Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Day I Got Yelled At and Other Lessons

Moving away from waxing our privates for a moment, I’d like to broach a more serious topic.

Shawn had a great post the other day about knowing your audience before making snap decisions about them. This got me to thinking…

Have you ever been the victim of someone’s bad assumptions about you? A time when you were not given the benefit of the doubt? It feels really crappy. You find yourself with your jaw on the floor, wanting to explain “but…but…if you only realized…if you only knew…”

One story comes to mind for me and it actually still makes me cringe to think about.

21 years ago:

I was fresh out of college and had scored my first job with an international development firm in Washington, D.C. I had moved back in with my parents post-graduation and lived about an hour outside of the city. I can’t remember if I didn't have a car or just didn’t want to deal with rush hour and parking, but I decided to take the commuter bus into town.

The first morning of my first real job dawned. It was September 1989. I went to catch the bus in the parking lot of an industrial park. It was still dark outside. I was a ball of nerves. I had on my best and only “interview” outfit. I was distracted, sick with anticipation. The bus had just pulled in and I went to get on. I found my seat.  I had been seated for about a minute when an older guy (won’t call him a gentleman) stormed up to me screaming, “WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE CUTTING IN LINE IN FRONT OF THE REST OF US??? DO YOU THINK WE WERE WAITING OUT THERE FOR OUR HEALTH?”

I can still see his enraged face.

I was shocked. I didn’t say a word. I know it sounds naive and silly, but I had no clue I had cut in front of a bunch of people. I had blinders on with this whole first-day-on-the-job-thing.

The bus was completely quiet. Everyone stared at me. I started to cry and could not stop.

Here’s the thing. The guy was right. I should not have butted in line. No kidding. But maybe, just maybe, he could have approached me privately and said, “I’ve never seen you here before, let me give you some advice on how things work around here.”  I really needed some TLC that day. For someone to cut me a break.

On the other side – have you ever failed to give someone else the benefit of the doubt like this lady at the airport?:

A young lady was in an airport waiting for her flight. Since she had some time to spare she brought along a book and a bag of cookies. She sat down opened the book and the bag of cookies. A man was seated right beside her. After sometime she picked up a cookie from the bag. The man did the same. This irritated her and she was thinking, "how dare this man."

But, because she did not want to cause a scene she let it pass. After awhile she again picked another cookie and the man did the same. She picked one and the man did the same. She was really getting mad now but again she had to control her temper.

Finally, there was one piece left and she was wondering what the man would do. She did not have to wait long. The man took the cookie, and broke it in half. He ate the other half leaving the other for her.

She almost exploded but managed to curb her temper. Finally, her flight was called. Still fuming from her experience, she went into the plane and took her seat. She opened her bag to look for something when she noticed that she still had her bag of cookies. Untouched and unopened.

Then she realized that she had forgotten that her cookies were in her bag. She was eating from the man's bag of cookies. And to think that she was mad and irritated. And to think that she wanted to get mad at the man for his lack of manners. And to think that the man shared the last cookie. He did not say anything; he just broke the last cookie in half and left. She realized that she would never be able to explain what she had done. {source}

There are four things we will never recover. A stone after it is thrown. The word after it is said. The occasion after it is lost. And, the time after it is gone.

Do you have regrets about something you have said or done? Of course, we all do. Have you learned from your experience?

Every opportunity is a chance to do better and to select our words and actions carefully. Once things are said and done, they can’t be retrieved or erased. But also, when things that should be said are left unspoken, we may never have the chance to say them again.

Don’t know why I’ve got all this on my mind today. Just thinking we could all be a bit more patient with one another instead of being so caught up in ourselves. We have the opportunity every moment of every day to make a positive or negative (guy on the bus, lady in the airport) impact on those around us.

Today I’m trying to remember that our words and actions reveal the kind of people we are. We may think we have all the time in the world, but we do not.

Trying to take moments to do what is right and kind,



  1. Wow, what a great post. Yes, I'm sure I've been guilty of getting pissed off at some other person after I (whoops) ate his whole bag of cookies!

    As I get older I really, really try to especially always remain thoughtful of my words because you're right, once you say something piercing, it cannot be unsaid and no amount of apologies can ever erase it.

    I'm sorry about that bus experience you had. Even if you had purposely cut the line, that guy was way out of line. What an awful and mean thing that guy did and I would've been sooooo upset in your shoes.

  2. Thanks. Great story and it's going to help me with something I am dealing with at work. More along the bus guy talking to me. :)

  3. You got it SUAR, you got it...and that is why I follow, wax and all!!!!

    ps...thanx for the plug...that sticker means more and more everyday!!!!

  4. What great stories. Great post, I even to read this to my sister. :) I think when doing life it gets hard to step back and take a look at what the most important things are. Or to take a minute to think about where another person is coming from.

    Many times I have gotten too caught up in the moment and not been self aware enough to think things through before saying or doing something mean to someone else. The older I get the better I am getting at it though. :)

    It is still good to get little reminders. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Great post!

    I regret not giving you a shout out ... I was so engrossed with not insulting other blogs I read ... but I'll go out on a limb this week.

    P.S. you're awesome!

  6. Great post! Here's one time someone made an assumption about me:

    I was in spinning class, excited to use my new heart rate monitor. I kept checking my heart rate, watching it go up, and occasionally seeing the instructor scowl at me. Since I usually read too much into things, I convinced myself that I was making it up -- why would this perky, upbeat person be making faces at me?

    Then, out of nowhere, she comes over and tries to yank my watch off. She grumbles, "Don't worry. I'll tell you when class is over. I'll end on time." She assumed I was bored; I was offending her by 'checking the time' - not checking my heart rate. I was blown away!

  7. 6 years ago I had 3 miscarriages in an 11 month span. To say that I was a physical and emotional wreck is an understatement, and I would often burst into tears or completely space out at the most inopportune moments. Most people were kind and patient but some weren't.

    I realized I wasn't wearing a sign around my neck that said "please be nice I just had another miscarriage"

    Which then made me realize *none* of us are wearing signs around our necks.

    The rude grocery store clerk may have just found out her husband is cheating on her. The waitress who messed up your order again may have just gotten the news that a family member has died. You just never know.

    All that to say, excellent post and wonderful food for thought. And I try really, really hard to give folks the benefit of the doubt.

  8. This is a great reminder for kindnesses!

    I just posted on my blog about making each moment count.

    It's true. We only get 1 chance in this world. Let's do the right thing :)

  9. You are right on with this post. It probably should be second nature to be kind and to do the right thing all the time, but we still need to be reminded every now and again. Thanks to you for this reminder!

  10. Kindness is important, isn't it? Thank you for the reminder!

  11. I've been trying so hard lately to be kind. I tend to be snippy when I'm feeling stressed and lately stress is my middle name, so I'm doing my best not to take it out on anyone. I was in a hurry at the toy store yesterday, but I made sure to smile and thank every staff person who helped me. Now if I can just manage that with my kids when they are fighting with each other...

    Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Great post. I just wish you had shared it before I made my way to the mall the other night.
    Although I've behaved worse...I could have definitely handled things better than I did on Friday.


  13. I am usually just a lurker but I have to comment on this. This is a terrific post. Blog entries that really make you sit back and think are few, and this entry not only did that but made me a little teary eyed reading the quote about the things we can never recover.

    I am going to send out a link to this post on twitter, hope you dont mind! Think we all could stand a reminder of tolerance during the season...

  14. I got yelled at once when I went to the city hall to pay utilities. There was a bunch of people, not standing in line, then the lady at the counter said, "next please." No one moved. I looked all the people in there and signaled to them with a smile. No one moved. Then, the lady at the counter said, "next please." No one moved. So I went to pay. (No one is moving, so I will. I just got out of class and needed to go to work). Then, a lady started saying things like I cut the line, I have no respect for African Americans (most of them standing in there were African Americans), and I was racist. Seriously? I had no idea what to say or do.

  15. Wow- this really made me take a moment to think!

  16. totally amazing post! i've definitely been on both sides of the judging situation but hopefully i am much more aware of my passing judgment and changing my thinking now than i was a few years ago!

  17. I ALWAYS take the side I do not know what is going on in that persons like or at that moment, I try very hard to treat everyone with a smile and the grace they deserve!

  18. What a great post. And what great comments. I wish I could say I always give people the benefit of the doubt, but I don't. And I should. Not just during the holiday season, but year round. Thank you for reminding me of that.

  19. I always try to remind myself that I don't know the whole story. That guy might have cut me off because his wife just called and her water broke; maybe that lady is not actually eyeing me up and down but has some sort of eye twitch condition; maybe the dude on the treadmill beside me has a disorder which causes his feet to slap noisily on the belt ETC

    Or maybe they are all assholes! But somehow I feel better about myself if I give them the benefit of my doubt. Most of the time.

  20. "Don't assume everything on the surface is what you see,
    'Cause that classmate just lost her mother,
    And that taxi driver's got a Phd."
    Amanda Marshall - Everybody's Got A Story

  21. Thanks for the vivid reminders. It really isn't too hard to be nice and polite, even when we are having an off day - it just takes a little awareness, all the time. If we all did this all the time, the world sure would be a more pleasant place!

  22. Like this a lot. Good things to think about, remember and put into practice.

  23. thank you for the reminder! I think that this reminder is needed around this time of year! ox Trace

  24. Amazing timing. This was the topic of discussion with my running partner today. My new mantra is to be responsive, not reactive. Sometimes we "react" without taking the time to evaluate how we should respond. Thanks for this, so eloquently said.

  25. Brilliant. I loved this. i love you when you're running, blogging about running, or not. And your insights in general. Point being this.



  26. Funny, something like this happened to me just yesterday. I was in a parking lot and going to park in a stall and noticed a car that was turning into the lane and I was guessing he wanted the spot so even though I had slowed down to turn in I decided to let him have in and so I drove around to another lane to find a spot. Anyway on my way around the dude honked at me and gave me a angry WTH look to me. I was thinking?? So I parked in the next lane over right by him and when I got out asked why he honked at me to which he replied "You were going so slow lady, hurry it up". Funny that I went slow because I was being kind to him and he in turn was rude to me. I just smiled and thought "Isn't it ironic" No good deed goes unpunished. I'm sure I've been guilty of bad behavior too. We definitely need to watch ourselves and be a little kinder.

  27. This was a great post Beth. I always try to be patient and try to remember that there probably is a background story behind someone's behavior, but it's hard some times. And, I'm sure I've passed judgement on others or assumed things that I had no business doing. So, thanks for sharing this post with us.

  28. Wow. Yay for you for a great post. Yay for us for getting to read it. I'm definitely taking this away: "There are four things we will never recover. A stone after it is thrown. The word after it is said. The occasion after it is lost. And, the time after it is gone."

    Thank you.

  29. what a great post.. i'm in awe. <3

  30. A friend of mine was leaving the Children's hospital after an appointment mere weeks after her infant son's death. She was following someone going incredibly slow and in her emotional state lost her patience and was about to honk. It then struck her that maybe the person in front of her had just lost a child as well and was driving so slow as they couldn't bear to drive away from where their "was". That is a story and lesson I will never forget.

  31. Powerful Post!! I took a lot from this. Great reminder:)

  32. Great reminder :) Im not always good at being patient. Its something I need to work on.

  33. Marlenes comment about the assholes on the TM.

    SUAR...this a great post. I feel like buying cookies for everybody.

    Note: I check out Marlene and it has NOTHING to do with my eye twitch condition.

  34. I love this post. I have been in that kind of mood more and more about giving the benefit. I think it started when I decided to run the Marathon Makeover program. I am bringing people who are completely new to running and asking them to trust me. For me to do that I have to listen to why they are joining the program. What issues they have (health, mental, etc) and work with them on getting out of that rut and into a healthy lifestyle.

    Great post and I will ask you to repost this in 3 months to continue to remind people and not let this just be a holiday season item.

  35. wow, what a story. if we could all only remember those 4 little things each day...

  36. I love that airport story...I share it with my students every semester. Thanks for the great reminders. How we treat strangers really shows a lot about who we are. P.S. I can't believe you lived in Athens and Paris. I got the recipe from eat, live, run.....amazing!

  37. Nice post, Beth, love the cookie story. As I get older, I find that I try to empathize more and more often. Doesn't always work, but...

  38. This was a really great post with some good reminders, thanks for this...

  39. Great post! One of my best running buds is someone I judged for years...I thought she was unfriendly and had her nose in the air. When I finally got the chance to know her, I learned that she is truly one of the kindest people in the world. I'll always regret forming the wrong opinion of her before getting to know her.

  40. I love this and needed to see it today. Thanks bella.

  41. You know the old saying 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me' - sometimes those raw words hurt WORSE and linger on longer then it takes to mend broken bones.

  42. On the mark! Great Post! Keep 'em coming.

  43. Fabulous post, I actually got a little verklempt reading it. I love your posts, they're always so thought provoking. I think I might just have a bit of a girl crush on you... ;)

  44. That made me emotional... too many times... too many.

  45. Thanks for the bit of perspective!

  46. I love your blog. I am currently reading all the back entries. I hope you read this even 5 years later! I wanted to comment to clear up the source on that story (the source link is dead so I don't whether they attributed it to Adams). Here is a video of Douglas Adams on Letterman in 1985 telling that story about the package of cookies: He starts the story at minute 2:55. -Susie

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