Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Being Nice

This weekend, I had an unpleasant encounter in the parking lot when I was at the grocery store. I shop at this HUGE strip mall, and there are probably at least a hundred spots right in front of the grocery store. I try to park a bit off the the side so that there won't be lots of people around.

Anyway, I parked off to the side, and there was an empty spot next to me, so I had the back door wide open while I tried to get the baby out of her carseat. So I'm getting her straps open and I hear this honk: a woman was trying to pull into the spot right next to me and she couldn't because I had the door to my car open.

Now the lot was nowhere near full. There were empty spots behind me. There were empty spots across from me. There was absolutely no reason why anyone had to have the spot directly next to mine while I was struggling to get my baby out of the car.

I kind of waved my hand helplessly and closed the door a little bit more. She went into the spot and pulled through to the spot in the next row (which she also could have gotten to by just spending two seconds driving around the row).

And then the woman, who had her window down, yells at me, "That's not very nice, you know."

I yelled back something like, "You have the whole huge lot to park in!"

It was sort of ironic that she said that to me, because I spend my life obsessing over whether I'm nice or not. I want desperately to be nice. I hold doors for people, I always brake to allow people make the difficult left turn out of the McDonald's by my house, I try to give money to charity, and I usually tip more than 20%.

At work, I make a huge effort to be perceived as "nice" by staff and patients. I try to smile a lot at people, even when I'm exhausted and not entirely feeling it. I write "please" and "thank you" in my orders. Whenever a nurse or therapist alerts me about something, I make a big deal out of thanking them. I want people to say, "That Dr. Fizzy is so nice!"

Of course, I worry that the fact that I am always conscious of making an effort means that I'm not genuinely nice. Maybe I'm just faking nice. Making I'm actually a jerk and nobody is fooled by my nice facade.

Or maybe I shouldn't let myself get so riled up by a crazy woman in the parking lot.

25 comments:

  1. Over years of working in primary care I realized how prevalent mental illnesses are in this society. I am seeing so many unstable patients, I am now making a point of educating my kids to not overreact to any strangers. You never know what meds they are supposed to be on and not compliant with. I seriously worry about running into my patients in real life. That lady seems to be in need for conseling. Just remember psychiatric care is not easily accessable to all, insurance, stigma, cost, etc

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  2. Anon: I actually considered moving my car b/c I was worried she was going to slash my tires or something. But it's hard not to take even crazy lady comments to heart.

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  3. You did nothing wrong. Like anonymous said, she's probably crazy. It would have bothered me too.

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  4. I would have gone full out "Towanda!" on her.

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  5. For a moment, I was actually considering approaching her in the supermarket, but now I'm really glad I didn't, because god knows what she would have done.

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  6. Oh, i'm exactly the same way, and, crazy or not, that lady probably would have made me cry....

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  7. Civility is good, and I applaud you for practicing it. Nice is as nice does.

    The woman was a jerk, but the best thing to do is let it go. You're unlikely to improve her danger, there may be a risk to you, and you don't have a lot of extra time and energy to spend on resentment that has no hope of compensation.

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  8. I feel bad for saying this out loud but people like that me laugh in their face. I think because I'm such a sensitive person and before I would have cried and spent my whole week/month over analyzing what she said and ruined my whole life because of it, it makes me laugh now. I don't like feeling bad or down and have come to realize that these people don't know me nor have they seen a snippet of my life so who are they to tell me that I'm not nice or I'm not this or that, clearly they're not nice for trying to hurt me. So after many wasted hours, days, months, and years of being hurt by total and complete strangers, I just laugh. Plus it gets to them more than me and it prevents me from internalizing the whole thing. And just like everyone else said, clearly there is something wrong in the mental department.

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  9. If she had the whole lot to park in and if the spot next to you wasn't any closer to the entrance then I wouldn't have even given her the satisfaction of moving the door.

    I think it's great that you go out of your way to be a good person but you are under no obligation to return that gesture to jerks (whether or not they have issues) and ESPECIALLY not if it's over something so petty as a stupid parking spot in a spacious lot.

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  10. Dr. Kay: You're right. It just shook me that someone would do that, and I started wondering if I was somehow in the wrong.

    Mingle: I'm pretty sure there were open spots closer to the entrance, but if there weren't, there were spots only a few yards further away. She was an able-bodied woman and it was a nice day... she didn't need to be right at the front door. I closed the door probably an inch, and she practically took my door off in her desperation to take that spot.

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  11. Wow, you're not in the wrong at all! Seriously, it was crazy on her part no matter what, but especially when you are trying to get the baby out of the car. She's totally the one that wasn't being very nice.

    I am totally a person who would overanalyze the situation and somehow feel bad, too :)

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  12. Why didn't you slash her tires after she went into the store?

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  13. Thanks for making the effort to be nice to fellow hospital staff... many don't. I did have one chief resident who notoriously would say "thanks so much" after everything. the first time it was meaningful, and every other time I questioned it since the wording and inflection was exactly the same.

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  14. Dr. Nana: Because my knife was in my other diaper bag.

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  15. I had some guy in a run down car honk at me a couple of weeks ago (for absolutely no reason I could think of - was driving along in a lane - wasn't even blocking him from merging - just listening to songs with kids and driving speed limit). He then proceeded to weave back and forth around my car and honk and flip me off. I got really scared, and slowed down so I would get stuck at a stoplight and he would move on. Gave him a little too much free rent in my head, but let it go after about an hour or so. People are crazy!

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  16. Giz: I think people get almost as insane in their cars as they do on the internet. I once got honked at while going across a crosswalk with a baby carriage by some car trying to make a yellow light.

    And just today, I was merging from a 2-lane road to a 1-lane road, and the car that was supposed to merge behind me was aggressively trying to push his way in front of me. I just let him go. What difference does one car length make?

    Another time I was on the highway with a very nice, rational friend of mine driving. Some other car did something to piss him off, and he said he was now going to get in front of that car and make the driver hit his brakes. I was just like, "Why??"

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  17. Some people are just miserable and try to spread the misery. You did nothing wrong.

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  18. You were nicer than I would have been. I would have responded, "I'm trying to get my kid out the car you &@A!" (Okay. Most of the time I would have just moved out of the way, but if it involved a kid I'd have a problem with it -- that's why I think I would have yelled at her.)

    The older I get, the less willing I am to put up with other people's crap. :P (That can be a bad thing on my part, though that means I no longer try to please everyone so I'm not used as a doormat as much anymore.)

    Maybe that woman was having a really bad day and just dumping on everyone she runs into. I guess the best thing is to extend grace and forgive her. :-/

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  19. Mean and crazy people are everywhere.
    Why some people don't like riding in an elevator with kids, but those same people will let their dogs leak you, saying with a smile "it is very friendly"????arggh....

    I would not have closed the car's door, I would have told her that she has to wait two minutes until you take the baby out. Automatically, I usually do like you, I close the door a little, but then I regret it, thinking:"hey, I am right, she is wrong, why should I give her the satisfaction to close my door? she can wait a minute or two even if the parking lot is full!!!"
    As for the jerks on the road, yes there are plenty and I hate them!!! I usually try to let them go far in front of me - I hate having them behind! Once a car was honking behind me - I was at speed limit - as soon as he was able to pass, he came right in front of me, and braked. Could easily had been an accident... but crazy people don't care I guess...

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  20. My husband tells me "the world is being taken over by stupid people" - he would use this as a prime example ;-) (her not you, obviously).

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  21. Fizzy, you sound like a nice person. I think all we can do is try to be decent to others, and if we're treated badly, to first decide if it's worth it to have a confrontation. In my opinion, it's generally not worth it. I have also been generally lowering my expectations of people's behavior which is sad. For example, as long as my patients don't assault me, I'm good. I barely expect them to take my advice anymore, or not act all entitled and demanding.

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  22. Fizzy - my colleague and I drove to out of town CME in her new car a few months ago. She was all excited about it, it was 2 weeks old. She made a point of parking in the very far away lot with no cars 2 rows before and after her. And one morning we walked into her parking lot with huge pick up truck parked right next to her sideways, the pick up part less than 2 feet from her new car toy. She was besides herself how this person decided to park right next to her, so close and so many parking empty all around her. You know it also escapes me who would intentionally do it in the dark night of the evening before. I guess mutual consensus is stupidity is taking over the world.

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  23. >>She was besides herself how this person decided to park right next to her, so close and so many parking empty all around her.>>

    Someone who also didn't want his vehicle damaged? I almost always park at the far end of the parking lot because I hate door dings (even though my car is no longer new, it still looks good), so while I feel your friend's pain, I see this behavior all the time.

    Personally, if I'm forced to choose between parking next to an obviously expensive car vs. a beater, I'll choose the nice car every time. Owners of nice cars are more likely to take care not to open a door into my car, if only because doing so would damage theirs as well.

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  24. Last Anon: there were two rows of EMPTY parking before and after my friend's car. The person was not "forced to choose" between parking next to expensive vs beat up car. The person chose to park right next to a car, versus parking a few lots away. Not just a car either, but two piece pick-up that was parked sideways occupying two lots. And my friend's car was not expensive, just new lower class vehicle. All our company cracked about it for a half a day. Sorry, it caused you disuress.

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