So recently I went to my nail salon for a little TLC. It was a busy Saturday and the salon seemed atypically crowded. And for those of you who’ve ever had to wait for an appointment, you know what happens. If the first person of the day is late getting to their appointment, then your nail tech or hairdresser or dentist or doctor will be running late all day through no fault of their own. In the big scheme of things, it shouldn’t be a big thing at all. Exceptions, of course, do happen but a few minutes wait here or there is not that big a deal. Or so I thought.
I had to wait about 10 minutes past my scheduled appointment so I sat and read my favorite book of all time on my Kindle (it’s The Wind in the Willows for anyone who wants to read a book that has lifted me and inspired me since I was 10 years old). I actually enjoyed those few minutes I had gained, because I had been racing around all morning trying to accomplish all that we inevitably have to squeeze in on the weekend because our weekdays are so filled with too much work, too many chores, too many obligations. This was found time so I didn’t mind the wait at all. The pleasure I got from reading about my favorite characters far outweighed the minor inconvenience of having to wait.
And then some woman I didn’t know came in and found out she had to wait a few minutes and started making a very loud fuss. “What exactly is the problem?” she kept saying to the young women at the front desk. She wasn’t in the mood to hear their explanation nor apologies and just kept carrying on. It was uncomfortable to listen to and I felt badly for the people not only on the receiving end of her tirade but the nail tech who inevitably would hear the complaints when the customer finally was seated at her station. And all I could think was don’t be that person.
I don’t presume to speak for anyone or everyone but I know I have been that person on more than one occasion and I suspect many others may have been too. We are presented – willingly or not – with an inconvenience, a small delay, a promise unkept, a delay not anticipated, a wrinkle in our otherwise planned – or, truth be told – over planned day and we react badly. We make the proverbial mountain out of the molehill. Our outrage or upset is usually so out of proportion to what has happened that in retrospect we should be shaking our heads at how we reacted. But how many of us do? How may of us have become numb to how our reactions are perceived by others? How many of us fail to realize the impression we leave on others, the example we set for our children, the bubble we encase ourselves in where only our feelings, our time, our priorities matter?
For all the good technology does us, the fact is that we lived in a speeded-up world today, so different from the world I grew up in. We expect instantaneous responses to our texts, we send e-mails and get annoyed when we have to wait a day to hear back from the person on the receiving end. We order our clothes, our food, our books online because it’s faster and saving time matters so much to us. And time is a valuable commodity; I get it. But is it more important than the impact your actions and words have on someone when you behave badly because you’ve made your time a more valuable commodity than their feelings?
We have less and less personal contact with people – or so it seems to me – since we communicate so much via electronic means. We forget that words on a screen can hurt someone, mostly because we don’t have to assume the responsibility of seeing a person’s reactions to how we act or speak. We have, I’m afraid, become numb to the lack of civility. It has become far too often routine behavior, if not encouraged then tolerated. And because of this some of us have forgotten that being rude or disrespectful or inconsiderate or nasty is not acceptable, whether it’s in person or online.
Life is short and we only get one shot at it. Life gets even shorter when you’re my age and you realize that time is going by faster and faster each day. We have the opportunity, the chance, the gift every day to not overreact, to put things in perspective, to think before we speak, to not make everything into a thing. We can take a pause, put ourselves in the other person’s place, think before we speak and make a decision to not harm others with our impatience, our attitude, our sense of entitlement, our words. I don’t want someone’s memory of me after I’m gone to be that I was the person who lost her temper over the smallest and silliest of things, things that won’t matter in an hour, a day, a week. I don’t want to be remembered as someone who was unkind or cared less about others than she did about herself. I don’t want my life’s legacy to be that I was that person. I’m better than that and so are you all.
Don’t be that person.