Wednesday, December 26, 2012
How to Apologize to a Stranger
Yesterday, Mike and I decided to have our own Christmas and start new traditions with our own two-person family. We decided on heading into the city to see Tarantino's new flick DJANGO UNCHAINED. (Which was awesome). As we walked to the movie theater after a slow subway ride, Mike picked up the pace which I rebelled against with, "It's not going to be sold out." To my surprise, it was very much sold out. So we bought tickets for the next showing two and half hours later and got a bite to eat. We decided to get there early and arrived at 3 for a 3:30 showing and there was a line down the block. Did I mention it was FREEZING outside? The woman waiting in line in front of us was berating her teenage son for no apparent reason. People were antsy. People were cranky.
When we finally got inside, there were no seats together. However, I asked two gentleman if they wouldn't mind scooting down and Mike and I got two seats in the center row. SCORE! Now it was time for popcorn. I braved the loooonnng popcorn line when an usher decide to split it in two and a young woman probably my age jumped ahead (from behind me) to the second line. My crankiness, my numb toes, my anxiety over not wanting to miss one minute of the movie, this movie that was now taking up the better part of Christmas, all exploded when the girl asked, "Is this the second line?" I rudely barked, "We're ALL in line" as if to warn her that if she dared tried skipping, cutting or any form of cheating me, my wrath would rain down upon her. She whimpered, "But he said there were two lines." She then let me cut in front of her, since I had clearly been in front of her in the long single line and said, "Go ahead."
As I waited in the second line, I felt bad. This is new for me. For years I have justifiably touted off my attitude when I felt I was being wronged. I used my bitchiness or older-sister-intimidation-tactics to bully myself into what I felt I deserved. But now, it doesn't feel good. And what the hell is the difference if she gets her popcorn before me? What if in that extra two minutes of waiting I decided I didn't want popcorn and wanted to save myself the 2000 buttery calories? And for crying out loud, it was Christmas!! I was being a real-life scrooge.
I wanted to say I was sorry, but I was afraid I would be embarrassed. Surely the people who kind of got a kick out of me being snarky to the line-cutter would be let down. Besides, I was right...right? The closer I got to the counter with that line-cutter behind me, the more I realized that it was not about anyone else but me. If my apology was not accepted, at least I made it. If I was then teased, maybe I deserved it. But it didn't feel good to be such a bitch on Christmas. Just before I got to the counter I quickly turned to her as she quickly looked down at her phone.
"Sorry I was rude," I said and genuinely, not all tough.
"I just didn't understand," she said.
"I'm Christmas cranky...and I've been waiting in all these lines..."
"Yeah, that's Christmas. We all have." she said with a smile.
"Yeah, you're right. I should just go with the flow...Sorry."
"No, it's fine," she said.
I stepped up to the counter and ordered my buttery popcorn with peace. And then the most amazing thing happened. By the time I got to my seat, I had forgotten about it all. When Mike asked if there had been a long line, I said, "Yeah...oh and then I got in a fight...and then I apologized." He laughed as we licked the salt off of our fingers. If I had not apologized, I'm sure that whole incident would have nagged at me. My anger would grow like a well-watered weed and I would find every reason to justify how I was right in putting that line-cutter in her place. But in truth, I was just rude and I looked more the asshole than she.
I've never done that before. Apologized to a stranger. But it's a lot easier than it seems.