Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy. – Aristotle
When anger rises, think of the consequences. – Confucius
With the final remnants of the most recent snowfall behind us, I took some time from a crazy schedule today to conduct some business with my local bank branch. While the snowmelt is upon us, the parking lot was still snow-covered and so with no visible parking spot lines visible, I parked next to the line of vehicles and proceeded towards the door.
As I approached the door of the bank, a man approached me and said “Hey a-hole”.
I turned to see who was speaking and he said “Yeah, you f*ing a-hole, do you know how to f*ing park inside a f*ing parking space?”
I indicated that the parking lot was snow covered, that actual parking spaces could not be easily located and so I had parked next to the line of cars where in fact, none of the cars were likely in “official” parking spaces.
“Well aren’t you a f*ing stupid a-hole”, he replied and he advanced towards me with a string of foul-mouthed phrases.
I replied as I maintained space between us that if he could have politely pointed out an actual parking space, I would have been happy to park in said space. I also indicated that I didn’t appreciate being spoken to as I was being addressed and that calmly speaking to people is an easier, better way to address problems, whether real or perceived.
He told me that he was trying to teach me a lesson (using colorful metaphors as he told me this), I ignored him, recorded his plate # in case it mattered later and went into the bank. As I left him, he continued his litany of profanity behind me.
Technically the odds were stacked against him. I stand at 6’3”, I’m physically active and I have a martial arts background. He was perhaps 10-15 years older and was grossly out of shape and so his best option should something physical ensue was the bottle of Windex he was using to clean his windshield.
He was taking a big chance. If I had a temper easily tipped over the edge, if I was being treated for issues such as anger management, if I was having a bad day or if I was one of those people who liked finding trouble when it was presented to me, his day (and mine) may have ended differently.
That’s the problem with unrestrained, unnecessary anger - things can get out of hand quickly and the results can be problematic or even catastrophic.
As one person present noted during the incident, my being calm and speaking to him calmly and respectfully seemed to anger him more until he seemed ready to lose control altogether. They also pointed out to me that he was parked in the one spot that was cleared of snow, a parking spot designated for drivers with disabilities, but he had no such tag that allowed him to park in that spot. Righteousness, when applied inconsistently, can create complexity. Let he who is without sin …. well …. you know.
What he doesn’t realize is that by walking away from him, I may have saved his Life or mine. I doubt if he would thank me though – he likely would have found something else to be angry over or may have been angered by the fact that he could not induce me into a more complex situation (there are people in the world who intentionally create drama for too many reasons to discuss here).
As an aside, the woman in front of me inside the bank, who later left with him when she had finished her business, seemed genuinely nice and gentle with bank staff. I hope for her sake that she doesn’t suffer abuse at the hands of this individual although statistics suggest otherwise.
Anger is never the answer.
People writing op-eds in Berkeley newspapers this week indicated that the violent, damaging riots on campus in the last week were justified, even if people were hurt and private property was destroyed.
Russia and the US continue to believe that continued sabre rattling and troop build-ups in Europe will produce what they desire (whatever that is).
People tearing each other up in the streets and in social media over differences of political color are not solving any problems either but they continue to do it unabated just in case a solution manifests by accident.
The list goes on.
That’s the problem with anger – it converts us into irrational, illogical animals who are focused on power, superiority and winning at any cost, having lost sight of the potential downside should things escalate beyond the point which we anticipated and for which we are not prepared to handle.
We must also be careful when others attempt to induce us into “battle mode”. A person induced into becoming angry is vulnerable to being manipulated, controlled or directed, allowing that person to become an agent for someone else’s agenda.
And when that happens, nobody wins.
The Bottom Line
Intentionally creating a hostile situation or allowing someone to draw us into one invites us into a potential escalation that may have unforeseen, irrevocable effects that hurt a lot of innocent people.
Unless your Life is in trouble, count to ten first and keep talking (not shouting). It matters - you may save a relationship, a business or a Life in doing so.
As for the owner of plate R*R-5*0, you owe me a deep debt of gratitude.
But don’t push your luck – some day, someone may give you the trouble you seek and will speak to you with their fists (or a weapon) instead of trying to calm you down.
And if that happens, everyone loses.
Demand and give respect – stay calm in the face of anxiety and anger. Fact-filled, respectful dialog solves most problems.
That is the only way we will solve the problems that the world faces today.
If you believe you have another way and can prove it works, I’m all ears.
But don’t shout at me – I am tone-deaf to the ignorant.
In service and servanthood,
PS It is always interesting to observe the reaction of an aggressive individual who expects their target to cower in fear or to respond in anger. When neither happens, it often freezes them in place or causes them to get even more angry. In my many years in NYC, we assume that the other person we are interacting with is either crazier than we are or has a gun (or both), providing additional impetus to keep our wits about us.