A man I’ve known forever died recently. He got in a tussle with the cable guy. I am not kidding. He was 79 years old, recently widowed, and was pretty frail.
Apparently, he was not satisfied with the work the phone/cable/Internet guy did on his house, so when the workman got in his van to start driving away, our friend reached in the window and grabbed the steering wheel. It’s not clear what happened next (a fall? a heart attack? being run over?), but he died later that night. He left behind a daughter around my age with Down’s Syndrome and no siblings.
So sad, and so shocking. I wonder, what did it take for him to snap? Were the pressures of being widowed, struggling financially, caring for his daughter, and plain old loneliness just too much to bear? At what point did all of his hardship and pain boil over onto the workman, who certainly was doing his best to do a good job?
I think about times in my adult life when I’ve been teetering on the edge of hopelessness and despair or seething with anger about some injustice. I can imagine myself going a little bit crazy on the closest target.
In a pharmacy when I’ve dragged my sick body to a doctor’s appointment for a prescription, soldiered through a long line and then been met with some problem with my insurance card or a snippy pharmacist? Aaargh. That’s enough to make me want to cry, or yell at someone or both.
I think pharmacists should dole out an extra measure of kindness to all customers, who all surely have gone through a lot (new cancer treatment? paralyzing depression? sleepless night with croupy kids?) before they’ve even dragged themselves up to that counter.
I also feel crappy at car dealerships and car repair shops. I tend to feel stupid and helpless because my knowledge of cars is so limited. The realization that I could be taken advantage of leaves me feeling shrill and suspicious.
And the aforementioned phone/Internet/cable company? I remember moving into this house 6 years ago and being greeted by no dial tone. The phone company helpfully informed me that per my instructions (ha!) they had turned OFF this phone service on move-in day, while turning ON phone service for the house we’d just vacated.
Not good, especially since we get no cell reception here and my grandfather was dying. I remember walking down the road in the rain several times over the course of 7 days, leaving my little ones in the house, trying to get enough cell phone reception to find out if my grandfather was still alive. Ugh.
I’ve been in service industries and I understand how customers can get so upset. A lot of times the frustration comes from a feeling of helplessness. I wonder if that’s what Mr. Clarke, a mild-mannered, soft-spoken and softhearted man was feeling when he grabbed that steering wheel.
I wonder, what makes you feel like you are going to snap?
And as I think of Melinda, the 41 year old who is about 8 years old developmentally and who lost both parents in a year’s time, I remind myself that some things just aren’t worth losing my cool over.