The pettiness principle

I learned last week that one of the bosses where I work had just lost the man she had been with for years. A day or so after that, there was a sympathy card circulating for people to sign, and they were taking donations for Forgotten Felines, which was a cause the man who passed had supported.

I was going to sign the card right when I got there that morning, but someone else was signing it and people were standing around talking, so I decided to get it later. A few minutes later,  the person who was keeping the card at her desk, gave me a heads up.

It seemed there were a few people who felt that one shouldn’t sign the card if they don’t make a donation.  I just said, “wow.” My coworker said, “Yeah, tell me about it.”  I hadn’t thought too much about donating, but I probably would have done it. But now, it seemed like some were trying to force it, or was it about who gets credit for the money collected? Who knows?

My thought was to get my own card and give it to my boss and forgo the donation, or give independently online rather than giving it at work.  I was actually going to do that. You know, on principle. To stand up to the tyranny of the petty ones.  Then I saw the light.

Would that not make me as petty as they? I’ve been getting fed up with some people that work there, but perhaps this was not the time to revolt. Choose your battles, right? I gave a few bucks to the cause (that’s all I had with me), and I signed the card.

No big deal.  For me.  But my  boss was dealing with a real issue, the loss of a loved one. It’s amazing how you can get caught up in the peripheral issues and forget the important one.

It’s also very easy to get dragged down to the level of those who want to complain and play tit for tat. It’s not fair if they keep getting away with it, one might say. Someone has to do something, put them in their place. The problem is, you end up in the midst of a continual game of action and reaction, insult and retaliation, animosity and resentment.

I’d rather continue as I have been, staying out of it, not letting it bother me, and try to treat everyone with respect and amicability. It’s been working for me so far. I get along with nearly everyone, and if not, I don’t lose any sleep. It’s their problem.

I think it’s a good approach, as long as it doesn’t become a case of being afraid of conflict or trying to please everyone. If a person says something racist or personally insulting to another, for example, and you witness it, then that’s different.

The real loss here is that people spend so much time and energy complaining and making things difficult for each other, instead of working together, solving problems, sharing insights, and all that good stuff. Things that we can do to help each other and make the work day more pleasant, instead of creating and feeding an oppressive or gloomy atmosphere.

Don’t they know? (I haven’t said it for a while.) We’re all in this together.

I’ve said it before. There’s whole worlds to discover in the lives of the people around us. Go exploring!

The me first syndrome

I was going into the pharmacy today to pick up a prescription refill when I saw a woman walking swiftly toward the entrance just a little farther off than I was. I entered first, but she walked right around me up the main aisle to the pharmacy at the back of the store. You should note that it’s a particularly busy chain store pharmacy and the line is sometimes 8-10 people deep, extending down the aisle.

I hate people who always have to be first, like the ones who cut you off because they had to pass a few more cars, or just you, before getting to the merge point ahead. Don’t they realize you won’t get home from work any significant amount of time earlier?  It really doesn’t make a difference. You get one green light, to get to the next one just as it turns red. It averages out.

So, when this woman was speed walking past me, I just let her go. And turned into a side aisle to try and cut her off, thinking the line would be at the end of the aisle. She got there first, and there was no line anyway. Still, bitch beat me. Oh, wait, I’m not supposed to care. Okay, I guess I caught, temporarily, the me first syndrome. But that’s the only time…

…aside from the time the guy in the Lexus SUV came racing up on the right just to get ahead of me before his lane ended. I did not get right on his bumper and lay on the horn. I did not do the same when he deliberately took his time when he turned off the road. I definitely did not flip him the bird. Rich prick. Oops. Did it again. Ok, so there were a bunch of times. But I’m learning.

Why is it that negative behavior spreads so much more easily than positive? I guess it’s our evolutionary competitive instinct, survival of the fittest and all that. But, we’re not animals. (Well, technically we are, mammals.) Even so, humans can reason and recondition themselves to achieve a more enlightened existence and a sense of community, of brotherhood/sisterhood. Sure, we’re still going to get annoyed while driving and want to keep up with the Jones’, but it needn’t control us or anger us when we don’t come out on top. You can’t win ’em all.

While we want to always win, it’s inevitable to lose sometimes, whether a minor loss on the commute, or something more significant, we can learn from losing to someone from time to time.  Humility, acceptance, recognizing our limits, etc.

But if you truly transcend the whole contest, you realize, there’s no need to even feel as if you lost something if someone bests you. (I’m talking about the minor stuff here.) And as far as the major stuff, be satisfied that you did the best you could, that you learned something, or whatever the case may be.

So, don’t take it personally when you get cut off driving, or someone cuts in line. Let them live that way if they want. You can be content with the way things are. If they want to wait in line for hours to be the first to get the latest video game system, let them. If they want to get further in debt to get a nicer, pricier new car, or a bigger grill, addition to the house…. who cares? Be happy with what you can achieve and share with family and friends. Share and empathize, instead of hoard and alienate. Help instead of kicking while they’re down, and don’t catch the Me First Syndrome, because we’re all in this together.