Last week, I was at the fair. Something I would have taken for granted two years ago became a big event, and we had such a good time. The public vibe is different now though. I saw a news article earlier this week that maybe we’ve forgotten how to be human to others in public, and I have to agree that yes, maybe our humanity has taken a hit since the pandemic.
While at the fair, we were sitting in a table in the shade, against some bleachers. It was a small table, a four-seater, amongst a bunch of other similar tables. Families around us were laughing, chatting and smiling. It was beautiful to see. I never thought I’d miss crowds and noise so much!
The husband and I were enjoying a glass of wine from the nearby wine tasting area. The tasting court had no seats, just tall tables, and my RA was bothering me so I needed to sit down. Masks off, 10′ away from anyone at other tables, discussing some personal stuff going on in our lives. Then a woman came up to the seat next to me, at our table, and started to sit down.
“Uhm, excuse me, but you can’t sit here.”
“You have the only table in the shade.”
“I’m really sorry, but this is a tiny table and we have our masks off.”
“You have the only table in the shade. We’re hot.”
“I’m sorry, but you’d be 2′ from us, masks off, and there are other tables around with umbrellas.”
The husband was also telling her no and shaking his head. We were both trying so hard to be nice but firm that no, a stranger seated with us, all masks off, goes against everything the world is working towards right now. Vaccinated? Unvaccinated? When everyone’s spreading, did it even matter? It was too big a risk to take.
She started to berate me. Then she said it: “What comes around, goes around, and this will come around to you.”
My jaw dropped. She left, me wishing I’d said so many things. All I got out then was “You do remember we’re in a pandemic, right? And we’re supposed to social distance from strangers to be safe, right?”
She ignored me and continued to comment as she walked off, leaving me speechless for a minute. Who does this? Who wishes someone else bad without knowing what they’re going through? Exactly what will come around to me anyway, since I did nothing wrong?
There’s so much this stranger didn’t know. I’m dealing with an autoimmune disorder and I can get sick more easily; if I get sick, I can get it more seriously and stay sick longer. (And it’s not just COVID and the variant out there. Regular illnesses and germs and viruses still exist.) I’m in the midst of a new treatment plan so I wear my mask everywhere out of caution. Even if I was at the store, I keep my distance. I don’t get within 6′ of anyone I don’t know right now. Yes, it’s my choice to be out in public, but with that, I should still retain the option to sit alone at a tiny table with my husband….like everyone else was.
My son was still on the couch recuperating from surgery. And we’ve also got things going on, so for this woman to wish bad on me was astounding. WHO DOES THAT?
I really worked hard not to let it ruin even a few minutes, but it stuck in my head. How dare this stranger, who knows nothing about me or what’s going on in my life, feel it was okay to do this? We were doing our own thing, away from strangers, at our own tiny table. She approached us, brought her negativity to us, and then berated us for not risking our health?
This is why they had individual tables, all scattered much farther apart than normal. They did this to keep us ALL more safe, and this woman felt our safety didn’t matter…just her own comfort. Then, rather than understand we wanted to continue social distancing, and having a personal discussion at our own table, she wishes us bad. Without knowing if we already have bad going on, she wishes us more?
I’m still amazed.
I wish now I’d said more, but I doubt it would have changed anything. I wish I’d reminded her that we’re human, and that she should be human towards us. We didn’t deserve what she said. She went out of her way to be unkind to us. We don’t need MORE bad right now, but in her interest in sitting in the shade overrode any sense.
There were other tables she could have asked. Other couples sitting alone. Other space, but why she wanted our table, who knows? Why harass us? Because that’s what it was. Harassment. Unsolicited and undeserved.
It used to be in life that we could mind our own business, do our own thing, and we’d primarily be left alone. Is that a thing of the past, or was this a fluke?
I don’t know. I feel like in general, many of us are forgetting how to be human. I see drama on social media and wonder what drives people to be so awful to one another. Say “the sky is blue,” and someone will pop in to tell you it’s actually azure. Share your own personal experience with something, and someone will think it’s about them and take it personal…or tell you that’s wrong, because it’s not their own experience. It’s like we’re looking for things to be upset with. Why?
We’ve become a self-centered society in so many ways, and it seems to often inspire our internal mean to come out. We have to always assume others have lives and problems of their own, and be kind first, above all.
We expect attention from others without knowing what’s already on their plate, then we get mad when they don’t give it.
We may even know that people are going through things, and yet, we still have to make it about us.
We hold people to a standard we ourselves won’t attain. We want you to support us when we need it, but if you need it? Sorry, I’m busy…and let me tell you why, so the support swings back to ME ME ME.
We get passive-aggressive instead of being adults and using our words. It often comes from those who want to tell you they’re a badass or intimidating, but passive-aggressiveness instead indicates lack of courage in speaking out, leaving people frustrated that they’re unable to make the change they need and DARN IT, I DESERVE. They post something passive-aggressive on social media, don’t get the reaction they want, then get angrier. It’s a vicious cycle. I make it a point to avoid those who post that stuff on the regular. It’s just unnecessary drama and I don’t need to invite it into my life. And I’m an adult, so….
Sometimes we’re at the point where we just can’t take on anymore, and it’s on us to know when that is. And if we’re at that point, we don’t get to not be human towards others. It’s okay to withdraw and prioritize. Guilt-free.
We have to show grace, to give people the time for whatever they’re going through. If they never get back to you, that’s okay, too. We can’t take it personal.
We’ve become a society of people operating in vacuums, devoid of many of the normalcies of life, so our boundaries may be blurry. We lean on others more heavily than we would have prior, and when they don’t have the bandwidth, we get mad. We get indignant and arrogant. And none of it’s okay.
I don’t understand it. I’m not a licensed psych nurse anymore, so I can’t give advice…but we need to be kind. I can’t say this enough. Be kind or be quiet. We don’t know what others are going through. We can’t place expectations on others, or put some obligation onto them of which they’re unaware. If you need something from someone, speak up. Give them the chance to say “I care about you, but I’m dealing with X right now.”
Imagine if we stopped assuming someone’s ignoring you and instead thought “Hmmm, I wonder if everything’s okay with MaryJo, I haven’t heard from her lately.”
Imagine if we used words to say “I need you,” and we gave the person a chance to respond.
Imagine if we reminded ourselves that everyone’s doing the best they can, and we don’t get to decide if that’s enough.
Imagine if we could just be human, even if we don’t agree with or like someone.
Imagine if we talked TO someone, not ABOUT them.
Imagine if we showed grace for mistakes.
We’re accountable for how we behave towards others. Simply wanting to sit at someone’s table doesn’t mean they owe it to you; maybe they won’t care, but if they do, you smile and walk away, because it’s their table and they don’t owe you an explanation. (This table makes for a great analogy!)
Recently, I’ve seen restaurant patrons treat servers like low-level subservients. I’ve heard people berate baristas for coffee being too hot. I’ve witnessed customers talking down to a cashier because the line was long. I myself helped a woman move her stuck walker through an elevator door while she ignored me and then took off her mask in the elevator and made a call in a ‘masks required’ medical building. This “me me me” behavior is everywhere.
What the heck is wrong with the world? Will we ever be kind to each other again?
Pre-COVID, I’d have given that woman a seat. I wish I could have made her understand that it wasn’t personal. I wish she’d have asked before just sitting down. I wish she’d have considered that I wasn’t being rude. And I wish that I hadn’t let her upset me. I’ve got such a long history of being the listening ear, the kind person, that I ought to be a little more thick-skinned.
There are no rules on how to be human, but right below kindness should be self-awareness, the knowledge that we don’t come first to anyone but ourself. Not everyone is thinking about us nearly at all as much as we may think they are. It’s incredibly narcissistic to think that someone should put aside their own problems — repeatedly, for some people — for our own. We have to learn restraint, where we refrain from snide comments or superiority because someone doesn’t behave how we want them to — especially without telling them what we want.
It’s like getting mad at my husband because he didn’t bring home donuts…even though I never told him to bring home donuts. HE SHOULD KNOW, right??
No, people shouldn’t know. We aren’t mind-readers. We’re thinking of other things. If he brings home donuts, that is AWESOME…but if we don’t communicate, that’s on US. And if they’re not the right donuts? Heck, he tried, right? Don’t discount the effort.
Like table lady, if she’d asked, I’d have responded and maybe it would have turned out differently. In the end, her needs did not override mine. I hope that later on she realized that, but I don’t know. I hope she’s kinder to people but if she went out of her way to be mean to me, it’s doubtful this was a one-time thing. I really think most leopards don’t change their spots. Character doesn’t change; people have a tendency to act better when they’re getting what they want, and when they’re not, they revert to gossip and wishing bad on people.
I have days where I don’t want to leave my home. My house is my happy, safe space. The renovation is done after this week, and I am happily enjoying it. I can choose to invite people here that want to see the house and who want to be with us, those who choose us. I don’t have to worry about maskless people getting mad that they can’t sit with me.
I also stay off social a lot. Negativity, “anything you can do, I can do better” and narcissism is a drain. I don’t need to invite it into my space — my head or my home. I enjoy a good discussion on Facebook, but I have also unfollowed so much, because I have only so much space for thoughtlessness or gossip. It’s not my job to police others’ use of a platform, but I can definitely control mine. I can’t complain about it if I willing engage in it.
I’ve still got hope we as a society can rebound from the effects of lockdowns. I also hope people learn to drive better.
I wish you peace and happiness. It may not come without focusing on it, and I speak from experience. I just hope we are better people to each other, all our lives would improve.