Dearest Man Behind the Counter:
I am almost always nice. Will smile. Say thank you. Step into your shoes. See the world from your vista. Won’t get fired up, won’t rebound, won’t counter an attack.
But you, were plainly, obnoxious. Simply, mean.
I am trying to see what it was that day that irked you, that had you throw a tantrum at me, a perfect stranger. What did you have for breakfast? You probably had a drink last night and the hangover’s a pain. Had another fight with your wife. She left you. Or perhaps you just hate what you do and I’m just another bad day at work. What feathers did I ruffle? But Man Behind the Counter, you were quite the villain. And it was tough to be brave, be unflinching, to take a breath and step into your tight fitting shoes. Because no matter what night or day you had, that does not justify the stomping and scolding, the dressing down I got from you.
And so I tried to picture you smaller, shrinking to an inch. So I couldn’t feel so small too. And so there you were in your temper, insinuating that I was a liar, quite ferocious, except that now, you were as big as my thumb. That’s what I do when someone’s unjustifiably nasty. Bring down the bully to size. You’re now a funny man going around in circles on my palm with a squeaky voice. I choose laughter instead. And smile. Say thank you. Bravely add: “I understand. But you could have explained it to me objectively. I didn’t deserve the lashing and prejudgment.” And then walk away. Leave you behind your glass pane. Still small. Still squeaky.
I was dying to feed into your anger too. React with a dozen articles from the Civil Code. It was tough trying to keep a straight face. I was half mad and half grinning, imagining you pacing around on my palm in that screechy voice of yours.
It’s unfortunate that you had to lash out at me, a complete stranger. That you had such pain in your head, your heart, or your limbs, that you felt you could release it by firing at me. But bravery and compassion: that’s what I got from your tirade. And how to douse a raging flame.
I hope you remember how I said thank you with a half-smile. And please next time, look at the girl on the other side. And imagine if you only smiled back. I would have asked you how your day was, given you good advice about hangover cures or sending flowers. And maybe if you looked past me you’d have noticed how it was still beautiful outside your drab four corners.
I can’t save the world but I can make it better. So peace be with you dearest stranger.
The Girl on the Other Side