A month after my father died, I had a class A, megawatt, DEF-CON 5 meltdown in the pasta aisle because for some strange reason, penne pasta lead me to think of my dad. The meltdown necessitated a 10 minute phone call in said pasta aisle to my best friend who had the impossible task of talking me off a ledge from two hours away. My best friend had her work cut out for her because not only was I doing the ugly cry, I was also chest heaving so loudly, I sounded like I was doing a Chewbacca with the hiccups imitation. She managed to to calm me down, reassured me that it’s okay that I’ve completely lost it in the middle of the grocery store and that everyone sees pasta and thinks of their deceased loved one (she’s a gooood friend).
My point? I was not in a good place that day.
As I left the grocery store, with my pride in tatters and still chest heaving, I, without thinking, put my grocery cart between two cars rather than put it in the cart corral. As I was getting into my car, a man parked catty corner to me starts gesturing to the car and giving me a “What the?!” with his hands. At first, I didn’t realize that he was gesturing to me and continued to get into my car. He then lays on the horn, rolls down the window and yells “Hey, LAZY, move the damn cart before it hits my car”. I stood there, frozen and stunned.
He. Called. Me. Lazy. And my dad just died. He’s yelling at me about my cart and my dad is in the ground. Doesn’t he KNOW he’s supposed to get out, hug me, tell me it’s okay, put my cart away and help me into my car? Doesn’t he KNOW that I’m now going to have to call my best friend back to tell her that on top of being wracked with grief over Barilla products, I’m being yelled at by a guy in a car who clearly has his panties in a bind over something trivial??
He doesn’t know this because MEAN PEOPLE SUCK.
Unfortunately, Mean People are everywhere. Grocery stores are chock full of them, sporting events attract them in droves and they seem to multiply by the hundreds in every mall during the Christmas season. And, in any given PTA or social group, you are bound to hear stories of the Mean Person who just doesn’t get along. From nasty looks to snarky comments to full blown arguments, Mean People make every day life for the Nice People a lot less tolerable. And, every time a Mean Person strikes, the niceness of our world diminishes just a tiny bit more.
I could go on and on AND on about my encounters with Mean People. In fact, just today, a crotchety man yelled at a mom at our bus stop for parking too close to a stop sign at an intersection. He actually took the time to stop his car, roll his window down and give her a lecture about the legalities of parking. He did this all during torrential rain and as her kindergartner was getting off the bus. What he didn’t know was that this was the first time she’d EVER parked there and only did so because she didn’t want her girls to get completely soaked. But, uhm, thanks for the driver’s ed lesson?
Every time I hear a friend recount a story or an encounter with a Mean Person, I always think, “I bet that Mean Person would feel like a schmuck if they knew the whole story”. I’d like to think the Cart Corral Police Dude would have yelled a little less if he’d known my back story. Part of me wants to be able to find that guy, tell him that only five minutes before I had been a blithering idiot and how I still think about it as I’m dutifully putting my cart in the appropriate receptacle at the store. (And, FYI, kind sir: I am NOT lazy….have you *seen* my closets??).
But here’s the thing Fruit Loop Groupers: just as the Mean People have no way of knowing what’s been going on in my world, I have no idea what’s happened in the Mean Person’s world prior to the time of our exchange, either. For all I know, Cart Police Dude could have just lost his job. Nasty Neighbor Lady could have just gotten a horrible medical diagnosis. Driver’s Ed Safety Guy may have just lost a loved one. Or, maybe the barista got their order wrong for the third day in a row, their underwear strap was shot or they are still pissed that SMASH was cancelled (seriously, NBC?).
Whatever the reason behind the Mean Person’s lashing out, it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with their personal experiences. In most instances, hurt is mistaken for meanness and that can lead to a lousy “pay it forward” cycle. Since that day in the parking lot, I’ve been trying to step back and put myself in someone else’s shoes before I pass judgement. This is not to say that I won’t be offended the next time someone decides to share their unsolicited opinion with me and, let’s face it: we all know I can’t promise that I won’t open my mouth in retort. But, as I walk away, I’ll think twice about judging them and will instead send out a silent thought of peace their way.
I guess what I’m trying to say to the Mean People is this: YOU SUCK but I’ll forgive you because Imma need you to forgive me if my Mean Person ever strikes…..