When I was in line at the drug store the other day, the guy in front of me was noticeably irritated. It seems he had to wait a few minutes before the cashier got to her register, so he got annoyed. I get it. I hate waiting too. But right after he left, the cashier told me he was “really mean” to her.
Admittedly, I didn’t hear him—I was preoccupied with whether or not I should buy Birthday Cake Gum (I did), but the cashier seemed pretty sincere in her recollection of the incident, so I felt bad for her. I told her “Forget that guy, he’s an idiot. You have me now!” And we laughed and I left.
But I saw him outside. He was on his phone and as I walked by, he said “Hi.” I thought of the upset cashier, and without even thinking, I pointed at him and said: “YOU WEREN’T NICE TO HER!”
I left that parking lot feeling satisfied, like I just pulled out the “Stopper” card.
That kind of closure doesn’t always come so easily though. Sometimes when we stand up to mean people—on behalf of ourselves or others— it doesn’t end the situation, it escalates it.
Like the one I was involved with today. That one didn’t wrap up quite as nicely.
I was coming close to ending a nice, leisurely walk with my dog, Bruno Marshall, and a car sped by us so fast, even Bruno got spooked (and he’s pretty chill):
I got scared, and then I got pissed. There is a private school in our neighborhood, and many of the drivers who drop off kids or work at the school are notorious for ignoring our street signs and speed limit. Sadly, I never get to shame them face-to-face because they’re too fast for me.
Today though (maybe because it’s Yom Kippur, I don’t know) I got a gift: The driver pulled into the private school, and it wasn’t far from where we were walking.
So Bruno and I decided to go too.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to catch the driver (Bruno isn’t much for speed), I just figured I’d get the license plate info, call the PoPo, and bust her THAT way.
But I got held up.
A lady came out of the school, and it was clear she wasn’t happy to see us. I told her: “A silver SUV just pulled in and she almost hit us. I’m going to get her license plate number.”
She didn’t care why. She wanted no part of me, or my story. She could have been cool and said “I’m sorry you got scared. I don’t blame you. It sucks to ALMOST DIE.” but she didn’t.
Instead she said: “You CANNOT come walking in here with your DOG!” (Motioning to Bruno like he was stale bread.) “This is PRIVATE PROPERTY!”
I was shocked; truly incredulous. It was not at all the reaction I was expecting. She not only completely ignored my reason for being there, but she was really MEAN. Her reaction, her demeanor—everything: MEAN.
I said: “That lady almost hit us! If she hits someone—ANYONE— in this neighborhood, you’re gonna have a WHOLE LOT more to worry about than me BEING ON PRIVATE PROPERTY!”
To which she responded: “You are not allowed to be here. You are on private property and I’m calling the police!”
The POLICE? Really???
I don’t know if it’s because of the mean guy at the drug store, or because a girlfriend of mine recently GOT HIT by a car while walking her dog, or because I’m sick of mean people getting away with sh*t —but when that lady laid down her police “Stopper,” it became “Go Time” for me:
I stepped forward, looked her square in the face and said: “GOOD. Call them! I’m happy to tell them EXACTLY how I feel about what’s happening with your drivers here!”
She huffed her way back to the school leaving me and Bruno with some guy who was presumably there to “watch us.” He didn’t seem to know any English, but I could tell he felt bad for us—and also, I think he wanted to pet Bruno.
We stood outside, and we waited. I was ready to tell my story to the police, ready to stand on principle—not just for me, but for everyone in the neighborhood! But then, after about 5 minutes of waiting, I got bored. And then I felt kind of dumb just standing there, with my dog (who was lying down by this time)—so I yelled to the guy (who probably had no idea what I was saying): “Tell the mean lady I got sick of waiting! I’m going home to call the police myself!”
In a million years, I could have never predicted such an insane turn of events after such a nice walk, but now I was in the thick of it so I had to see it through.
I called the police and told the officer all about my experience with the bad driver and the mean lady. He understood why I was upset, and he dealt with me. We wrapped up with him promising to be more diligent about patrolling the hood during high traffic times, and I felt good about getting closure. Time to move on!
But then I got a call from the police station. It seems the mean lady called to complain that I was on their property with a dog. The officer relaying the message firmly stated that he was not angry, but he needed me to know the rules.
I felt bad because this was the second person from the police department spending time on this–-but if the mean lady had been open and nice, instead of mean and defensive, it never would have escalated to such a stressful, time consuming thing.
But she wasn’t nice, she was mean. My dog wasn’t a threat to her or anyone else, and she knew it. She just didn’t want to deal with the real issue, so she got mean and tried to scare me. And then, when things didn’t go her way, she called for “back-up.” Lame.
People who act like that do so because they have always gotten away with it. But that doesn’t make it OK. It’s not OK! It sucks.
I understand “being mean” as a defense, we’ve all been there, usually out of necessity—but to come out of the gate like that, for no reason? NO. That lady can EAT IT, and then she can get a room with the guy from the drug store. They belong together. Being mean is completely unproductive, and it leads to nowhere good.
Only niceness leads to somewhere good. If everyone were a little nicer, everyone would BE a little nicer. That’s how it works. Niceness spreads, it’s contagious— but in a good way—and the best thing about niceness is once it gets going, there is no “Stopper,” because there’s no need for one.
Thanks for being here!
If you know of anyone fun and nice, who might like DS&D, please send them our way!
XO, The DS&D Crew