinged. His eyes were bulging out of his head from pure rage. He proceeded to shout at everyone in the parking lot, telling them what a b**ch I was, and how I’d attempted to kill him.

Because, yeah, that’s my goal in life.

Needless to say, I didn’t get out of my car. Eventually he stormed off down the street. To say I was a bit shaken by this incident is putting it mildly. I decided not to pick up the mail after all.

To this day, that parking lot gives me a frisson. I make a point of looking all around me before I step out of the car. This guy will forever haunt the post office for me.

I really don’t understand people who go from zero to outraged in 2 seconds. Especially when the situation does not merit that level of aggression. I did not harm a hair on his chinny chin chin. Why did he attempt to harm me?

If Homie hadn’t gone completely crackers on me, we could have had a reasonable discourse. I would have apologized for startling him. That certainly wasn’t my intent. I must have triggered something in him. We all come with baggage. Sometimes our reactions have more to do with the past than the present.

But one wonders what a guy like that would do in private if he’s so willing to attack a woman in public. I wouldn’t want his life, where the tiniest of things brings him to the rage place. Along with being profoundly dysfunctional, it must be exhausting and isolating.

I suspect he will be dining alone come Thanksgiving.

Rage

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Walmart Hell

I’ve written a few blog posts about how I hate shopping at Walmart. I feel so strongly about this that I have managed to avoid entering one of these dens of iniquity for nearly 4 years. Seattle makes that easy, because it has yet to allow a Walmart within its city limits. (One more reason to adore the emerald city, as far as I am concerned!)

Unfortunately, I sort of felt forced to bow down to this false God of consumerism last week, because my phone battery is dying. (No, I don’t have a standard smart phone. I have a cheap, pay by the minute tracfone that I bought once upon a time at Walmart.)

Believe me, I attempted to buy a replacement battery on line. When it came in its flimsy package, it was bent, and I could smell the acid fumes. It’s a hazmat situation. I had to get a refund, and the thing is now sitting on my back porch until such time as I can figure out how to properly dispose of it without disfiguring myself. Needless to say, this kind of put me off ordering on line. But my phone is such a weird size, I assumed only Walmart would have the battery in their brick and mortar stores.

Silly me.

So, with a tear in my eye and a knot in my stomach, I went to the Walmart in Renton. After circling around and around and around to look for a parking space, which seems to be a required part of the ritual, I entered the door on a late Sunday afternoon, and my jaw dropped.

I don’t know if it’s just this particular branch, or if the entire franchise has gone downhill in the past 4 years, but this place was nasty. Yes, Walmarts are always crowded with the dregs of humanity, but I remember that the stores themselves used to be clean, at least. I half expected to step over bird poop and cadavers in this one, such was its state of disarray. And the aisles have gotten so narrow that you can barely fit a shopping cart down them. They clearly have been unable to resist the desire to cram in more merchandise, and to hell with consumer comfort.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I walked in the door with my recycled grocery bags over my shoulder, and I was accosted by this greeter who did not speak a word of English. He insisted in putting a sticker on my empty bag. I tried to ask why, but he just babbled at me. Welcome to Walmart indeed.

I headed straight to electronics, because I just wanted to get this over with. But getting there was a trial. I felt like a salmon fighting my way upstream. The aisles were so narrow that whenever someone in front of me decided to stop and examine some cheap thing or another, everyone behind that person had to stop as well, which resulted in a traffic jam of epic proportions. I seriously thought I was going to lose my mind and start screaming. Walmart rage. I bet it happens a lot.

When I finally got back to the proper department, this very helpful employee told me I’d be better off buying a new phone with a new battery. “But I don’t want a new phone,” I said. (Did she seriously think I’d buy a 45 dollar phone to get a 9 dollar battery?)

She then informed me that I’d have to talk to that associate over there, because he was the only one who had a key to the cabinet where replacement batteries were kept. Well, that associate over there looked like a wounded fish in the midst of a shark feeding frenzy.

I approached the mob cautiously, but it was a good 15 minutes before he had dealt with all of them and could focus on me. And when he did, he said that Walmart doesn’t sell phone batteries.

I nearly lost my sh*t at this point. I should have left right then while my sanity was still relatively intact. I really should have.

But no. I decided that if I had to subject myself to this trauma, I may as well accomplish something before I left. So I stupidly decided to do my grocery shopping while there.

Lord love a duck, what a nightmare that was. Again with the traffic jams in every aisle. Only this time, the woman behind me was letting her 5 year old push the cart, and that 5 year old was delighting in ramming the cart into my calves. It was clear that mama knew it was happening, too, but she couldn’t care less. It took everything in me to keep from getting into a slap-fest amongst the canned goods. But I was afraid she would win due to my lack of experience.

Finally, finally, finally I made my way to the cash registers. There were about 35 of them, and they were all overflowing with customers. I chose the only aisle I could reach with my cart, and I soon regretted it.

There were 9 people ahead of me, and the family directly in front contained a mother, a father, and two toddlers. And the two toddlers were throwing strawberries while doing that delighted toddler scream that breaks the freakin’ sound barrier. (And one wonders why I’ve never regretted being child-free?)

To my right was an old woman having some kind of physical fit, and no one was helping her. (I admit I wasn’t, either. She was kind of break dancing, spinning in circles, albeit while remaining upright, and I really didn’t know what to do with that.)

To my left was a man holding a screaming child, who proceeded to vomit down the back of his shirt. It didn’t seem to phase him. He remained in line.

By the time I got close enough to the front of the line to be hemmed in by the candy bars and the tabloid magazines, I began to feel really claustrophobic. And I only feel that way, usually, when I get an MRI. I kept telling myself to breathe. (Through my mouth, so as to avoid the smell of baby barf.) I kept saying to myself, “Do not freak out in front of these people. This is just Walmart. You aren’t gonna die. Consider this blog fodder.” But, dear reader, it was a near thing.

I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel from hell when the strawberry pelting family in front of me started to get checked out. But oh, no. They were paying with some kind of vouchers, so in one grocery cart, they had to do 5 separate transactions, all to the tune of their screaming kids. If I hadn’t been trapped, I’d have walked out, leaving my cart of crap where it was.

They hadn’t even sorted out which food went with which vouchers, so, yeah, there’s that, too. And then she wound up walking out without half her items, which apparently didn’t fit the vouchers in question. (And to add insult to injury, one of the items left behind was the now half-empty plastic container of strawberries!)

So, before the cashier could ring me up, she had to figure out what to do with all the abandoned items on the conveyor belt, and while she was moving some, she accidentally passed them over the bar code reader, so she had to delete those charges before she could proceed.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Well, she finally got around to ringing me up, but I had to bag my own groceries, because apparently Walmart is the only place in the entire state of Washington that doesn’t practically shame you if you don’t use recycled bags. In fact, they insist you shut up and use plastic, but that’s something I absolutely refuse to do.

So, when I left, my soul had been sucked out of my body, and I didn’t have the only thing I went there for in the first place, which was the phone battery. And then I realized I had forgotten where I parked my car. I swear to God, if I could have walked home, I would have, such was my desire to get Walmart behind me.

(And yes, I’ve ordered another battery on line, from a different company. I hope this one arrives intact, and before my current one completely dies.)

But the main takeaway from this post is that if you ever hear of me even considering a visit to Walmart ever again, I would like you to slap the eyeballs right out of my head. In fact, I insist upon it. Normally I don’t condone violence, but trust me, you’ll be doing me a favor.

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Flexibility

I’ve met a lot of very rigid people in my lifetime. I always feel kind of sorry for them. It must be exhausting to get worked up over the minutiae of life. There is plenty of significant stuff to focus on.

For example, I know someone who writes furious e-mails to superiors if someone doesn’t leave paperwork at exact right angles to their desk edges. Seriously? Is that all you have to worry about? Then you are in pretty good shape in the overall scheme of things, if you ask me.

There are two types of people. The ones who ask themselves “Why is this important?” before overreacting, and the ones who don’t. The ones who don’t tend to lead very tense, miserable lives, and they pile undue stress onto those who are unfortunate enough to fall within their circle of influence.

It is important to have some sort of scale to determine what is worthy of your rage. Someone putting the dish soap in a place you haven’t specified should not get a reaction equivalent to someone firing a mortar through your living room window. If you think otherwise, you must be operating in a realm of post traumatic stress that’s worthy of professional help.

The older I get, the less energy I seem to have for petty foolishness. I can’t be bothered. I’d much rather take a nap. The planet will continue to circle the sun without my assistance.

Here’s a rule of thumb. I can go days, weeks even, without being truly angry. If you’re someone who gets angry several times a day… well… you might want to rethink things a tiny bit. Learn to bend or you will surely break. Just sayin’.

flexibility

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Take Your Marbles and Go Home

Dear President Trump:

Are you having fun yet? Are you getting tired of winning? Because you seem to be spending a lot of time in a rage or attempting to defend yourself.

And not a day goes by when someone isn’t either criticizing you or making fun of you in some way or another. Whether that’s “fake news” or not, it can’t be pleasant. I certainly wouldn’t bear up under that much character assassination, and I’m not even a classic narcissist.

I would think (because I’ll never know) that the whole reason for being rich is to be able to enjoy oneself. Otherwise, what’s the point? You should be able to golf on the weekdays as well as the weekends! Why haven’t you built a putting green on the White House lawn, at least?

Have you figured out what all of us already know? You’re being used. You’re the goat. The republicans can do their absolute worst without fear of retribution, because you will be there to take the blame. They’re laughing at you, Donald. And if you do get impeached in the end, they won’t care, because they’ll still be there. Nothing will have changed for them.

Why don’t you do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor: take your marbles and go home. (But wait. You lost them long ago, didn’t you?)

Surely this game has lost its appeal for you. Aren’t you bored? I suspect so.

But hey, if you do stick around, I’m looking forward to watching you defeat ISIS. Okay, I know you promised you’d do that in the first 30 days, but you’ve been busy, right? So anytime in the next month will do nicely. Seriously. Have at it.

Sincerely,

The Voice of Reason

marbles

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Don’t Write People Off

I know a woman who stops speaking to people entirely after one disagreement. It must be awfully stressful to keep track of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. I wonder if she keeps a sad little list or something. That, and she seems to think that a lack of interaction with her is some form of punishment. I suspect many people find it to be a relief, because it is nearly impossible to meet her high standards. Who needs it?

And then there’s the friend of mine, in his 50’s, who is still bitter and obsessed with the poor treatment he received from his classmates in high school. Rest assured, none of those people are spending time thinking about him. And are any of us the people we were in high school? (God, I hope not. I was shy, lonely, and chronically depressed.)

I’d like to think some of those bullies matured and became decent human beings. Or, yeah, it’s equally possible that they are still asshats. Who knows? But that’s no reason to waste your emotional head space keeping them locked in your acidity. It only hurts you.

And then there are those people who seem to have difficulty distinguishing opinions from personal attacks. For example, I don’t like cranberries. You love cranberries. My dislike of cranberries doesn’t mean I’m passing judgment on you, even if you are a cranberry grower. It just means I don’t like cranberries. I feel sorry for people who can’t make that distinction. They spend an awful lot of time feeling rage and missing out on friendships. This is a waste of their valuable time, and an impediment to their happiness.

I find black and white thinking to be rather troublesome because human beings, in general, are rather complex.  For example, I can be cranky and opinionated and forgetful and (brace yourself) unrepentantly liberal and inherently flawed, but I also financially support the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the DAPL Water Protectors, Storycorps, the International Red Cross, the Humane Society, Goodwill, and my local blood bank. I try to be a good friend. I work hard. I love my dog. So am I irredeemable? No. And neither are you.

The people I respect the most in this world are the ones who can say, “I may not agree with you all the time, but I don’t mean you any harm.” First, do no harm. The golden rule is also an excellent philosophy.

Kindness, not confrontation. Calm, not chaos. Good will, not hostility. If you give yourself a chance and get to know people, odds are good that they’ll delight you. But you only get that gift if you don’t write them off based on brief experience.

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Scary Small World

I just learned that Omar Mateen, the Orlando gunman, briefly attended Indian River State College, and was kicked out because he threatened to bring a gun there. I received my last degree from IRSC, and I’m now profoundly grateful that I wasn’t there the same year. Even so, this news has me extremely rattled. He still lived in that town when I did. For all I know we may have crossed paths.

Still, I loved that town. I loved that campus. It’s beautiful. I enjoyed my studies. I always felt safe there, except when I encountered the prison crew that they inexplicably allowed to maintain the grounds. (I don’t think virtually unsupervised convicted criminals and nubile young coeds make a good combo, but hey, who am I?)

The fact is that whenever you are amongst a large crowd of human beings, no matter how tranquil the setting may seem, you never know what the risks are. It’s really disturbing to realize that you can’t control the actions of others. It’s even more disturbing that serious mental illness in this country seems to fall into some strange bureaucratic crack, so many people aren’t getting the help they so desperately need when they lose their way.

Does that mean I’m going to stop going places and doing things? No. I refuse to be ruled by fear. In fact, I’ll be participating in a lot of the Seattle Pride events to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. I’m glad that most of those events will be out of doors. I don’t relish the idea of being trapped in a building at the moment. I also suspect there will be an increased police presence, and it’s a shame that that has to be the case.

I’d be kidding myself if I said that things aren’t going to cross my mind. Are any of the people around me secretly ruled by rage? Do they think death (their own or that of someone else) is something they have a right to determine? Do they have an over-inflated sense of their own importance, or think that someone is out to get them?

I hate to contemplate the hellish existence of the (fortunately) small number of people who reside on the violent lunatic fringe. It makes me sad to think about their suffering, and even sadder to think of the suffering they could rain down upon the heads of those strangers who happen to be within range of their irrational perspectives.

Wishing peace and safety to you and all the people that you love.

Love

You’re Alive!

A few days ago we lost a cultural icon and a great man by the name of Leonard Nimoy, and millions will mourn his passing. At times like this I’m reminded of something I learned the hardest possible way this year. Life is very precious.

I know several people who seem to exist in a constant state of fury and irritation. These people amaze me. I can’t relate to them on any level. I want to say to them, “You’re alive! Don’t you get it? You can do anything. You have choices. What the hell do you have to be angry about?”

I think these people walk through life with blinders on. They certainly don’t realize they are throwing away the most valuable gift in the universe: their very existence. I look at them and think, “What a waste.” There are plenty of people who are no longer with us, who appreciated every exquisite moment of the lives they had, who would gladly take even a day of someone’s unappreciated lifespan if only they could be alive again.

When you’re in a rage, your vision narrows to a tiny little point. You don’t see anything around you. You certainly don’t take the time to stop and smell the roses. You’re too busy pissing all over them. Why would you want to narrow your field of vision like that? There’s so much to see! Life is just so freakin’ beautiful, people. I wish everyone realized that.

So next time you are angry because someone has cut you off in traffic, try this instead: take a deep breath. Look around. Then drive home and tell the people that you love that you love them. Because that’s what matters. Nothing else does.

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The Body Check Scale

So I get to work early, thinking I’d be a good little newbie. I turn off the alarm and turn on the lights. Upon her arrival she immediately starts in. “In this office we do NOT use the florescent lights!” Such fury. Such angst. I turn off the left switch and turn on the right. Problem solved. “And don’t sit in that chair. That’s MY chair. Don’t ever sit there.” I move.

It must be exhausting to be her. Everything is a crisis. She’s the queen of overreaction.

I think about a trick that someone taught me long ago. It’s called the body check scale. When you come across a situation that requires you to react ask yourself what its equivalent would be on this scale.

  • 100% Death
  • 90% Terminal illness/paralysis
  • 80% Broken Bone
  • 70% Flu
  • 60% Sprained ankle
  • 50% Cold
  • 40% Stitches
  • 30% Rash
  • 20% Scraped knee
  • 10% Bruise or bug bite
  • 5% Stubbed toe

To me, someone turning on the wrong light would be the equivalent of a stubbed toe at the very most, so my anger would go to 5 percent, or mild irritation for the purposes of this exercise. (In truth it would bother me not at all.)

For her, on the other hand, it’s the equivalent of death. I have no idea why. Post traumatic stress, perhaps. None of my business, really. I’m just glad I don’t overreact like that.

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[Image credit: roflitup.com]

That Rage Place

Maybe it’s because we can now hide behind the relative anonymity of social media, maybe it’s because we find less and less need to look one another in the eye, but it seems to me that more and more people are going to that rage place with relatively little provocation these days.

A typical Facebook scenario: Someone posts something political. Someone responds from that rage place. “I am so sick of you people saying…” And the original poster calmly says, “Well, this is why I feel this way,” and posts links to informative research. Rage person responds, “I don’t care about your links and I won’t read them! You’re just stupid!”

I don’t get it. Why the hostility? And why is rage person behaving as if he or she has been personally attacked when no one forced his or her participation in the conversation in the first place? And why would you not want to read informative links? Why would you want to cut yourself off from available evidence? Even if you disagree, why would you not want to avail yourself of every possible detail if you feel so strongly about a subject?

Personally, I find people who are unwilling to be challenged to be highly suspect. It seems that these types of people tend to get their information from only one source, and that is always a bad idea. It’s lazy and irresponsible. And maybe that’s why they get so angry when you try to show them other sources of information. They don’t like to be prodded out of their lethargy. It’s comfortable there. “Don’t make me think! Just tell me what to think!”

Yes, it’s probably much easier to be fed intravenously, but I prefer to shop for my ingredients and cook my meal myself.

And if you disagree with me, well… you’re just stupid.

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