Monday, April 26, 2010

Mother Theresa's Advice on Cab Rides

I want to write an angry-yet-witty post about how peeved I am that cab drivers in this city seem to regularly be able to get away with having no ever-loving idea where they're going. I want to ask how it's possible that any professional driver could not know how to get to the massive, giant, monstrosity of a well-known hotel that I live just around the corner from. I want to know why I've had to give directions from Dupont Circle to Woodley Park (just under a one-mile trip) to the last three cab drivers I've had. I want to piss & moan (what a weird phrase) about the fact that I got out of a cab on the next street over, which I don't even know the name of because it is not my street. My general thinking here is "IF YOU CAN'T GET FROM DUPONT TO WOODLEY PARK, YOU NEED A NEW GIG." Caps required, followed by me basically throwing $7 at the driver & stomping home while muttering to myself about the injustices of directionally challenged drivers.

But I've also been thinking a lot lately about Mother Theresa's quote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle." I've never been one for cheesy, weepy inspirational quotes, but that one has always stuck with me, perhaps because it actually inspires me & perhaps because I've experienced my fair share of mean people myself, both on days when my battle was hard & days when I suspected theirs was indeed harder.

I remember working in a department store at age 20, thinking, "How can people be so mean to someone they don't even know?" every time an angry shopper yelled about Christmas discounts or out-of-stock sweaters. Same deal when patrons of the swimming pool I worked at screamed about seasonal pass pricing or my ability to make a properly swirled twist ice cream cone (I was a concessions stand manager, quit judging). I've held a lot of jobs that resulted in more than a few tears-in-the-bathroom situations when customers or coworkers belittled or attacked me for no good reason; more than one day that ended in "You'll never believe how crappy work was because ___ was so terribly mean."

So I should be able to be more cognizant of the fact that the people on the other side of the cab divider (or the cash register, or anywhere, really) are people, too - people with lives & feelings & issues. Who knows what they're going through, even if they seem to suck? Maybe especially if they seem to suck. Who knows what their intentions are or what their stories are or what's happening in their head? Who knows whether my cranking out at them will mean that they go home & complain to their families about the bitchy girl who said X or complained about Y or ruined their day or their self-esteem? I don't want to be the reason behind anyone's "Dear Diary: Today was epically awful" entry.

In truth, all it takes for me to ease up on people is a little common sense & maybe an apology. Make a wrong turn when you're driving me home? Tell me it's your first day & I'll give you better directions - nicely. Bad service at a restaurant? Send the manager over to say sorry & take 10% off my bill & I'll be back in the future - happily. But I've realized that I wait for this evidence of a bad day, for evidence of an apology, before I show that compassion - & it occurs to me that I'd prefer to be the kind of person who's compassionate first &, when appropriate, snarky second.

I want to be nicer because I think it will make me happier. But I don't want to lose my edge, either. DC has hardened me, but it's also softened me. Can those happen at the same time? Can I stay funny & be kinder? And more importantly, how on earth am I supposed to accomplish this?
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