For years, my friends and I have had some good laughs over my inability to identify myself in a line-up, made apparent by the number of times I have pointed out my own reflection in a public mirror as a cute stranger. That number is somewhere between one and happened recently, so let’s not put too fine a point on it.
The best story, one I’ve told many times, is the time I actually walked into a column mirror in a crowded shopping mall. As I was weaving through the crowd, I saw a cute girl coming toward me. I liked her hair. I liked her sweater–the glimpses of it I could see. I thought, “I’m going to tell that girl how cute she is.”
But that girl kept walking right toward me. The closer I got to her, the more het up I felt. She should step to the side to let me pass. I intended to step to the side, but when she kept coming full on at me, I got mad and played chicken with her, setting my jaw as her expression changed to something determined, and a little angry.
She won, because I ended up with a face full of mirror, hitting that thing full force, with my nose and forehead taking the brunt of the blow. It knocked me backwards, and for a second, I thought the other girl had hit me, and I was about to look around for bystander help. It was the oily face-splotch on the mirror that finally clued me in to my mistake. That, and the weird looks from the bystanders.
I think about that every time I am in the grocery store, and someone is coming at me full-on with their cart. I think about how my determination of right of way left me with a face full of myself.
I think about it every time I am trying to exit a door, or an elevator, and people are pushing in on me. I think about how my insistence that I was the more important party left me with a bruised forehead.
I think about it every time I am trying to navigate a hallway, and someone is taking up the middle space, instead of staying to the right. I think about how my nose hurt for days, and how when I sneezed, it felt like my face was exploding.
I learned a good lesson about what happens when you put yourself first in a silly situation, and you come up against someone just as stubborn, and determined as you are. No one wins. My face certainly didn’t win, and that mirror looked like someone had slapped it with a cloth bag full of Crisco.
What would have happened, had I just stepped aside and smiled?
I’d have missed the mirror, and realized I’d been flirting with myself, and I could have had a laugh and felt good about it. Instead, I just hurt myself, embarrassed myself, and never got to tell that girl how cute she was, because by the time I got to her, I hated her on principle.
I think a lot of what we’re seeing in the world is a lot of us hating people on principle. We don’t want to take a step to the right because we think we are right. We are walking ahead, with our brains full of our own intentions. Good intentions! Intentions of compliments and offers of friendship! But we still think the other person should step aside, and when they don’t, we don’t ask about their intentions. We just headbutt them.
Or, we step aside, and when they don’t acknowledge our greatness, we get mad because they haven’t appreciated our magnanimity. We have to get over that. We have to get to the point where we step aside without an expectation of thanks, just because it is the kind thing to do. It’ll catch on. Kindness is just as catching as cruelty–it just takes a little longer to get to a fever.
The next time you have the opportunity to step aside for someone else, think about me and my busted face. Have a laugh, then skootch over.