Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cutting Some Slack on the Paddy's Day Cross-Town

Well St. Patrick’s Day in New York this year might have been more of a zoo then normal today since this city is full to the brim with more than its fair share of stress. And who can blame folks for wanting to wipe it all away for a few hours or for a full day with some hooch when jobs are hard to come by and bills are stacking up. Revelry is a break from fear and the mundane. We all need the luck o’ the Irish right now, that’s for sure. But maybe more than luck we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt and cut each other a bit of slack.

On the cross-town bus today we had a heck of a detour due to the Parade. The bus was crowed and when I sat down, I noticed across from me this man’s bag accidentally knock into a ladies leg as he sat down next to her. She scowled at him and he seemed to apologize but she kept scowling and I kept trying to figure out what she was so mad at him for. In between her scowls she was working furiously on her blackberry. Her whole body posture and face, all of her being was stressing over whatever it was she was reading and responding to. I kept glancing at the man to see what it was that he was doing to cause her to keep looking up at him and give him the evil eye, but I couldn’t figure it out. Then it hit me. He was learning disabled. And I thought my goodness she took what happened with this guy personally and meanwhile the guy wasn’t intending any harm – he is just not aware. I thought gosh – how easy it is to presume someone is being rude to us when maybe they’re just oblivious. And then I started to get angry at her for being so hard on this simpleton.

This guy had no idea and yet she was making his actions “mean” to her that she was being dismissed in some way, disrespected even. And I thought my goodness that is the last thing this guy intends; he just doesn’t have a clue.

A few stops later he got off and as riders do we looked at each other and I said quietly, I think he was learning disabled. And she snapped back, “Yea, but did you smell his breath?! I just said no I didn’t and tried to smile at her.

Okay so here we have a guy learning disabled who has had a few too many. But I betcha, if she wasn’t in the stress of her situation on her blackberry, she probably wouldn’t have been that angry. If she could have seen his face, a sort of innocent wide-eyed look I imagine Lenny had from Of Mice & Men, she would have cut him some slack, whether drunk or not.

But her situation kept her from doing so. And that happens sometimes. Sometimes we are just too caught up in our own stuff to cut slack to those around us. Especially if we are in a bad place, we start seeing bad around us.
So I thought well how about I cut HER some slack. She is clearly having a hard day herself, and she just had to deal with her leg getting knocked with a bag and then smell a distillery on a stranger’s breath.

That’s when I realized my getting mad at her was just like her getting mad at him. She didn’t mean it, just like he didn’t mean it. And so I thought this is where I can do something to stop the pattern. Just give her a break.

What if the next time someone doesn’t hold the door for you – you imagine they just had their girlfriend break up with them. Or when someone jumps in front of you to sit down on the last subway seat you imagine that maybe they are so exhausted because they’re working three jobs to make ends meet. Or the guy who hits you with his bag has no idea that it even happened. Or the lady who is giving dirty looks is getting reamed at virtually by her boss.

Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, and maybe when we need it ourselves we’ll find it. (#13 of 100 postings in 100 days.)

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