With disgust, he says, “Burning up the atmosphere while talking on the phone. Classic.”
“Says” is probably not the right verb. Maybe “spits,” or “shoots like poison darts from one of those tribal spitting tube things.” I’m pretty sure he followed it with such an enthusiastic eye-roll that he saw the back of his skull.
Yes, I had stopped the car, and yes, I was on the phone, and yes, the car was still running. I acknowledge that my actions made Mother Earth cry a little. I’m sorry.
Which is exactly what I said in response. Well, just the sorry part. Not the rest of it. To which he replies, “No you’re not.” (For real, Mean Guy?) And so, I gave up and tossed “Okay. I’m not,” at him as he walked away.
I will pause here so we can all say in unison: W. T. F.?
Now, I try my best to be eco-friendly. I really do. And I actually was sorry and turned my car off after that. Please don’t join Mean Guy’s team and start the Foundation for Scolding Melanie About Her Vehicular Choices. Please, oh please. But let me rewind about 15 minutes, and explain what possessed me to do such a dastardly deed.
I had already been up for 2+ hours, the first 20 minutes of which started with a baby crying, as per usual. I was hustling to get my two little crazies ready and out the door for a coffee date with a dear friend, which always plucks me from the edge of madness. “If I can just make it to the park, I will breathe some more. I can do it,” I said to myself in my peppiest inner voice. But as I’m wrangling a clip into my older one’s hair, the baby is standing all wobbly at my knee when she loses her balance, smashes her face on my leg, and cuts that little thing that connects her gums to her lip above her front teeth.
(Side note: WHY DOES THAT THING BLEED SO MUCH?! Does the jugular actually extend straight to that little thing? I mean, for real.) (Second side note: Google says that thing is called the labial frenum. You learn something new every day.)
So, as she gargles with blood and my older one screams because I tell her to go to her room just so I can have some space to think, I kind of bottomed out mentally. Just a little. A leeeetle brain scrape on the road of life.
So, Mean Guy, I put to you that I was not functioning at my best when you came upon me and my evildoing. I had just successfully parallel parked (which is my Mt. Everest of driving), and I was calling my husband to commiserate about our bloody child, and get a little verbal fist bump for my parking achievement. I’m sorry for not being with it enough to ALSO win the Person-Who-Cares-Most-About-The-Earth award.
It’s safe to say that I was not/am not currently Mean Guy’s biggest fan. But the thing is, I’m just like him. And he’s just like me. Really.
Sure, I typically try to restrain from blurting judgements at people in my neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have them. I can’t even pretend that I don’t have a running ticker tape of other people’s offenses: I can’t believe his kid does [that thing], why the freak won’t you use your signal?, why don’t you support my “common sense” approach to [this political issue]?, why can’t you see that that’s a crazy, misogynist thing to say?, etcetera. Good thing there’s a small mental spigot where my mouth hole is, otherwise people would know exactly what an a-hole I can be.
What allows us to walk around wagging our moral finger at people is the feeling that they are not, in fact, just like us. They’re inconsiderate and privileged and selfish and lazy. And yes, they probably are a little. Just like you. Just like me. And you know what? They’ve had heartaches. They’ve experienced loss. They’re chasing joy. They’ve probably made themselves sick off brownies before. (Because that’s a basic right of passage, right?) They’ve done all of that—just like me.
Maybe Mean Guy read an article about the shrinking polar ice caps and got so frustrated that he split his labial frenum by brushing his teeth too aggressively. And then he wiped off the blood, drove down to his favorite coffee shop where he happened upon me, an active participant in Earth’s demise.
Or maybe he was just cranky and needed a snack. You never know.
After a quick, slightly embarrassing cry at the counter of my favorite coffee shop (which is also Mean Guy’s favorite coffee shop—not awesome), and some loving support and wise words from friends, I dusted myself off. I’m alright. I’ll patch up that little ding on my heart, no problem.
And Mean Guy, I’ll cut you a break. I’ll extend some kindness to you and assume the best. I’ll assume that you’re not always that snippy, and that on a bunch of days you’re not Mean Guy at all. I’ll assume that to a lot of people on a lot of days, you’re actually Nice Guy. And I’ll try to muster up as much grace and kindness as I can for you, for me, and for everybody else.
p.s. If you want to read an incredibly helpful book about peace, kindness, and other gooey things, check out Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) by Chade-Meng Tan. I give it all my thumbs up.
Photo credit Marko Kivelä on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0