Friday, September 20, 2013

"People Are Stupid"

I don’t really believe that, but many times I think it. Earlier today, for instance, I was on a residential thoroughfare, waiting for a chance to turn left onto a side street. Two young men behind me honked their horn, then glared at me when I turned. Once home, I double-checked to make sure my left-turn signal worked, and it does indeed. So it should have been clear why I was stopped in the road. I’m sorry, guys, that I was so rude and presumptuous to be in your way for maybe ten seconds....

We had just passed our local grocery store. Groceries are hotbeds of obliviousness, for instance, people rushing with their carts and nearly colliding with other carts as they emerge from an aisle. The worst menaces, though, are the folks who don’t push the cart with their hands but lean on the handle and push the cart with their upper body. I suppose they do so because they don’t feel steady on their feet, which I don’t begrudge. The thing is: these folks don’t pause or stop for anyone. You just have to wait till they’re out of the way.

Whenever we are in a multi-story building, my family and I wonder if we’ll have yet another common occurrence. People wait for the elevator to arrive, and then when the door opens, they walk right in---and then they’re startled if someone is inside the elevator on their way out!  Having myself nearly run into a person exiting an elevator (and feeling foolish doing so), I’ve begun to stand back from the elevator whenever I’m waiting. That way, I’m courteous if someone coming out.

Another stupid thing that happens sometimes. Say you’re wearing a sweater, and the tag is sticking up. One does have to make a conscious effort to check the tag---after all, you can’t see it when you check yourself in the mirror. That’s not the stupid thing. One Sunday morning, I was walking toward the door of my church, and a woman behind me calls, “Wait a minute!” and she reaches over and tucks my tag into my sweater. Then she walks into the church laughing!  Did she think she was so clever? Just a few days later, a clerk in a men’s clothing store at the mall did the same thing----reached over and tucked my tag in and expressed satisfaction that he'd helped me.

In both cases, I didn’t say anything but was cold----because both seemed so proud of themselves in fixing my outfit.  Ever since, I’ve taken care to check my tag, lest a total stranger thinks it necessary to do it without asking. (On a related note, I met a woman pastor who said that so many people at church rubbed her pregnant belly---and then some of them felt put-off when the pastor asked them nicely to not do that.)

We all have pet peeves about human nature---and, of course, we ourselves may seem exasperating to others (but we don't think of that). The trick is to feel calm and even amused at people’s foibles (while also, when necessary, establishing boundaries). When Jesus says to turn the other cheek, he isn’t just teaching a behavior but a quality of your inner spirit. You have a big heart, you’re magnanimous, you have an inner peacefulness and sense of humor, wisdom and perspective about people, a feeling of kindness toward everyone, including extremely unpleasant folks.

To think other people are stupid is itself a sign of self-importance, even if only a passing mood of superiority. What are your pet peeves about the foolish ways we all act sometimes? You’ll feel better writing them down!

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