Egos in Public

She’s walking down the street on the way to work. She slept in, had to rush, hadn’t ironed and so she wasn’t feeling great. That morning she had looked in the mirror and thought, I look like crap. It’s a good thing you’re not seeing clients today. Why do you drink so much every time you’re with Steph? Stop it.

827 Relax and Succeed - If the whole world was blindAs Jennifer walks past the bookstore she sneaks a look at her outfit in the window. She looks at her tinted, distorted and dirty reflection and sneers–judging herself unacceptable. Have you gone blind?! I knew I should have worn my other coat. This looks ridiculous.

Inside the store Gloria had just placed a novel in its proper order while thinking to herself when you act like you did on that date last night why would you ever hope to ever get married again? No wonder your husband left you and your fat ass. As she rises she turns to see Jennifer’s expression of dissatisfaction with her reflection in the glass, but thinking Jennifer was looking at her, Gloria thought-responds, yes bitch, I know it’s fat alright?

As Gloria rounds the corner she sees another display in the window for the Carol Shields novel Larry’s Party. That leads her to recall that it’s her friend Tamara’s birthday the next day and she hasn’t gotten her a gift yet. She ducks into the bookstore just as one of the girls that works there notices that Gloria’s a bit teary-eyed. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

827 Relax and Succeed - Only say it if it is true

Gloria nods toward Jennifer who is just entering the store. “Just some bitch mocking my fat ass.” Gloria shoots Jennifer a dirty look. Bitch. Gloria’s a touch on the lazy side and she wants to call her boyfriend, so when she sees Jennifer heading for the till with her book she turns back to her co-worker and asks, “I really don’t want to serve her. Would you mind taking that for me?”

The co-worker is helpful and agrees and heads over to check out Jennifer who was very impressed with quick excellent service she got here last time. She made a note of the woman’s name again. Indira. I’m gonna write to their head office when I get home and make sure Indira gets credit for helping me last time. Companies don’t respect how much difference those front line workers can make. To me, she was the face of the this company that day and she smiled when most clerks today just sneer and grab your money.

Jennifer arrives at the till and Gloria’s co-worker slides into the spot behind the till. She speaks very flatly (just barely politely). “Did you find everything you were looking for?”you judgmental hag. The clerk’s body language is rough and heavy, as though bitch-germs are all over the book. She wants to drop it in the bag as quickly as possible.

827 Relax and Succeed - Never judge someoneJennifer is knocked from her pleasant feeling by the clerk’s almost challenging tone and negative body language but she gives her the benefit of the doubt. She even goes so far as to try to cheer her up with a little joke: “I usually remember what I came for when I get home.” No smile, no recognition she said anything. Hmm. Okay. Well, I’m not normally a funny person. Still, I thought it was funny.

“Did you need a gift receipt?” So flat it could be judged as over the line by some.

Apparently Jennifer is on the other side of that line. Well don’t let me put you out honey. You get that I’m paying your wage by buying this right? Jennifer smile-sneers at the clerk. “No. No I’ll do without.” She can’t resist throwing in a final stab: “Thanks for your great service though.”

Ooo. Flat right back. The clerk doesn’t like this hag that attacked Gloria. And now she knew Gloria was telling her the truth about the woman because the co-worker herself was witnessing Jennifer being just as bitchy to her as she was to Gloria (remembering of course from our God-position that Jennifer never did actually see or judge Gloria).

The clerk completes the transaction and roughly tears off the receipt  and jams it into the bag with the book. With a fake smile and facetious tone: “Have a great day.”

827 Relax and Succeed - The only peopleJennifer looks back but it’s too early in the morning to be treated like this. “Yeah, thanks for the great service by the way. You know the woman upstairs managed to sound like she didn’t resent the people that pay her bills. You should try it sometime.”

“Pardon me?!” How dare she!!  “Yeah, well at least I don’t go around insulting perfect strangers in public places so maybe you should just take your stupid book and leave.”

WHAT!? “That sounds like a great idea. I think I’ll do that and come back later and talk to your manager.” Jennifer takes the bag with the book and receipt and she heads for the door a bit stunned, leaving the co-worker looking a touch concerned about how this might play out later.

In the end none of these women actually had a reason not to like each other. All of them had unpleasant experiences within their consciousness that they blamed on each other. What really happened was that they all chose to make judgment calls about what they thought they experienced. Just remember: this scene is almost all of us, almost every day, almost all day. Be aware, have a quiet mind and save yourself from daily suffering.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.