Monday, January 12, 2009

No More Mr. Nice Guy

In case anyone is reading this that does not know me in "the real world," let me share a little something about myself: I am a friendly, congenial fellow, and I like to get along with just about anyone who isn't racist, prejudiced, or otherwise small-minded.

I have also been out-blogged, so far this year, by two brilliant mothers, an uber-talented bassist, and a ceramic owl. But, I digress...

In general, I think most people who know me would say that I am likable, if not downright nice. I feel confident in saying this because I have made a serious, conscious effort to be this way. There was a time in my life when this was not so easy for me but, I am happy to say, I am now predisposed toward the positive.

Lately, however, I've become acutely aware of just what an unforgiving bastard I can still be, once in a while. So far, this year has presented me with ample opportunities to look into this facet of my personality and, I have to say, I'm not proud.

Let's start with that fateful Saturday night. I was working behind the bar at the wine shop where my lovely wife waits tables. I get to go in whenever they need an extra body, and it's always a fun time. It's a bit of work, but the people are great and we laugh & sip good wine all night long. (Now that I think about it, that's hardly "work" at all.)

On this particular night, we had a huge party in the tasting room (our version of a party room, for seating larger parties comfortably). These were not the folks one typically finds at an upscale wine bistro. No, these folks seemed more likely to be found, on any given night, at a boot-scootin' country bar, or even a friendly neighborhood beer-'n-shot watering hole. One guy, for example, was seriously miffed because my wife (their server) couldn't bring him a plastic or Styrofoam cup that he could use as a spittoon. (We have neither plastic nor Styrofoam in the restaurant.) Karen managed to find him an empty 7-Up bottle, which he filled about half way during the course of the evening, and was kind enough to leave behind for her to dispose of. (No, I'm not kidding.)

This party also presented my wife with several additional challenges. First of all, there were so many people that we didn't have enough chairs to accommodate them, even after pulling empties from all over the restaurant. The room was packed elbow to elbow, with everyone milling around. Even Karen, an excellent, experienced server, had a difficult time keeping up with who ordered what, and how to serve the food.

Worst of all, many of the people in this party were just downright rude. By the end of the night, my beautiful wife was almost in tears.

I...was LIVID.

Several times throughout the night, when Karen would walk out of that room obviously shaken, I almost went back to the room and asked people to leave. What's that you ask? Am I allowed to do this? Nope - it would have cost me my cushy, enjoyable side-job, and possibly gotten me banned from the wine shop altogether. I didn't care. I wanted every person in that room to leave, and preferably meet a fiery death on the way home as a result of their own drunken driving. I'm not exaggerating - I was literally hoping for physical harm to befall these people. Especially the rude ones.

As fate would have it, after this particularly difficult Saturday evening, Karen and I also came home to - drum roll please - her parents. Yes, my in-laws were in town. Her mother had been here since Thursday and her dad came in that night while we were at work. Now, when Karen's mother is in town, Karen is literally baby-sitting her the entire time, and it's very stressful. Her mother is deaf which, in and of itself, is not the problem. Deaf culture however, is a subject for another post (or two or three) and, while Karen smiles through it all, these visits are never relaxing. Coming home to any guests, to be sure, is less than ideal after a tough night like Karen had, when she really just needed to walk in, plop down, and unwind.

When I first started dating Karen, and for many years into our marriage, I got along with everyone in her family. Now - not so much. I won't air our dirty laundry in public, and there is no possible way for me to abbreviate the history that has led to the tension between us, but...things have happened. Despite my efforts to "be nice," I just can't seem to forgive these things and put it all behind me. Even knowing how much it bothers Karen (for whom I'd do anything), I cannot muster the will to make that happen.

So, I'm left wondering: How many other people have made such a determined effort to become a better person? I would hope that most people don't have to. I know that, for my friends, the best things about them do not seem manufactured or forced. They're great people, and they make me want to be a better person. Still, as hard as I've "worked on myself," I can't seem to get past this...spiteful, vindictive inability to forgive. Why?

I've finally figured it out: I can forgive anyone who wrongs me. I cannot, however, forgive those who wrong the people I love.

Hey...maybe I'm not so ashamed by that, after all.


Tammy Howard said...

First, I'll confirm. You are indeed a very nice likable guy. And you make a mean boat drink.

Second, I think anything that happens in a food service situation needs to be kept in its place. I remember K. talking about that night and it sucked. It sucked a lot. But any of us in food service have nights that suck. And nights that shine - but we tend to give less emphasis to those. I imagine retail or any business where one deals with the public on a general basis is the same. People can be asses, but when you are in the position of server - well - it is what it is.

FWIW I provide - and dispose of - 'spitoons' all the time. I realize my place of employment isn't upscale so maybe there is a different standard of behavior expected, but - again - what are you gonna do - short of saying "we don't serve your kind" making us guilty of the prejudice you mention in your opening paragraph.

The way I see it is, you take it or you leave it. And quite often I've been on the verge of leaving it - because "I don't need to take this shit." But then I go back. Because the nice folks generally outnumber the asses.

All of that being said, I like to think we are all constantly making an effort to be better people. Of course I've also been accused of being naive...

Some days it's easier than others. Some days it's downright hard. You can't forgive. I have a tendency to judge. To be fair, I turn that tendency as harshly on myself as I do on others. Probably more harshly. But that doesn't make it ok.

I'm working on it. I'll probably always be working on it.

And in closing my way-too-long comment, let me just welcome you back to the blogging world - you have deprived us of your thoughtful and thought provoking essays for too long! Excellent post - keep it up!!!

smarmygal said...

Huzzah! A post! A wonderful, well-written post to discuss! I am atwitter! (We'll save Twitter for another day...)

Harumph, to quote Balzing Saddles. I concur with the nice guy stuff. I hope Karen is aware of my plans to be your back-up wife should, God forbid, she ever wander off ;) (Osi has my friend Kim as his back-up, so he'll be just fine.)

And now to the meat: I am right there with you, brother. My brand of comedy sometimes comes as snarky responses and - upon reflection - at the expense of others. I'm not proud of it. I have made a conderted effort to try to limit that lately. (Some people, with guitars and spiky hair are just such easy targets, though, God help me.)

I don't know if we've ever shared the entire trying-to-get-married story with you regarding Osi's family, but it wasn't pretty. At one point, I left the ring on the counter and pronounced it was them or me. So not cool. They still say hurtful things - intentionally or not, I dunno.

I am trying to work on just letting that go, too. I have recently come to accept that, deep down, I do really believe that all of these people will be judged for their actions - tiny and large - by an authority much higher than mine (which isn't saying much, really). Aside from being a good person and trying to act justly and show forgiveness, there is literally nothing else I can do that will really make a difference.

Long reply, but I have like, four months of replies to your unwritten posts I need to get off my chest, Dude!

Tammy Howard said...

Hey! The date on this post is Jan. 12! What's up with that?