Monday, July 6, 2009


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.


Kate Coveny Hood said...

That is very sad - and it certainly does make you think. I find that I'm at my worst when I feel like I'm "in trouble." At work (with one of my never-ending string of awful bosses) AND at home (when I'm in the doghouse over something with my husband). That's when I catch myself taking it out on others. Luckily, I've been able to put it aside for my kids. I can't imagine being awful to them just because I'm feeling bad.

Christy said...

Days like today... I found out one of my two 'friends' in my new moms group is repeating things I said to her in confidence to a woman I barely know. Came home from that to discover Dublin had explosive DR...all the while F is not napping and is bawling in her having to clean it all up myself and then take care of an ill husband. Makes me want to scream at the cable guy too...

That story is so sad...I hope his daughter is okay.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had read this yesterday... before I snapped. What did it take for me to snap? Missing my daughter for 2 weeks. Having paid for my daughter to be away for 2 weeks. Having paid for her to have more fun than usual at someone else's home. And finally picking her up after an hour drive... and getting no hug. Instead getting the cold shoulder and a to-do list from her. About half way home I lost it and launched into a lecture that might best be titled "It is not mature to be ungrateful & rude to your mother."

The good news is that I did not suffer such drastic consequences. When I got home I threw myself on my bed and cried... and made sincere efforts to reflect and pray and pull together an apology for my own immature behavior. I have been warned many, many times about this phase... and thought that this intellectual understanding would translate into some sort of prevention plan. But it hasn't.

I did apologize. I let her know that I am sure that I will never be too old to have my feelings hurt, but that I would really try hard to set a better example of mature behavior.

So today I remained calm. I took her to the store for supplies. I vacuumed the floor and cleaned the bathroom. Welcomed 10 teenage marching band members into my home to paint t-shirts. Splatter paint! I even kept my cool when I saw the first paint footprints coming up the carpet on the stairs. I admit that we didnt exactly see eye to eye during the discussion about the lesson to be learned from this experience. But as she was panicking about what her father might say if she couldnt get the paint out of the carpet, I was the one reminding her that some things aren't worth getting worked up over.

Luckily, she got the paint out of the carpet... I have a feeling that may have been a snapping point for her dad!

Madge said...

that is so very sad. and i'm sitting here today feeling ready to snap because my husband has recently been laid off and it all seems like to much. your post helped me evaluate my situation.....

Vodka Mom said...

you are right. Some things are NOT worth fretting over.

we here for only the blink of an eye.

Heidi said...

Thanks for sharing this.

There are a few things that make me snap like rushing around cleaning the house before people are coming over. Wondering if we'll ever be out of the woods with our business...will it ever really make it? That sort of thing. From the small to the big there are definitely a few things that can make me snap.