Don't Be A Jerk To Strangers -- You Don't Know What Struggles People Are Facing

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Something I often notice as I look around me while desperately trying to teach my three teenagers to be aware of others is how soon someone can go from pleasant to douche canoe in under three seconds.

I see it almost every day when I get my caffeine fix. People are rude to strangers when their caffeine isn’t served up right. For instance, just yesterday, the customer standing in line in front of me accidentally spilled her coffee. It held up the line as the barista quickly made her another one. She was visibly upset, and seemed embarrassed. And coming from the line behind her, a chorus of sighs and groans.

As I sat at the table next to her later on, I could hear her on her cell phone. And what I heard broke my heart. She had just lost her son three months ago and was really struggling over the holidays. I’m sure the impatience from strangers hurt her more than someone who wasn’t struggling with such a massive loss.

Then I looked up at the barista who had made her another coffee, free of charge. She was struggling to keep up with the busyness when the customer she was with started arguing with her after she messed up his order. “It’s not so hard to get it right is it? I told you the order twice,” he barked.

Heavy sigh…

PSA, folks: Instead of immediately jumping down other people’s throats, we need to consider a lot more than how valuable our time is or how it is making us feel.

Maybe it was the barista’s first day and she was incredibly nervous. Maybe she couldn’t make rent this month and her mind was preoccupied. Maybe her mom is sick or her boyfriend just broke up with her or she was just having a shitty day.

And we all know going to the grocery store before a huge storm hits isn’t always the best idea. Yes, it can make you feel anxious, frustrated, and like you want nothing more than to ram people with a cart. We’ve all been there. But is it necessary to add to the angst by letting our rage button be pushed to the max the second someone starts walking slow without even taking the time to consider why they might not be able to keep pace with us?

Maybe they are recovering from knee surgery. Maybe they realized they forget their daughter’s cough medicine. Maybe they are struggling with mental illness and getting out of the house is trying for them, so walking at a faster rate doesn’t even occur to them.

And if someone is driving too slow, instead of trying to touch the ass of their car (because really, it won’t get you anywhere faster), maybe take the time to consider they are a nervous student driver (like my son), or an elderly person who rarely goes out of the house and feels more comfortable going five miles under the speed limit. There is a chance they were in a bad car accident and they aren’t quite comfortable behind the wheel yet but know the only way to do it is to get out there.

Don’t automatically think that because your kid’s teacher forgot to tell you about something pivotal that happened in school and you had to hear from your child instead that it means they the teacher wasn’t doing their job. You don’t know if they had to touch base with 10 or even 20 parents that day. Not to mention, they have a life outside of their work and may have had a family emergency.

Stop yourself before you decide to be rude to the waitress because your food wasn’t cooked perfectly or your order was messed up. She may have been working a double, maybe this is her second job, maybe she just lost her baby.

And that person who seems ditzy and unaware as they are standing in the middle of Home Depot in the way of what you are looking for may be a nurse who was working all night and got a text from their partner asking if they can pick up a plunger on the way home because their toilet is clogged.

Don’t shame the mom who has a child that won’t stay by her side and be quiet in a restaurant. You don’t know if she was up all night trying to comfort her son who has night terrors or is afraid of the dark and refuses to sleep alone and she spent the night getting kicked in the ribs and just wants two freaking bites of nourishment.

My sister told me a story about how she was at the pharmacy once, sicker than she ever has been with a fever and bloodshot eyes after she was diagnosed with mastitis. She had to get her medicine immediately because her husband was at work and she was in so much pain.

A woman walked up behind her as she was getting her medicine, took one look at her and was disgusted, assuming she was high because of the way she looked. She looked at her and said, “Pathetic.”

We all screw up, make mistakes. We all have our times of misunderstanding people and judging too harshly. Sometimes we get in a hurry and have trouble valuing anyone else’s time but our own.

But if we stopped for just two freaking seconds to think about what the slow driver, or overwhelmed service worker, or our best friend who hurt our feelings was going through before we speed right into crucifixion town and act like a total ass, the world would be a happier place.

After all, it’s the very thing we are teaching our children every damn day, and even if they seem oblivious, they are watching us.

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