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What To Do When People Are Mean To You

February 20, 2009

136585_lashelle_1 A few years ago, I was riding the bus home from the South Bronx, where I was working at the time.  I had a rolling bag full of samples, the size of a small carry-on bag for a flight.  The bus was a “double bus”, the kind with circular joint in the floor and accordion walls in the middle.

It was half full, so I sat in a two seater, with the bag on the floor next to me blocking someone from sitting next to me.  The bus stopped and an old lady got on.  She walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, if this your bag?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Well, move it!” she sneered at me.  I looked around.  There were no less than completely empty two seaters just in the front section, and plenty of seats up in the front for the elderly and disabled.

“Uh, no.  There’s plenty of seats.” I said.

“You can’t take this seat up, move this bag!” She yelled this time, and tried to grab at my bag.  I stood up, instantly towering over her, and grabbed it from her.

I moved, but leaned in and hissed, “you nasty old BITCH!”

She was immediately horrified, and yelled after me, “What did you say to me!?”  I didn’t answer and went to sit in the back of the bus.  Part of me was horrified, how could I have said such a nasty thing to her?  As functional as she seemed, if she was picking fights on a South Bronx bus, she couldn’t be in her right mind.  The other part wanted to go up there and pound her, or spit on her.  This was the Bronx, I knew most of the people on that bus would smacked her on her ass the second she opened her mouth at them.

For days after, that incident haunted me.  I thought over and over, ‘why did this happen to me?’ and ‘am I a bad person?’

Frued said that madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  The next time something bad happens to you and you relay the moment in your head and ask, ‘is there something wrong with me?’, there actually isn’t.  It’s the mentally ill person who doesn’t question themselves when things go wrong, or too easily justifies it, dooming themselves to repeat the same series of behaviors to lead them back where they started.  Take the alcoholic who blames their bosses for being fired over and over, instead of their drinking.  Or the shut-in, who takes the smallest awkward interaction with the outside world as evidence of its danger, instead of their own neuroses.

I’m still upset about what happened yesterday.  Even though I know I was let go the week before, and everything that was said at my termination was made up at the last minute, it’s still hard not to take it to heart.  Its hard to experience cruelty from people and saying, ‘that person was just an awful person without empathy.’  Especially when they’re a functioning employee, and not a crackhead on the subway.  I can’t help but think that I could have worked harder, kissed ass more, been more charming.

How do you deal with traumatic incidents with mean people?

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