There was one thing that Benny noticed about not being so young anymore, and this was that as time moved along he found it easier to handle annoying or even nasty people. And it wasn’t simply that he developed a thicker skin as the years rolled on, which is probably what he’d say, or something along those lines, were anyone to notice and point this out. If anything (and I knew this to be the case, even if he didn’t), his being able to cope better with difficult people was more aligned to taking an attitude of opening up to others, which he was more frequently compelled to do in certain unguarded moments, rather than shutting them out. This could seem counterintuitive, if laid on the table in open discussion, to think that letting hurtful, complaining, annoying or draining people into his own space could be preferable to keeping them fenced off. But there it was.
It was like — well… Benny probably couldn’t count the number of times he’d travelled home in a daze, only realising this when he got off the bus. Getting to and from the city was more often than not a blurry unmemorable part of the day. But then there was that bus ride home one day when a truck load of pipes tipped off on to the road in front and blocked all the traffic. That day was memorable for a lot of reasons, but the commute itself would have been lost in the general fuzziness were it not for that happening. That bus ride became a part of the whole indelible day, and its interruption, I remember, even provided the conditions to coalesce Benny’s line of thought at that time. At the very least, a noticeable outcome of having these incidents interrupted or disturbed was that they lost an indistinctness they would have otherwise been coated with, inevitably.
With cruddy people, as opposed to ‘things’ or situations, there was certainly more of an effort involved. Whatever shitty mood they were in, or whatever attitude they took, more often required a bit more concentration than simply any natural reaction on Benny’s part. And of course crapful people came and went, and Benny had also fallen into the same expectation as most others — that idiots are always going to turn up, and when they do it’s kind of best to avoid them or keep your exposure and interaction to a minimum.
And yet there was also the factor of indistinctness — which is to say, with the usually pleasant, easy-going, friendly people Benny may have hoped he would be dealing with day to day, it was always an easy task to get along with them, and just have a ‘normal’ not-much-to-comment-on experience. With someone who just rubs you the wrong way, or is downright difficult to get along with, we knew that it might not be pleasant, but they sure stood out in the memory.
It was like a guy who Benny had worked with a couple of years ago, and who had probably been an unspoken factor in his actively looking to change jobs, which he did soon after. Anyway, this was a person who just had one of these grating arrogant attitudes and would always seem to be making judgements or comments or both. There was always some feeling of hostility in Benny when he was around this guy, and overall it wasn’t a pleasant time for him to be in the same place with him for so much of the week. But with a change of workplace (which his verbalised reasoning would say had more to do with improving the pay packet), the drag of having to be prepared to deal with the antagonism faded from his mind, and the ‘usual’ experiences of the workplace flowed along for quite awhile.
And then she turned up. Another new employee started a few months later, and in a short time displayed the same sort of arrogant attitude and annoying almost combative way of occupying both her and everyone else’s space. The same sort of reactions as before started to percolate up for Benny, because (it was plain to me) nothing had been learned. The problem person, and coming to grips with finding out how best to deal with them, was avoided that last time, so Benny had nothing to fall back on this time around.
I mean, he would eventually — he had been through some things, and he listened to quiet inspiration a little better, and he would work things out and be able to deal effectively with this new annoying person. And in a way, she was doing him a favour. Without the difficulty, he would simply ride along and not have to deal with anything much at all — and this was the inspired thought he would be hearing quietly now and then. That whatever is negative or even hurtful provides the ground to really work on getting not just coping skills but his whole approach into a better state.
Benny, or any one of us, could maybe think of looking at difficulties almost with gratitude. Without obstacles in the way, we would never learn how to climb over them. Or it could be seen in another way, and maybe in a personal way — like the quote from someone Benny heard once, that people can be like no-name tea bags and that no-one knows how strong they are until they’re put in hot water.
So whatever the task at hand was, there opened up a way of using that, or dealing with it, in a more helpful way — and in the end it was another example of taking a view, not attempting to make any change to circumstances. In a small way, this approach was illustrated to himself, and hopefully to a work mate of his, when one day Benny was slaving away updating a huge spreadsheet. It was very involved and required getting different data from a lot of sources, and carefully transferring the figures into the assorted cells of a very big and involved spreadsheet.
Someone walked behind him and said ‘god Ben I don’t know how you have the patience’ and Benny just said “ahhhmm, it’s good practice” over his shoulder and kept at it.
‘Good practice? Practice for what?’
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