Monday, May 18, 2009

Someone Steps On Your Toe And Doesn't Realize It

This guy is a likely candidate for spilling beer on you and being too drunk/meatheaded to realize:

Perfect setting for this kind of incident:

So let’s say you’re hanging out in a relatively crowded setting (party! COLLEGE!!!) and someone spills beer on you. Like all over you. Your clothes are now grimy, somewhat brown-stained and most of all, you’re very chafed. It can be this situation or perhaps you’re on an airplane in the aisle seat and your elbows are sticking out and someone bangs them real hard in the funny bone with their suitcase or with that obnoxious cart they love to roll down the isle. However, the situation is the same in principle. Because instead of holding back your anger and pain with a smile, as the man apologizes, you find yourself unable to make eye contact. The man has not noticed what he has done at all. Or the guy at the college party just keeps on walking with that douche-bag, "chill," "college," jock, smug, smile stuck on his face. This is one of the most infuriating things in the world, akin to middle school recess when I suddenly was hit with a dodge ball straight in the face and had no idea who threw it. I wanted to flip out but I had no on to flip out on. I think I just flipped out at someone random to make myself feel better (it felt good).

Anyways, so he doesn’t notice and you’re stuck there in your pain without the comfort of knowing this man is sorry for his actions. The interesting thing is that rationally you know the man did not mean to and if he had noticed probably would have apologized profusely. However you’re still quite upset because he caused you pain and that’s that. But the fact that it was entirely accidental shows that you might as well say you are upset with the ground when you fall on it or a tree you run into. Sure, you tell yourself, this man shouldn’t have been so clumsy. He must watch where he is going! But think about what you’re saying. The truth is, it was a simple accident that happened to hurt you and that’s a shame but there’s nothing you can do about it and you should just be a man and get over it.

One of the most fascinating things I find with this is the temptation to actually tell the person “hey you just stepped on my toe” or spilt beer on me or whatever it is. But how awkward would that be… would it really be satisfying? I’ve seen it happen before. Woman says to man (I think my mom has done this before) “excuse me,” (reasonably irritated voice) “you just stepped on my toe.” The man apologizes but only out of polite obligation and because you have implicitly forced him to apologize like when you hit your brother and your mom says “what do you say?”. A sort of acrimony is created between the two parties in this situation because you’re obviously upset with him for stepping on your toe and he’s upset because you’re, rather viciously accusing him of something he doesn’t remember doing. It’s a very selfish instinct that takes over when stuff like this happens to you. You want the person to know, to recognize that he hurt you and to feel bad about it even though you know it was a pure accident.

It’s as if you go through your entire life thinking “I’m the center of the universe” and then all of the sudden someone makes a small mistake that hurts you (it may not even hurt that much) and doesn’t realize it and now suddenly you’re realizing and beginning to doubt that you’re the center of the universe… maybe these things are a good thing which can humble us. But only if we chose to look into it from this perspective, which I doubt most people do when it happens to them.

As a corollary, I want to mention something that happened to me today at a restaurant. I’m a very picky eater and I ordered my omelet with just ham and American cheese. I said to the waitress, “do you have American cheese?” She said “yes, we do.” I said, “I’d like an omelet with ham and American cheese please. American cheese not cheddar please.” (I thought I’d go through the awkwardness of repeating myself for the reward of not having my order mixed up- it only listed “cheddar” on the menu). As she was scribbling in her notepad, she repeated aloud “ham and American cheese.”

Then my order comes, 20 minutes later. When I start eating it, I realize it’s cheddar. Now come on, it was so explicit: American cheese, not cheddar. Yet they messed it up. I put down my fork and knife in silent indignation. I was way too hungry and we had waited way too long for our food for me to return it and ask for American and wait another 20 minutes. But, even knowing that there was nothing I could do, this didn’t quite satisfy me; I wanted the waitress to know she had messed up my order. I wanted her to feel stupid and realize she made a simple dumb mistake and that I was pissed because an injustice had occurred to me. However, I kept my mouth shut and mechanically chewed my omelet with cheddar; however angry I was, I didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of telling the waitress that she messed up my order, explaining, “but no I don’t want to take it back,” and then having to fill in the awkward tense silence with the dick comment, “I just wanted to let you know.”

No comments:

Post a Comment