Happy Family Day, my fellow Ontariens, and everyone in Canada, no matter which day you get to celebrate this provincial holiday. To enjoy this lovely holiday, I awoke early, then made my way to the gym, a necessary evil in these cold winters. After a good sweat, I treated myself to a nice breakfast at a local diner, Hazel’s on Mount Pleasant Road. It was my first time there. It’s my kind of place: simple, no nonsense, friendly service, and reasonable prices. My server, Joanna, was lovely. I read a chapter from « Beyond the Trees » by Adam Shoalts. The sun was shining, a beautiful day, so I decided to go for a walk and headed north on Mount Pleasant.
I had only been walking for a few minutes when I passed a smartly-dressed gentleman in his sixties coming from the other direction. As he passed me, he wagged his finger in my face and began shouting at me, « You should be ashamed of yourself! You should be ashamed of yourself! » Stunned, I stopped. He kept walking. « Are you referring to my coat? » I called after him. I was wearing a Canada Goose jacket, something I purchased long before the controversy surrounding the company’s inhumane treatment of wild coyotes came to light. No answer. « Excuse me, sir, you can’t just go around verbally attacking people! If you have some information to share, please do! » He turned around and gave me double-gunned middle fingers and shouted, « Fuck you! »
I wish I could have seen the humour in such ridiculous behaviour at that moment. Instead, all I felt was bewildered and wounded. And angry. He thinks he can just shit on a random person walking down the street then scamper off scot-free? No way, Mr. Coward, not on my watch. So I followed after him.
« Sir, do you think anyone is going to be receptive to you verbally attacking them on the street? If you have information you’d like to share with me, I’ll listen! You’re being a coward! Why won’t you stop and have a conversation with me!? » I shouted as I followed back after him in the direction from which I’d just come. He stopped again, wagging his finger in my face again. « I have to go visit a very sick grandchild in the hospital. Fuck you! » And off he scurried again. « Who says « fuck you » to a random woman on the street!? » I cried out, exasperated and incredulous.
At this point, a man from a business or restaurant nearby came out to see what was going on. It was clear something was going on from the man’s aggressive body language and the distraught look on my face. The man who had accosted me said something to the newly-arrived man, again with aggressive body language and pointing in my direction, then off he hurried again. He seemed determined to not have to face up to what he started with any intelligent or respectful conversation. Then the newly-arrived man turned to me and said, « I just came out to see if you were okay. By the way, I support the teachers. »
Oh. Right. I was wearing two pins on my coat; one that says « Class size matters » and one that says « Just let me teach. » Then, and only then, did I realize that this gentleman’s tirade, and I use the term « gentleman » loosely, may have had to do with the teacher strike and not my Canada Goose coat at all.
But, you know what? I’ll never know for sure, so articulate and effective was his attack.
Which brings me to the point of this blog.
If you have a point to make, be intelligent and respectful in making it. Even if you have insightful information to share, it will get lost in an angry and rude delivery. Even people who are « right » will lose their argument if they deliver their argument in a demoralizing and condescending way. And even if you don’t change the other person’s opinion or viewpoint, you might make them think differently about some things or consider new angles if you share your viewpoint in a kind and non-attacking way. BE KIND. Always.
I think what upset me most about that angry man’s actions was that his cowardice and lack of accountability. Did he give a second thought about the ramifications of him angrily lashing out to a woman alone on Family Day? Afterward, I cried. I’m thin-skinned, it’s true. I wish he’d seen that. Furthermore, what account, if any, of this incident will he share with his friends and family? « Hey, guys, check this out! I verbally attacked a random woman on the street today and made her cry and she doesn’t even know what my issue was! Who wants to give me a high five!? » A rule of thumb when dealing with fellow humans might be this: if you can’t go home and proudly tell your friends and family how you treated someone, you should probably re-think how you treat people. He is entitled to have his opinions and voice about the teacher’s strike and Canada Goose jackets just like I am entitled to wear that jacket and my education pins. What neither of us nor any of us is entitled to do is to be randomly cruel to one another.
The kicker of all this is that I really don’t know if it was the jacket or the pins on my jacket that caused his inarticulate, hurtful, embarassing behaviour. I guess he sure made his point!
I’ll share a quote from the introduction of my book that quite applies here. « Our shared humanity and the impact we have on each others’ lives…can happen in the briefest of moments and can be either profoundly positive or deeply negative. » This incident happened 600 meters from my home. We are a community. We’re stuck with each other and our differing opinions. You won’t always be able to hide behind a screen or scamper off into anonymity.
To that gentleman, to myself, to all of us, a gentle reminder: Think before you speak. Be able to discuss what you feel strongly about in an intelligent and respectful way. If you speak, also listen. Think about the impact of your words and actions. And, above all, be kind, man, even if for no other reason than knowing that nobody is going to listen to an asshole.