Sunday, November 11, 2007

On anger

Something unpleasant happened while we were riding to the airport on the T. First, the website didn't tell us that they were busing from downtown to the airport, or that the buses were running from a different station--that we could have accessed by changing at a different station by walking across a platform, but instead had to schlep a suitcase above ground for 3 blocks. So we were a little tense when we finally got on the shuttle to the airport. Across from us was a guy tapping an empty water bottle against the arm rest of the bus. It was annoying and my husband turned to him and asked him, quite politely, to stop as we couldn't hear each other. The guy became belligerent and said that he was happy and he had a right to do whatever he wanted to do, and that we could talk louder.
I told my husband to ignore it, and we kept talking, when suddenly in one smooth motion--so fast it startled me--my husband stood up, stepped across the aisle, grabbed the bottle and tossed it to the back of the bus. My husband sat back down and said, "Now, I'm happy."
The guy became loud and said, "Fine, I can make a lot more noise," hit my suitcase with his hand and started to get out drumsticks. My husband (rather foolishly) said, "Oh, a musician." Which annoyed the guy even more. The bus driver said that if we were fighting we had to get off (by this point we were at the airport, but not my gate). All three of us got off--he by the front door, we by the back. As he was yelling at the bus driver we simply got back on.

Now, I don't think my husband handled it well. AND, I don't think he would have reacted that way if we hadn't been frustrated by the T annoyances. On the other hand, a reasonable person would have taken our polite request and stopped being annoying. My husband had a right to ask. And in some ways, at least at the beginning, I was proud of him. Correct assertiveness is something he's struggled with. I know that some of the moments that have made me the most proud--the most satisfied with myself--have been the times when I've spoken up for myself, quietly, firmly and determinedly. The problem with emotions is that they can take us in directions that seem logical at the time--but are really dependent on other things. That is--I feel angry at this person and what they've done, but I'm really reacting to all the similar hurts I've experienced in my life, and this particular action is not intrinsically bad.

The upshot of this is that they guy harassed us at the airport as well and I tried to be logical--to say that in a society we cannot all do whatever makes us happy, if it makes other people unhappy. He wasn't impressed. I said to my husband that the only way we could have peace was to ignore him completely, and low and behold, he got bored and went away, but for a brief time I was scared. I worried for my husband going home, but he was fine and the guy wasn't on my airline. But it was an annoying and bad start.

A few weeks before a friend (who reads this) and I had a fight because he was angry and hurt by something and I didn't appreciate that he was hurt and was dismissive. Then he said some things and I got angry and hurt. We've made our peace but emotions will take you down the wrong path a lot of the time. Was I right to approve of my husband's anger, but not my friend's? The incidents were different, but some of the questions were the same, and I don't know the answer...I really don't know.

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