Sunday, May 17, 2009

You Talkin' to ME??!??

Ever just sit and watch people? Wonder what makes them tick? Why they act like they do? What happened to them to make them so bitter, nasty, and mean-spirited?

I do.

I have a pretty tough skin. Things that bother many women just plain don't bother me. I'm not calloused. I just happen to believe that most things that stress people out WOULDN'T, if they'd put it into perspective. Sure, things get to me, and sometimes they're stupid things...everybody has bad days. I'm just not one to sit around moping about things I can't change and aren't really that important in the grand scheme of life.

However, I DO like to be liked. I've never read How to Win Friends and Influence People, and don't plan to add it to my Must-Read list, but I truly enjoy being around just about every kind of person imaginable. I am a people watcher. I can, and very often do, strike up conversations about anything with nearly anybody. All the better, if I can get a chuckle out of them, make them smile, give them a reason to think. I have a personal bubble space, but I'm not afraid to shrink or expand it, even invite others in, if the mood strikes.

I don't, as a general rule, set out to make people dislike me, but that sometimes comes with the territory known as Deanna. Rarely do I find myself flabbergasted enough to honestly not care if I offend someone by speaking my mind. When I speak truthfully, my methods of communicating do offend some people. I occasionally have to apologize, because while my viewpoint about a topic may be unchanged, my delivery could be fine-tuned. OK, major overhauled!

But...(ya knew that was comin', didn'tcha?)...

Call my kid a pig on the public transit system, and I will not care who knows that I'm not happy. I'm not going to grow cancer in my brain over it, but it isn't something I'll forget.

We just spent 3 days in Chicago with Bucky, celebrating his 16th birthday. It was 3 days of just Tom, Bucky and me, doing fun stuff, eating food that I didn't prepare, exploring one of the most beautiful cities in the country, full of, for the most part, friendly people. Nearing the end of the 3rd day, we were exhausted. We were returning from Sears Tower, and having reached the end of our walking capabilities, we hopped on a near-capacity bus. We may be from the sticks, but we know bus etiquette says "Sit in the handicapped section if no handicapped people need it. Offer your seat to elderly people, pregnant women, or passengers with small children." Knowing this, we sat in the front of the bus. Tired. Zoned out.

Bucky had a significant headache, so he certainly wasn't paying attention to what his fellow passengers were doing. I wasn't being overly watchful, but I had noticed an older lady across from me, reading a book. She was not at all happy when someone sat beside her and bumped into her belongings, and the thought crossed my mind that she just looked grumpy and not very nice.

A couple of blocks down the road, an older, perhaps in their 60's, very able-bodied couple and another older lady got on the bus together. The only seat available was right next to the grumpy book lady, so the single lady took it, leaving the couple standing in the aisle. Several more people climbed aboard during the next few stops, so it was getting crowded. I noticed the book lady glancing at me over her reading glasses. I overheard a conversation that the couple was involved in, regarding an upcoming lecture the lady was to be giving "And I don't even know the topic yet!" My thought was "What's so special about this lady that they ask her to lecture and haven't chosen a topic?"

Shortly, in the back of my tired mind, I began hearing the word "pig" repeated several times. Glancing at the book lady, I realized she was speaking to the couple and their friend, but the words she was speaking were directed at us. "Kids these days are just PIGS!! It's so disheartening! It really is! I mean it! They're just PIGS! PIGS!!!" Her eyes darting from my face to Bucky's kinda gave it away.

I just stared at her. She looked away. I kept staring. Again, she said the word "Pigs" very loudly several times. By this time, the bus was completely full, and I stood to offer my seat to an arriving older lady who looked like she needed it. She very kindly told me that as long as she could hold on to something, she was fine, and remained where she was. We had arrived at our stop by now, and had to step around several people to reach the back door.

I could not resist leaning right into the grumpy book lady, getting down eye-level with her mean face. Patting her on the lap, I smiled sweetly, wrinkled my nose, and softly said, "We raise pigs for a living. We could lecture on it." I walked off the bus, feeling not the least bit guilty about stretching the truth a wee bit...after all, when I was 8, we did have pigs we slaughtered and sold.

Apparently as I was departing, she said, loud enough for Tom and Bucky to hear, "You're pigs!!" They were both oblivious to what had transpired over the past several city blocks, as well as to what I was doing in this woman's face. I had to relay the entire bus ride, lest they be convinced I'd finally lost my mind for good.

But as for the lady - what was she trying to accomplish? Whatever it was, she probably failed. What has she experienced, who has wronged her, how long has she held on to anger?

How much happier could she have been that day, if I'd sat beside her and cracked a joke? Would she have hit me with her book, or would she have warmed up enough to tell me who the author was? Because I would have liked to know...the front of the book looked pretty. Eyes of a child, entitled Honolulu, or something like that, if I recall correctly.

I would have loved to tell her how gorgeous I think her city is. How friendly Chicagoans seem. How absolutely stunning the flowers on the Magnificent Mile are. That we chose Chicago, so Bucky could see Blue Man Group. What a great kid he is.
Ask about her family. Her work, life in the city, good places she liked to eat...

But she called my kid a pig. So now, she'll never know Bucky. She's missing out.


The Mother said...

Crotchety old people are to be ignored and ridiculed. You did the right thing--unfortunately, it probably didn't get through.

So sorry that this ridiculous incident marred your memories of your glorious weekend.

Wendy said...

Oh, boy.

When I am subjected to people like that, I say a silent prayer. "Thank you Lord that I am not as unhappy as this poor person."

And I really do feel sorry for them. How sad to spend your life that way.

Deanna said...

I try to stick to "heaping coals of fire on their head" by being kind, but sometimes, that's SO hard! ;-)
One of my kids mows lawn for a crotchety old lady, and she just can't comprehend teenagers who look different than what she thinks they should...but she keeps on payin' him!

MerMer said...

LOL. That was pure "Dee"!!! Wish I could have been there. Well done!