So today we came back to the office after a long holiday weekend. I settled into my daily routine quickly, albeit begrudgingly. I lamented not being independently wealthy and not being a princess. I reviewed emails, worked on projects which I didn’t care about on Friday and otherwise made myself productive and useful. They like that where I work!
Our mailman came scampering hurriedly into our office in his usual style which often reminds me of a frightened rabbit avoiding a predator. I usually try to avoid contact and conversation with him but he made eye contact with me as he handed over a bundle of mail. I reached my hand out and as we locked eyes…I couldn’t help myself. I asked him how his weekend was.
“Terrible. My wife left me.”
What the hell am I supposed to do with that? High five him? Ask if she was screwing a different mail man? Buy him a drink? Offer a four inch thick stack of dollar bills for his inevitable downward slide towards a strip bar so that his drunken marriage proposal to the first girl he sees will at least have some weight to it? I’m pretty sure that Miss Manners doesn’t cover this type of thing and even if she did, public behavior leads me to conclude that not many people read her articles anyway.
For the sake of politeness I gave a weak sympathetic smile and stated that I was sorry.
I asked. That’s where it started. Out of a sense of civility, I asked. It wasn’t because I particularly cared but I’d like to believe that my mama raised me right so I was polite and asked. It’s obviously my fault. But does a polite inquiry necessitate an emotional dumping on? The malice and venom in his voice was beyond the pale. I didn’t deserve that. And honestly, I don’t take receipt of such a reaction. I know what I did. I made a normal inquiry. I didn’t leave you dude. She did. Let’s park that hatred where it properly belongs shall we? It’s got to be something with my character or personality that I attract certain responses without intending to. It’s happened all of my life. I might as well wear a t-shirt with a picture of the Statue of Liberty sniffing her armpit captioned with, “Bring me your tired, your poor, your emotionally overwrought, your delusional, your bitter and somewhat manufactured bullshit. I can take it”.
I also had an outgoing package that he forgot. So on my lunch break I schlepped it over to the post office and said to the lady at the desk, “Hey, so sorry to bother you, but I think our postman is going through a tough time and forgot to take this.” She pointed out that it technically had to go to UPS but that wasn’t easy to spot on the return label. I smiled and apologized for the inconvenience. Some person (allegedly – I thought he was more of a booger with legs) standing on the side blurted out, “Yeah because it’s her job to bring it there? Stupid.” I turned to face him. “You work here?”
“Does this have anything to do with you?”
He shook his head.
“Is delivery your field of expertise?”
He shook his head again.
I smiled and leaned in towards him, “Then why would you care what I am or am not doing? I made a mistake. I apologized. It has nothing to do with you. And I really don’t want you directly or indirectly involved in this. But somehow you think you helped? By the way…your fly is open”.
It wasn’t but I’m a jerk and savored his reaction the way some would savor a truffle.
So here’s my question….
….do we have the right to runaway train our feelings and wreak emotional carnage on the innocent person who inquires as to our well being? It’s like an emotional hit and run. Do we need to insert ourselves in a scenario that clearly doesn’t belong to us? Or should we all keep ourselves a little more in check? Has social media led to oversharing to a toxic degree? Do our relationship boundaries blur because there is relatively little to no privacy anymore? Our lives are on constant display and up for anonymous interpretation and judgment yet we get offended when that happens. Is this humanity? I adopt a Teflon personality at certain times simply because I refuse to mantle the responsibility of someone else’s inability to control themselves. I live with a five year old. Your point is?
I ran into some old friends. My oldest friends. I’ve literally known them all of my life. There is some history there which is tangible, going back to the pre cellphone/social media days. Back then when you liked your friends, you had to put effort in. You had to remember their phone numbers and call them (on a rotary phone no less). You either invited them to your house or were invited to theirs (with parental permission granted which required anywhere from 1 to 10 extra steps of friendship commitment). You spent time together without a phone or a tablet or a LIKE BUTTON. And most times, even though as teenagers we had the emotional content of a turnip, we supported each other. We genuinely loved each other and even if we were mad as hell at each other – God help the silly bastard that ever messed with one of our friends. It. Was. On. That was the only explanation required at my house.
Adulty Pants: “Why’d you get into a fight at school?”
Baby Mrs. Magilla: “Because someone started with ___________.”
This led to the inevitable conference call with beer between my parents and the parents of whomever’s virtue/reputation (good or bad)/mother/father/brother/sister/dog/cat/address/church/hairstyle/bra-snapping outrage/ass size/clothing choice/intellect or dumb ass I was defending. Now? Everyone would get expelled from school. Yes, I realize I am completely dating myself and no I don’t give a hoot.
Going back to my hometown and spending a precious few moments with my friends was a slice of a simpler time. It made me happy. It always does. Though the town has changed and is now so full of itself that it’s actually comical we still make our pilgrimage to pay respect to that which molded us. A love of family. A love of community. A love of country. A love of each other. I still love them as much today as I did back in the turnip days (actually it’s a little deeper now that we’ve grown). We’ve been nice and rotten and everything in between. Just like life and love and spouses and kids and work. Nice and rotten and everything in between.
It was nice to reaffirm what matters.