I like to think of myself as a patient person. I have no problem explaining something to someone over and over, and I rarely snap over small annoyances. My downfall in this area, however, is timing. I don't know if it's my age, the world around me, or just my overcrowded schedule, but lately I seem to have no patience for people who suck away at the pathetic little remnants of free time that are scattered throughout my week. Having traveled quite a bit, I've noticed that the concept of time tends to be a cultural concept. Here in Boston, hesitation can easily earn an eye roll or a sharp remark. I've trained myself to have my credit card ready before any transaction takes place. We live in a fast-paced world, and I don't want to be that person slowing everyone down. Last week I ran to the store to grab a quick bite between patients, and the 150-year-old woman in front of me kept me in line for 20 minutes while she weeded through all the pennies and nickels in her purse to pay for her cart of food. My irritation turned to anger, then eventually suppressed rage. I was tempted to just pay for all of her stuff so that I could consume my sushi while I still in possession of all of my natural teeth.
After she finally left, I had to laugh at myself. In the overall scheme of things, is this really something to get worked up about? No. Yet, I couldn't help feeling as if she had cheated me out of a few minutes of precious downtime. I had back-to-back patients all day; all I wanted was to zone out for a bit and recharge before diving back in, and this woman had taken that from me.
It's funny how easy it is to believe that people are doing things to us on purpose. That woman wasn't moving at a snail's pace just so she could watch me snap. She wasn't some malicious creature plotting to spend lots of time in lines, to ruin the days of all those around her. She simply had a very different perception of time than I did. Or, I should say...as we did. By the time she was done, there was quite the line behind me. And the man behind me wasn't as good at hiding his feelings as I was. My neck actually began to sweat from all of his huffs and long-suffering sighs as he moved closer and closer to me, muttering under his breath. In the end, I didn't know who to dislike more.
The point here? Rudeness, lack of respect, and annoying behavior are often based on perspective. That woman didn't think she was doing anything wrong by biding her time. That mouth-breather behind me didn't think he was doing anything wrong by getting annoyed and being all passive-aggressive about it. I didn't think I was doing anything wrong when I secretly wished that both of these people would burst into flame. We all had our own little stories going on about perceived slights being done to us, and the truth is that no one in that line was focused on anything but themselves.