Just by looking at her I knew I wouldn't like her. She was the total opposite of me. Fake blonde, meticulously styled hair. Large designer sunglasses covering half her face. Her outfit, with short dress and suede boots probably costs more than everything in my closet combined, including my wedding dress. The only thing she was missing was some tiny dog peeking its head out of her oversized purse.
My encounter with her began as I was gingerly pushing an uncooperative stroller through the slow moving foot traffic of the Jewish Food Festival. People were qued up in every direction anxiously waiting for their latkes and Matzo ball soup. All I wanted to do was find my friends. I was already flustered from trying to find a parking spot while listening to my son scream in the back seat.
As I navigated the crowd, the blonde girl jumped in front of me and I accidently tapped her expensive boots with the stroller. She shot me a dirty look but turned away before I could apologize. Thirty seconds later she came to a sudden stop and again I ran into her.
She turned around and spat out “DO YOU MIND” with pure hatred. He tone was so furious that I was taken aback. Equally as frustrated I snapped back “Calm down, it was an accident. I’m sorry” but she stomped away before I finished speaking.
A minute later I broke through the crowd and spotted my friends. At that point I realized I was shaking. Between the unexpected crowd and the pure venom in that girl’s voice I was sick to my stomach. I spent the rest of the day with a sense of unease and it followed me through the evening.
I tried to figure out why I was so bothered by this 10 second encounter. Most people would have blown it off. Why was I taking it to heart?
Then I realized I could have easily been that girl, minus the designer duds and perfectly coifed hair. How many times have I grumbled under my breath at someone who was taking up too much space in a supermarket aisle? Were they purposely standing with their cart askew, just to piss me off? No. How about the person I cursed because they were going the speed limit when I wanted to go faster? Was it their fault I was running late? With my short fuse, how many times have I got unjustifiably angry at someone just because I didn’t like the way they opted to go about their day?
Answer: Way too many times. And I probably made them feel like crap about it too…the same way that girl did it to me.
This experience has opened my eyes to how my irrational irritation can affect others. I’m not perfect but I can be so much nicer. A little bit of niceness is so much more productive than negativity. I hate that I could have caused a stranger unease because I was a jerk. I don’t want to be that jerk anymore. So I’m going to try. I am going to try and take a deep breath when I want to snap at someone taking forever in a check-out line. I’m going to try and enjoy the conversation instead of wondering when someone is just going to shut up when a random stranger starts talking to me in line at the bank. I'm also going to try and not make snap judgments on someone based on the price of their sunglasses. Most importantly, I am going to try and smile when a situation feels tense. Maybe one little smile can keep an overwhelmed person bursting into tears.
It would have worked for me.