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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Am I Allowed to be Petty?

I just read on somebody’s blog that next week is Random Acts of Kindness Week. This turns out to be true. ( I don’t know this week’s theme – suggestions welcome – but I’m pretty sure last week’s was Random Acts of UNkindness. Because, well, let’s just say there was a little exchange between me and a stranger that was unpleasant. A pricking kind of exchange.

I am sorry to say this happened in the auditorium of our middle school, during the musical. (“Annie,” Readers, if you care.) The 5th grader and I got tickets at the last minute, so we were in the nosebleed section, right in front of the 8th grader manning the spotlight. And making extraneous comments not related to the show into her headphones. But whatever. We were at the end of a row, next to the wall, and the 5th grader couldn’t see too well, even when we traded seats. Neither could I, for that matter. Next to her was me, then an empty seat, then a party of four people, a grandma, a mother, a young child, and a child with an electronic device, in that order. 

Right before the show began, when the empty seat next to me was still empty, I leaned over and asked the grandmother if anyone was going to be in that empty seat, because if not, maybe my daughter could sit there and see a little better? She shrugged and said they were expecting someone (which I am just naïve enough to have believed) and I said, Oh, sure, well maybe if they don’t show up? Dot dot dot. The grandmother said she wanted to use it for her stuff. That was slightly annoying, but that’s life, as they say. Just then, the mother, catching wind of some discussion happening between us, leaned over. The grandmother filled her in on my request, and the mother said, to me, “We PAID for that seat.”

Readers, that was bitchy. It was also unnecessary. I wasn’t going to argue with Grandma. Even if I thought she was being a little selfish, I knew she was within her rights. But because I am an Aries, I couldn’t just let Mom’s comment roll off my back. The unnecessary aspect of it was as nasty as her nasty attitude. I flapped my hand at the mother and said, “WhateEVER. JEEZis.” Then I spent part of the first act regretting that I had said anything. (Responding to nastiness with anything less than witheringly perfect politeness always demeans the responder. )The second act I divided among enjoying, listening to the random comments of the 8th grader manning the spotlight behind me, and saying to myself, “Hey, Miss Hannigan is my gynecologist’s daughter.”

It’s a small town.

My point, Readers, is not to get back at Bitchy Mom and Unkind Grandma by blogging about them, at least not entirely. My point is how unnecessary that unkindness was. I’m not talking about the empty seat, although I suppose I could. If it had been me asked about the empty seat, I would have surrendered it so a child to see better. That’s why I asked. I asked, she declined, it wasn’t a big deal. It was the way Bitchy Mom jumped at the issue, and the implication that I was some kind of sneaky person trying to weasel her out of something she paid for that made it a big deal. No one ever showed up for that seat, so maybe they didn’t actually pay for it. Grandma made full use of it, filling it with water bottle, coats, and snacks. I leaned on the armrest. Way in. Because I am many things, but one thing I am not is petty. Anyway, it was Bitchy Mom’s comment that really prickled me. In the scheme of distressing things I have encountered and will encounter in my life, that prickle is just a tiny pain; but it is a pain nonetheless, and an entirely unnecessary one. In its small way, it has a disproportionately long lifespan. It’s so much better to not let those prickles penetrate; and better still to forbear from causing them. So let that be my first act of kindness: remembering to forbear causing unnecessary pricks - or being near them.


  1. Yes! I so get how the unnecessary unkindness of people can rankle long after the prick. I often soothe myself when it happens by saying, "Well I just had to endure that person for X minutes. She, on the other hand, has to live with her rude and stingy self 24/7." Fortunately I recently had the polar opposite of that experience, which I will be blogging about in the near future.

  2. Many years ago I was riding a city bus with a friend and our toddlers, and another passenger made a snide remark about their behavior, which was not bad-- completely age appropriate. My friend said to her two-year old daughter, "Let's smile at this woman, she seems to having a rough day. Maybe that will make her feel better." And they both smiled at her. It didn't seem to affect the woman at all, but it made us feel better. That's always the challenge for me, not to let other people's bad behavior linger on inside me. Hope you were able to enjoy Annie!