So being a sensitive, over-analyzer as well as a bit of a narcissist, (If someone honks I of course think it’s all about me) I often over-react to comments made to me by strangers. For years, I would fester and wallow. I would stew and stammer out some kind of wicked response. I would feel hurt and become cautious. I would feel heavy and burdened by disappointing my fellow human, by upsetting my neighbour, by standing out enough in the crowd to be acknowledged, admonished or reprimanded.
Having lived in Vancouver for four years, I came to know a little secret about the city, that only those who live there truly come to know and understand. And though I love Vancouver and the many amazing, fabulous people who live there, like no other city in Canada, Vancouverites LOVE to tell you what to do or tell you what you shouldn’t be doing. In fact, I think someone yelled at me about three to four times a day. Many of these lectures involved road safety (something strangely important to our Canadian westcoasters) but whether I was not wearing a bicycle helmet, or crossing the street at the crosswalk, was I really deserving of the types of hoots and hollers and drive-by insults that I endured? I think not. When you slammed on your breaks and came to a screeching halt because I stood on the side of the street, did you not think that maybe I was waiting for you to pass and did not expect you to stop for me before you called me fuck-face. Why stop in the middle of the street to allow someone to cross infront of you and then call them fuck-face? I think I will never know.
And when I was huddled in the cold smoking an “I’m drunk and so I can have one” cigarette, only to be yelled at that my second hand smoke was oosing across the sidewalk and killing pedestrians, even though it was by second’s hand, did I really need to hear that I hate children because smoke hurts them most of all. And when I waited in a line for twenty minutes for a morning coffee only to realize, horrified, that I had absolutely no money and so I had to pay by credit card, did I have to be yelled at by a lady who turned the whole line against me by saying, “This chick is paying by credit card, she wants us all to wait even longer.” Yes….yesssssss….that was my evil plan. I will make those behind me suffer from caffeine withdrawal to an extent never felt by them before…..
But every-time, a tongue would whip me in the ass and leave me bruised and battered, tail between my legs, trying just to make it home without getting shot for riding my bike on the sidewalk, I would feel bad. Bad about myself, bad about my fellow humans and angry. This anger would usually last 20 minutes or more. 20 minutes, or more, of anger brought on by someone who couldn’t keep their foul mouth shut or rolled eyes closed. And it hurt inside.
But then one day, a prophet came to me. He was not your average looking profit. But he was old, with long hair and an unshaven beard but more dirty, more smelly and pocky than your average mentor. And instead of appearing to me in a white, wispy cloud, my prophet zoomed by on his most-likley stollen bicycle. It was noon, in downtown Toronto. The sun shone down on the crowd that had gathered, eagerly awaiting a streetcar that would not simply pass us by, already filled to the brink, when my prophet, out of a burst of backfired dodge smoke and hazy Toronto pollution, came across my path. He, like I, was confronted by “Unsolicited Advice and Random Rudeness.”
It said: “Get off the sidewalk, it’s for pedestrians.” To which, said prophet wisely cackled: “Fuck you.”
It was like a new day had dawned. And I realized for the first time, I didn’t have to take what people said. I did not have to look the other way. I did not have to turn the other cheek. I didn’t have to explian myself or feel the ting of anger and frustration build. I could just open my mouth and return the unsolicited favor. To the lady in the coffee shop, my new response became “Hey, chill, sorry I’m out of change. Is that a crime these days?” To the man demanding “where’s your helmet” I would now reply, laughing to myself all the way “Where’s your business.” Ha ha ha…
I became so empowered by my new freedom to respond to rudeness with rudeness that I began to speak on other’s behalf. A woman yelling at another for speaking on her cell phone, I told her “No one was annoyed until your shrill voice was all they could hear. It’s much louder than her talking on her cell phone.”
And so, as the prophet passed on to me, I hope to pass on to you. There is no need to look the other way and turn that other check. Give that unsolicited advice what it needs: better advice. And give that random rudeness its anecdote: a taste of its own medicine. And then, people will be less inclined to try and make you feel like shit, because maybe, just maybe, you’ll throw it right back in their face.