Rudeness is a drug

by Rebecca on November 16, 2012

I have a born-in-me leaning towards feeling “righteous” indignation. I naturally perceive that when things aren’t going my way, it’s because someone (typically the nice cashier behind the register) has it out for me. It’s never my fault, basically — and so it’s totally acceptable for me to speak rudely to get my point across. Delivering rude zingers (and boy, can I come up with some good ones) is like a drug. It feels so justified and is a huge shot of adrenaline.

I’ve worked incredibly hard to purge this from my system, and I’m actually pretty chill now when it comes to situations where I’m not getting my way, thankyouverymuch. I’ve learned that if a store clerk is mistreating me, I can change things with a friendly smile.

I haven’t been knowingly rude to anyone (except my poor husband — bless his poor heart) for years. It feels quite good. I dare say, the rush from changing a rude person into a nice person is even better than the high I used to get from blasting someone with a barrage of well-crafted sarcasm.

The other day, however, old habits resurfaced when I saw a man sitting outside the doors to the mall smoking a cigarette. He was (quite stupidly) sitting directly underneath the sign that says smokers cannot smoke within 25 feet of the entrance.

Smokers who smoke near public buildings is my Achilles’ heel in my heavy armor of attempted niceness. And for some reason, there are an awful lot of smokers in Utah who smoke near public buildings. I have neighbors who go out of their way to smoke far away from my family, and I appreciate their thoughtfulness more than they know. Smokers who don’t extend that same courtesy make my blood boil. Everyone knows second-hand smoke is dangerous, and I think it is the height of rudeness when someone subjects everyone to their own poisonous fumes by smoking where the public walks.

So when I saw this man sitting inches outside the door, I had to say something.

“You know, it’s illegal to smoke within 25 feet of an entrance.” I began, using my rudest voice. It hadn’t been used in a while, and man — it felt good.

He shrugged, possibly out of shame — but I took it to be out of a heavy dose of I-don’t-care.

“The sign is right here,” I continued, angrily smacking the sign. My heart was racing with the adrenaline of a rude encounter.

Again, nothing from the smoking man. He wouldn’t meet my eyes.

The drug of “righteous” indignation was flowing through my blood and it felt amazing. Sarcasm was coming. I could feel it.

“Thank you for poisoning my children’s lungs.” Zing! I stomped into the mall and searched for a security guard. By the time I found one, the man was gone. Still high from my encounter, I was heartily disappointed that the incident would end so un-dramatically.

As I walked through the mall, searching for the perfect boots for my daughter, I felt the drug leave my system. I felt low and ashamed. Yes, he was wrong to smoke outside the entrance, and yes, I was right to speak up for myself and my children — but I could have been kind. The man could have left the situation with a resolve to be more careful about smoking in public instead of thinking what a witch he had just met.

When I told my husband about my encounter, he laughed a loud guffaw at my “punch line.” He thought I was hilarious. And with his hearty encouragement, I admitted that I also thought I was quite hilarious. His acceptance did nothing for my addict brain, and only left me feeling the old “righteous” indignation I’ve worked so hard to stop feeling.

The test came today when I went to Costco — less than a week before Thanksgiving, mind you. As giant cart after giant cart wedged itself between my giant cart and each and every tasting table, and as oblivious person after oblivious person stopped in the middle of the aisle for apparently no reason, I calmly and simply just dealt with it.

But when the lady in the giant SUV in the parking lot only looked one way before turning to drive almost right into me, I gave her a nasty look.

Baby steps, I guess.

{ 6 comments }

Emily November 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I kind of wish I could actually speak my righteous indignation at times. I’m far too willing to avoid conflict, and that’s not always a good thing. Thank you for speaking up for all our children’s lungs. :)

Natalie Lloyd November 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I hate smokers right next to entrances! I seriously still hold my breath against the reek when I have to walk by it. I don’t have the guts to confront them (whether nicely or not!) but sometimes I wish I did… I was actually reading the other day that even THIRD HAND smoke exposure can be harmful. Did you even know there was such a thing?! I’s basically the residue and gunk on the people and their clothes/belongings. I was reading about it in the context of smoker family members around new babies (not that I foresee a problem with this, it was just an article in a magazine that caught my eye…). I’d never heard that term before, but it makes sense. I can’t believe people are still deciding its ok to smoke with all the info out there!

Kimberly November 17, 2012 at 12:14 am

First, never come to Germany…people smoke everywhere here, it drives me crazy! Second, I’m not saying that you NEED this, but you might be interested in it given your post. Have you read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”? It’s rather old, but still has some interesting/valuable info on dealing with social interactions in a positive way…but so you still get what you want (more or less).

Diane Wright November 17, 2012 at 10:53 am

I think everyone struggles with “righteous indignation syndrom”, but not all of us have the courage to speak our minds. I’ve had people yell at me about something stupid I did. Those are more stories for me to tell. I guess you could just remember that that person is loved and precious to Heavenly Father or you could just let him have it. I love you either way.

Linda November 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm

The best cure for this—-trying to see what happens through your child’s eyes. Ah, then it just isn’t so pretty. :( I remember a few times being with you and me telling a clerk how I felt (now I am NOT taking responsibility for your issue) and then looking at you and feeling ashamed that you had seen your mother rude. Something to think about. You will get it. I have faith in you but thanks for sharing for all of us need this reminder.

vanessa November 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I did not know this about you! I don’t know if I believe it though…Kind of like when you tell me you could never picture me being mean to Tyler. Oh it happens, it happens.

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