Friday, December 17, 2004

more sappy stuff about tolerance

I’m on a business trip near San Francisco, and after work I stop at a mall. As I’m leaving, I notice a sweatshirt and fanny pack lying in the parking lot. I look around – no one visible, except for some teenagers doing tricks on BMX bikes a couple hundred yards away in another area of the parking lot.
I stop my car, pick up the bag – I figure I can turn it in to the police substation in the mall. I start looking in the bag for some ID, and the next thing I know, there’s a kid on a bike swearing at me through the window of the car -- he’s so stressed that he can’t even talk clearly. Obviously, the bag is his and he thinks I’m going to take it.
I open the door and say “If it’s your bag, go ahead and take it.” He reaches in, grabs the bag, and yanks it violently out the door – since it’s open, his ID and papers and money and whatever else fly into the air in a spectacular Personal Property Explosion, and patter to the ground around him. Still swearing, he starts picking it up – I say “You know, if I’d wanted to steal it, I’d have been gone already.”

Then I drive away, annoyed and frustrated. It’s difficult to accept an abrupt change in your status: a few seconds ago (in my own mind) I had been Noble and Honest Citizen, ready to graciously brush off the praise and tearful thanks of a person who had lost their stuff. In the space of two seconds, I was converted to Dirty Rotten Thief, or at best Lamester Messing With My Stuff. It was a bit of a come-down.

And I can’t really blame the kid for being excited – it would really honk to lose your purse-equivalent. And I’ve learned (okay, my dad pointed out to me) that for some people, their whole life is a struggle anyway – hard family situation, financial issues, past abuse, tragedy, whatever – and one of the ways they cope is to put on emotional armor first thing every morning. Conflict is normal for these people; battle is what they expect most situations to become. And of course, their all-hands-on-deck-prepare-to-repel-boarders attitude actually *creates* conflict, further reinforcing their need for a take-no-prisoners approach to life.

So as my dad said: On some level, most of us are walking wounded – be kind.


At Fri Dec 17, 01:44:00 PM PST, Blogger No_Newz said...

You can only do what you think is right. People can see it as it is or how they want. Nothing you can do about it.
Lois Lane
P.S. You're dad is right. If that was me in your situation, that kid would have been "walking wounded" after I rammed his bag and BMX bike up his... well never mind ;) You did the right thing.


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