On a recent trip with my kids to the Walmart to buy my wife’s birthday gifts, I got angry.
And as much as it pissed me off to have to shop at one of those lousy Sam Walton emporiums whose mere existence in a city forces all the local mom-and-pops to whither and close down…
… whose low pay forces its own workers to depend on government assistance at the taxpayers’ expense…
… whose CEO and owners make billions while the humans they employ can’t even find healthcare…
…none of that’s what got me frustrated on that particular day.
The source of my fiery rage was far sillier than all that serious stuff.
In fact, the recurring thorns in my side were particularly foolish.
Literally, ’cause twas the idiots who were ticking me off that day.
More specifically, everybody but my two kids and me.
It was the idiot whose Prius was in front of me at a red light who sat there texting long after the light turned green.
“COME ON, MOVE!!!”
It was the idiot whose Porsche blocked two parking spots at the Walmart.
“ARE YOU SERIOUS??? SELFISH PRICK!!!”
It was the idiot whose kids were knocking cans of Purina all over the floor causing a cart backup on aisle 7.
“WHOSE ANIMALS ARE THESE!?!”
It was the idiot who’s walking through Walmart listening to Ska on his cell phone at full blast and the idiot in front of me who suddenly stopped his cart in the middle of the aisle for no apparent reason.
And I could go on and on, as the idiot list from that day appeared to be endless.
Funny, I didn’t even realize that I’d gotten so angry that day until I heard my kids telling my mother-in-law about their dad hating Walmart.
“He was cursing at everybody and calling them idiots.”
“We’re not allowed to say those words but Daddy can.”
“And he did. A LOT!”
As I listened to my children’s hee-lar-ee-ous replay of my frustrating afternoon, I began to see an embarrassing anger pattern emerge that can be easily categorized with two simple words:
I noticed all my anger that day (and most days) stemmed from me feeling sorry for myself whenever my natural efficiency was interrupted.
It’s an impatient pattern I’m stuck in – driving, shopping, the chores of my everyday life keep getting stalled by oblivious people caught up in their own needs and dramas and every time it gets on my very last nerve.
But does it have to?
I’m a naturally positive and optimistic person and I have no need to waste valuable moments of my day with such petty negativity, so I finally figured out a way to transmute my frustration-based anger into laughter.
Now, whenever an idiot gets my goat, right as I start to get angry at them I call out the ‘poor me victim’ in each case, which, it turns out, is always me.
It’s actually shocking how self-centered I’m being in each of those moments. Calling it out right then and there not only prevents me from getting sucked into the angry-victim mentality, it’s also hee-lar-ee-ous.
And incredibly mood altering.
For example, on that frustrating trip to Walmart, using this technique would have helped me deal with every single one of those clueless fools.
Instead of getting angry at the idiot texting at the green light, I’d just say, “Awwww, poor me, trying to drive forward but can’t because this guy won’t move yet. Poor me has to wait for almost six seconds? Awww, that’s horrible, you poor BAYbee.”
Done in the right comical voice with just the right amount of self-depricating sarcasm, it gets me to laugh every time, like when a buddy busts my balls for complaining:
Me: Dude, you’re late.
Buddy: Aww, poor baby, did you get scared standing all by yourself? Boo hoo.
Why not use that same slightly abusive tactic on myself?
At the Walmart that day, instead of getting so pissed off at the idiot parked in two spots, I could have said, “Poor me, now I have to drive my fully-automatic air-conditioned car for twenty extra feet, what a tough day you’re having, poor boy. Awwww.”
And to all the idiots inside the store I could have said, “Ohhhh, poor me doesn’t have the entire Walmart all to himself? Awww, it must be so hard to share an entire warehouse, poor baby. Does somebody need a cookie?”
I’ve been employing this technique for the last month or so and it’s working.
It’s a tool, like one of those flaps that redirects water flow, and when used properly (and hee-lar-ee-ous-ly), I’ve found my days and momentum are less likely to be interrupted by moments of pointless rage.
Now it’s not intended for use with legitimate anger – like the type of fury one might feel towards a corporation that prioritizes maximizing its profits over the basic needs of its own workers – but it sure is highly successful against frustrating trivial bullshit.
Funny, in the past, I’ve called out my children (and even my wife) on being the victim instead of the problem solver, but I had no idea that I was the one who through example was teaching them to handle frustration that way.
What an idiot I’ve been.
Awww, poor me thought it was everybody else’s fault but it was ME the whole time.
Ohhh, isn’t it cute to watch the baby learn, boo boo boo.
Ugh, I need a cookie.