Driving home from town yesterday, I was faced with a driver hanging out in the passing lane but not passing. Those of us who drive through “the canyon” on 285 know this is the single most infuriating thing in the history of man. As it became clear this driver had no plans to follow the rule of the passing lane, I decided to go around him to the right. This kind soul decided to speed up so that I could not pass him. So, back I go into the left lane behind him to patiently wait for him to scooch over. He then decides it would be fun to slow down to the exact speed of the car next to him in the right lane and maintains that speed the whole way through the canyon. Nice. Really not any worse than having a gnat buzzing around your ear for a while, but it derailed me. I wish my skin were thicker, but it’s not. I decide to not ever drive again. When people are intentionally mean, just for the sport of it, it breaks my heart. I carry it with me for the rest of the day.
I also recently had an encounter with a total stranger who saw me and my family patiently waiting for a parking spot and conspired with the person leaving the spot who blocked our access and this person whipped around the front of the car leaving the spot and took it. Mean. I left our car to educate this stranger on manners and consideration… I may have gotten a little loud and my face also may have been just slightly red. The result of this interaction was an education on how people carry cameras with them everywhere and you never know who will be filming you when you get upset. There is a name for this kind of person in our current culture, but I won’t mention it because I have a sweet friend named Karen and this meanness around her name makes her sad.
Then, at home, safe on my comfy couch watching some bit of trifle to lighten the mood, the show stops and on the screen pops a political attack ad. Great. More mean. Then I realize that it’s only July. Three more months of escalating political attacks. And if we’re being honest (and why would you be anything else), the political ads aren’t the only source of mean on TV.
Now I’m swearing off network TV… actually, Hulu TV runs ads too so that’s out as well. And the news—lots of mean there, and frankly, I can’t keep track of who is telling the truth anymore. In case you’re keeping track at home, I’m now never driving and never watching TV. Ok. Good thing I love reading. And walking.
I don’t mean to make light of humanity’s plight right now. Racial relations are at a tipping point. People are hurting financially. Businesses are having to borrow money to survive and even then, for many, this virus is the death knell of their livelihood. There are so many reasons to keep passing on the mean. We have to wear these masks that make our faces sweaty and hide our smiles. Not only that, but it’s a constant reminder that today looks so different from the blissful ignorance of six months ago. We are all in a state of grief for our old lives that we loved so much. And nobody can tell us what the future will look like.
I have resolved to be conscious of what I’m putting out into the world. I, for one, will try to fight mean with kindness or, at the very least, understanding. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” And I think that’s our problem right now. We’re reacting to mean with mean. What would have happened if I had smiled and waved to “Mr. Cruising-in-the-passing-lane?” Or at “Ms. Stealing-a-parking-spot?” It probably wouldn’t have changed their behavior, but it would have enabled me to walk away without feeling gutted. So, that is my goal right now. Wanna join me in fighting mean with a smile and a wave?