It was a cold evening in Wimbledon. There was a crowd of commuters, school children and shoppers waiting for one of six buses.
The bus pulled up and people shuffled themselves around, moving towards the door if it was their bus and stepping aside if it wasn’t.
The back door hissed open and commuters, school children and shoppers dismounted. The queue which had formed was blocking the door and as one woman with a pram was trying to get off she bumped a man standing in line, waiting to get on. His response was instantaneous and aggressive. He pushed her back and slagged her off.
She slagged him off right back. The volume of his voice increased and I was able to hear him quite clearly. He was extremely vocal about the fact that he had a small child in tow and that he pushed the woman because she’d pushed him first. This was punctuated with language I would not deem appropriate to use in public. His small child tugged at his arm and cried out, “Daddy!”
The crowd surreptitiously watched - interested, appalled, entertained, intrigued, shocked, embarrassed, uncomfortable, afraid - who knows. Any of the above, all of the above.
The front door of the bus opened and I moved forward with the push of the crowd, the man continuing his verbal assault behind me.
I made my way to the top deck - the best place to sit on a London bus.
Behind me a woman spoke to a friend, “They’re still arguing. He said he pushed her because she pushed him. She said he shouldn’t have pushed her because she has a kid. He pointed out that he has one too.”
The whole thing got me thinking about the wonderful troublemakers we encounter everyday. You know those people that get under your skin or really push your buttons?
In this case - people with poor parenting skills, really. And a total lack of self respect and respect for others. What IS the world coming to?
Well, I stop myself right there. First of all, if I let stuff like that get to me then I’m just adding to that intensely negative energy.
Secondly, I don’t know the circumstances of their days. Maybe they just got an unexpected bill that they can’t afford. Maybe they had their hours cut back at work. Maybe a close friend or relative just told them that they’re terminally ill. Maybe they stubbed their toe, missed a train, lost their wallet and cracked the screen on their phone. Who knows. I don’t. You don’t.
Not that this excuses their behaviour - but I really challenge you to tell me that any of those things wouldn’t put you on edge a little.
“But suppose they had a perfectly uneventful day, what then?” you may say.
Well, I know I’m a product of my experiences and my environment. Living in London has taught me a lot about how Canadian I am and what that means. It’s also taught me a lot about the kind of upbringing I’ve had. I fully recognise that I’m hugely fortunate in that my parents have always encouraged me and told me I was capable of great things. They taught me self respect and they enforced the importance of manners. My culture enforced that too - we Canadians are universally known for being polite and friendly - and I totally get that now. It’s not a stereotype - it’s true.
To give it an analogy - you can’t get angry at a kitten for being a kitten. Well, you can if you want to but you’ll look silly. You’ll be all, “That kitten knocked my plant over and then clawed the couch and then got muddy footprints all over my bedding!”
A lot of what people do is habitual. They can unlearn it, for sure, but only if they’re aware of it. And most people aren’t. Even those of us who think we are aren’t really aware.
The only difference between me and those two people arguing is that I know that I do stuff without realising it that probably annoys, irritates, irks and bothers other people.
Then you say, “But shouldn’t they learn that their behaviour was inappropriate?”
Lets look at the exchange again, shall we? She pushed him so he pushed her and she said he shouldn’t have done but he said he should’ve because she did it first.
Sounds a bit childish. Sort of - simple reasoning. Have you ever tried to tell a child how to think or act? Parents will know what I’m talking about. As a babysitter I quickly learned the magic of reverse psychology. Trying to change people by telling them what to do, if they didn’t ask and if they’ve already got their back up, isn’t exactly going to work.
Besides, that’s assuming I know better. No one likes someone saying “You’re doing it wrong and I know these things because I’m smarter/more clever/better at this stuff than you.”
I know I don’t like it. And I also know it’s something I need to work on.
Which brings me to having gratitude for troublemakers. When I see stuff like that it reminds me where I still have work to do. It reminds me that I’m not perfect and I don’t have everything sorted out. It reminds me to be mindful in my actions and thoughts and not to make excuses for poor behaviour.
So I want you to thank your troublemakers. Without them we wouldn’t be challenged. And remember, we’re all really different and that means you’re probably someones troublemaker, yourself. So thank yourself too and remember to be kind about it. Life is about growth and experiences. It would be a pretty boring planet if everyone thought the same and acted the same. Why, then we’d all be Borg! And we know how creepy Borg are.