I’m not a meek person, by any stretch of the imagination. When something bothers me, I say so. When it’s someone I care about that bothers me, I’m nicer about it, but I still say so. When it’s drunk people in my cab, or who want to get into my cab, there’s a telling variety of reactions to this.
I usually say whatever is bothering me in a polite but firm voice, never apologetic. “Please stand on the curb when you hail a taxi, I don’t want a car to hit you,” or “Please don’t pull on my seat when you get into and out of the cab, it’s invasive,” or “My name is Becky, please don’t call me ‘Sweetheart’ or any other name.” Reactions span these four things: intense defensiveness, dramatic surprise, deliberate disregard (ie: repeating ‘Sweetheart’ as many times as possible in conversation thereafter), and exaggerated remorse.
I feel like I’m the one who is doing all the right things and being punished for it, lately. If you have a need, let someone know. If someone is being inappropriate, communicate that. I’m working under the assumption that people are unaware they’re doing something that makes me uncomfortable, therefore if I tell them politely they will realize it, stop, and move on (hopefully adjusting their long term habits for others around them). Instead I’m being made to feel like I’m out of line, demanding, crazy, and I should just shut the hell up and get back in my place. There was no emotion for me except maybe a little impatience in the beginning, but once made to feel like *I* am the crazy one for doing what I’m supposed to do, then I get insanely frustrated.
More often I’m in situations, inside and outside of my work, where someone has needled me into this frustrated and angry space on purpose just to point at me once I’m there and either laugh at me for being mad or telling me it’s my fault that I am mad, which obviously makes me more mad.
I’m getting over an ill-advised relationship where I feel like I was playing the role of Charlie Brown, and they were Lucy, tricking me with a football. I had the football pulled away from me about 4-5 times before I finally got mad, but when I did it was suddenly my fault for being so crazy and volatile. While I admit, I was REALLY upset, it didn’t just spontaneously happen. It was two months of my emotional generosity being vampiricly leeched away with the hope of something in return. This left me raw and exposed, and when I got the football taken the last time it just hurt all the more. On top of that, anything similar that followed from various other places in my life set me off, everything felt more sensitive and compounded. I couldn’t stop hurting, my walls had crumbled down.
Facing weekend nights full of drunk assholes that were going to try and get anything they could out of me for their entertainment felt daunting, but also like an easy distraction. I cringed away and at the same time threw myself into the fray.
But something happened that I wasn’t prepared for. I’m not sure if it was my tone of voice or the soft face I had on, or maybe just my dumb-ass luck, but people were gentle and empathetic. I didn’t change my habit of volunteering my personal information, they just seemed to pick up on my fragile mood and humanity took care of me. Strangers were nice. It’s reminded me that maybe I should watch my impatient tones, because maybe even if I don’t hear it in my own voice, people will still be reacting negatively to it. I should try to maybe not build my walls so high and strong and hope that people won’t always use my nice questions and requests against me. I will remember that some do, and those people I should also treat gently, even if sometimes I throw in a subtle jab at their expense to point out their unnecessary behaviors.
Through my whole life, I’ve struggled with this righteous indignation. Someone has wronged me, but I’m the asshole for reacting strongly to it. “It’s not my fault that these people drive me crazy!” I told a very good friend who has known me for over fifteen years. He gently told me when I was able to truly absorb it, “Yea, they suck, but you were still crazy.” This has been ringing on my ears ever since. Yes, people drive me to anger and frustration and I try very hard not to let that bleed over onto people who aren’t involved, but I do need to find a better way to not care so damn much.
As Halloween approaches, I feel myself tensing up for the rough weekend. It will be full of out-of-town people partying their asses off, who will disregard those around them. They will require a lot of patience, hand-holding, and babysitting. The biggest line of defense for a cab driver during a weekend like this, where the city is swollen to twice it’s population, is the power locks. I will be gently asking for names and addresses of people wanting into my cab. Really, this is a test to figure out if the prospective passenger is sober and polite enough to answer appropriately, which will trigger the “unlock” obstacle of this taxi ride. I will not react when yelled at or called names for not letting someone in, even when it’s the 30th time that night.
I need to let the right one in.