There’s something in the air. Usually people say there’s something in the water, but I’ve been drinking more wine than H2O lately and with this indecisive weather we’ve been having in the Pacific Northwest (Mother Nature’s identity crisis – Am I spring? Am I winter? I DON’T KNOW!!!) I’ve felt that it’s more in the wind. It’s a virus – a mutant strain of self-righteousness that’s invaded my body like the most destructive cancer, lowering my white blood cell count and my immunity to every day annoyances in such a way that they are almost physically debilitating. This has become a problem. Imagine a perfectly lovely morning: You sit at your desk, enjoying your coffee, reading through emails and prioritizing your day, perhaps while listening to your favorite song on the Indigo Girls station you’ve created on Pandora…and then your co-worker blows through the office door, glances one second in your general direction without meeting your eyes and throws a flat, perfunctory, “Hi, how are you.” out in the air, the words trailing behind her as she flaps off down the hallway before you even have a chance to respond with anything at all. A delightful day, destroyed by a simple pleasantry.
If you can’t understand why this is upsetting, you are possibly: a) the above-mentioned co-worker (it could be you – there’s one in EVERY office); b) a substance abuser to whom pleasantries have no meaning or c) a dog, in which case you’re probably just excited anyone is there at all (wags tail happily).
But if you’re me, you know exactly what I am talking about, and to me (you), this is WRONG. And Wrong wrecks my day. You just don’t SAY “How are you.” (you’ll notice the . instead of the ? at the end of the sentence, CLEARLY denoting the flat, expressionless tone) – you ASK “How are you?”. And if you don’t want to know the answer…well, you simply do not ask the question. End of story. It’s really quite simple, AS WELL AS socially acceptable. It is quite acceptable to simply say to someone, “Good morning.” Or if it’s NOT actually a good morning and you just don’t effing feel like being chipper, a simple “Morning.” will do. Right? No – RIGHT.
I’ve discovered about myself that I have very clear visions about Right vs. Wrong. Every day presents a new set of situational Rights or Wrongs that are categorized in my brain over the course of time, like a cluttered PC desktop on which documents with varying names, dates and content have all been saved in the same space with no apparent vision as to their organization, and I must drag and drop them into the appropriate folders. Actually, it’s more dramatic than that. Because I feel pretty strongly about Right vs. Wrong. So it’s more like every day there’s a new quiver of arrows in a field with varying scenarios written on little pieces of paper attached to them that I must accurately shoot at targets announcing RIGHT and WRONG in bold letters. The satisfying THUNK! of an arrow embedding neatly into the bullseye of a target would be enough to justify my arrogance in being the self-appointed chosen one to make such decisions.
I digress. Which is Wrong.
So anyway, there’s something in the air that lately has made me want to stick a pen in the wheel spokes of bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk, just to teach them a painful lesson. (Riding on the sidewalk is Wrong. There are bicycle lanes for that.) Or to deliberately get in the way of people who walk on the left side of the sidewalk (also Wrong – would you DRIVE on the left side of the road? When are you are NOT in England? No? Well then. I needn’t say more.)
And there are things that are very definitely Right. Like bringing a hostess gift to a party (this is always, ALWAYS Right. Even if the host/hostess is providing everything. Even if they say they don’t want anything. Even if the gift is a six-pack of Natty Ice, at least you’ve brought something to thank said host or hostess for their generosity). Holding the door for pregnant women and elderly people is always Right (you better watch it if you don’t hold my door when I’m 90 – I will have a cane for teaching Wrong people a lesson). As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that you should always check behind you when exiting a door to be sure that someone isn’t following you who may need the door held for them. This is Right. It should always be so. And it is definitely Wrong to not own up to things you’ve done. Like if you rented a movie from the local video store and had it for 7 days longer than you anticipated and know you have a late fee…you should pay it. Perhaps not all of it, because there’s really nothing Wrong with asking for a reduction for being a good customer…but there’s no reason you shouldn’t pay it at all. (In this particular scenario, I am Wrong. Because I haven’t been able to bring myself to go down to the video store to face my late fee. I am shamed.)
Right vs. Wrong extends to relationships as well. It is Right to sacrifice bitching about your bad day when it is clear your spouse/significant other/dog is in need of serious soul comforting. It is Wrong – ALWAYS – to berate your spouse/significant other (this one doesn’t apply so much to dogs) in front of others. It is Right to make little modifications in your behavior that aren’t really any skin off your teeth – even when you don’t want to – at the request of your partner, to whom such change in behavior is very important. It is Wrong to change your values or belief system simply because someone else says it should be so.
Really, when I look at the scenarios of Right vs. Wrong in my life – or in my peripheral environment every day – I realize that my criterion for determining the outcome of each is largely based on a belief system of Following The Rules (whatever general societal rules may situationally apply) as well as the desire to retain a marginal sense of honor in looking back on my actions and interactions throughout every day. My self-imposed cross to bear in regard to Right vs. Wrong is to remember that it’s not my job to tell others how to live their lives, or to judge others for their actions, but to simply lead by tiny examples day after day, and to stand up for myself and my beliefs when others question them. Perhaps that’s passive action (to some reader, somewhere, this is Wrong) – but for me, it’s the Right way to be.
At the end of the day, who else’s opinion matters more than mine?