Monday, July 23, 2012

Reponsibility

"You're being rude."

"No, you're being rude!"

Uh oh. You can tell a lot about the speakers in that conversation. And one of is firing back with a pretty silly reply. Why? I have theories...


Over 4th of July, we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is a lovely and humongous aquarium in the San Francisco Bay Area (well, Monterey Bay actually, but SF counts it in). Just outside the seahorse exhibit, one of the staffers was putting on a magic show. People began to assemble, and I sat down at the end of a bench with my sleeping baby in the stroller next to me, against the wall and out of the way. My 5 year old whippersnapper sat on the bench with me. 


Meanwhile, a lady and her baby in an obnoxious stroller, the $1000 Stokke upright (yes), came along and parked herself and her ensemble right in front of the magician, right in front of all the people sitting on the bench including me. 


I assumed she would move as soon as it got more crowded; it was pretty clear she was blocking people. 


Silly me. 


More people gathered, and it became clear the Stokke lady had no intention of moving. A bold older lady sitting next to me said, “Excuse me, can you move your stroller to the side so we can see?” 


The Stokke lady, who also had a massive diamond ring on her finger—2 or 3 carats—at first pretended not to hear. But my seatmate was strong. She repeated it loudly until Stokke lady turned and said, “What?” 


“We can’t see,” said my benchmate. “We’re sitting here, and you’re blocking our seats.” 


Stokke lady smiled broadly and said, “Oh yes, I’d love to sit down, thank you.” 


My mouth fell open in shock at such a countermove, but my benchmate was quick. “No, we’re sitting here. Can you please move your stroller over to the side so we can see?” 


Stokke lady – I mean, a $1000 stroller!—said, “I was here first.” 


Me, again, mouth open in shock. Strong benchmate lady said, “It’s very rude not to move so we can see, no matter who was where first.” 


Stokke lady, in a predictable but nonetheless disappointing response, said, “You’re being very rude.” 


I could see where this was going. I began calming my innate fear of public confrontation in preparation for jumping in. Luckily, I didn’t have to (although I would have! I think!) because the lady sitting next to my benchmate said to Stokke Lady, “No, she’s not being rude. We’re just asking you to move so your [massively expensive yet having money doesn’t mean you’re more intelligent!] stroller so we can see.” [Bit in brackets is mine, obvs, but she was totally implying it.] 


Defeated and unable to think of a clever retort, Stokke Lady capitulated and began moving her stroller over toward my sleeping baby. To save face, she said rather stupidly, “I don’t know where I’m supposed to put the stroller!” 


Ah! My chance! “You can put your stroller against the wall there, see how I did? See how that’s out of the way?” I said, in a masterly stroke of passive aggressiveness. I made sure to keep my tone helpful but clear, but I was prepared for battle should she make further comment or jar my baby (she didn’t). 


The show started and all was well. Stokke Lady left after the show, all smiles, as though she’d never behaved badly. Upon later discussion with Mr. Sierra, I felt that it all boiled down to the fact that Stokke Lady was in the wrong and it was too much for her to admit it. All she had to do was accept the request gracefully (“Oh! Sure! Sorry!”), but her aggression and ridiculous argument made me think she must have known she was in the way, and was hoping no one would call her out on it. Maybe she feels entitled and isn’t used to getting called on her greediness. She did have that ring and that stroller. There was no reason for her put up such a fight, and then degrade herself by calling my benchmate rude. (Mr. Sierra tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, saying maybe it wasn’t up to Stokke Lady to accommodate every person who decided to sit behind her, especially as there hadn’t already been a crowd behind her when she got there; I refuted this because why not move so everyone can see rather than dig in your heels and act like an asshole about it? Mr. Sierra finally agreed because he had spotted Stokke Lady coming out of the Jellyfish exhibit, which is clearly marked “no strollers.” Entitled. Greedy.)


One of the major themes I’m working with in a new story is taking responsibility for your actions after you’ve done something wrong. It seems to be such a painful thing for people to do that most of us don’t. How many times have you honked at someone in the car as they barely avoid hitting your, or veer into your lane and narrowly miss slamming you, and then they honk back at you, as though you’d done something wrong? How many people do you know who have steadfastly ruined their lives because they were too stubborn to admit they’d made a mistake, or a bad choice, and were too proud to say they were sorry? How many young people have you seen fail to understand the concept of humility? How many lies have you told to avoid the truth, which will get you in trouble? Coming back from a low place and taking responsibility isn’t pretty and it’s bound to be painful. My guess is that the pain is so great that most people shy away from responsibility instead.


One of the best recent examples of taking responsibility comes from author Roni Loren, who went through a pretty bad time recently of nearly being sued for a picture she put on her blog. If you haven't read her post on it, you need to. It'll scare the bejeezus out of you, but after you're done obsessively combing through your blog for all pictures whether they're unauthorized or of your cat, you don't care, they're all going, please pay attention to the way Roni owns up to the whole thing. Look at what she says. This lady had to pay serious money for something she shouldn't have had to pay for...but she did it, and she says "I was wrong, there's no getting around that." 


That's class. And that's strength of character, too, because she admits where she is wrong even though she made her mistake in innocence, and honestly tried to correct it once it was brought to her attention. She has every right to be indignant, angry, sad, and hurt that she still had to pay even though she'd corrected the situation--that goes against everything we're brought up to believe--but she still accepts responsibility. 


Have you had to take responsibility even though it's painful? Please share. I'm really interested in people's stories about responsibility because it shows such strength of mind and character. It's something I try to drill into my older son's head because I want him to know that owning up to your nonsense is the way you grow.

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