Be angry at the right people

I’m no therapist. I don’t even play one on TV. It’s also very likely that I actually need a therapist. But I do try to be self aware and aware of others. It doesn’t always work. There are many times I walk away from someone or a situation and I’m not proud. I try hard when I feel a sense of injustice or anger to take a moment to think through what’s happening.

In the past few weeks I’ve noticed a lot of angry interactions. I’m sure you have to. I’m not talking about road rage (which I don’t get, if you want to pass me – please pass me. I hope you win the invisible race you’re in with yourself). I’m talking about those small, bickering, biting conversations that happen at the customer service counter, or the register, or at the restaurant (when we were allowed in).

Here’s some scenarios I’m talking about:

You see your waitress running around trying to cover twice as many tables as usual and you’re upset you’re coffee wasn’t refilled. You qualified for a free turkey but never picked it up, now you want the store to make good – weeks later – even though the program expired. Or you’re on the phone with a customer representative in Taiwan or India trying to fix your cell phone charges and you’re having trouble with the language barrier.

You start slowly getting upset. You feel like you’re being ignored at the restaurant. You feel like the grocery store you spend hundreds of dollars in every week should treat you better. You are so frustrated that you have a problem and on top of everything you’re dealing with, now there are translation issues. So what do you do?

Do you say something snarky to the waitress when she finally comes to the table, or the cashier at the store, or do you blow-up on the representative on the phone? I know I’ve done all 3. I’m sure you have too.

Here’s the new game I try and play in my head. Every time a person in a situation frustrates me I think,” is this the person I should really be mad at?”

The answer, almost all of the time, is no. Now I’m not talking about “redirected” anger or some other clinical stuff I know nothing about. If you have daddy issues and you’re yelling at pedestrians, this post isn’t about you. I’m just talking about normal, everyday pissy behavior.

And to that point, I guess this post should really be about not getting angry at all. We should be preaching peace on earth and forgiveness, etc. Which is right – and I’m into it. But I’m also into getting yourself worked up sometimes. It’s ok. It’s good for you.

I didn’t grow up thinking that. No, we had a very quiet, let-the-anger-simmer-underneath house. Not a lot of yelling. But don’t worry – what we lacked in shouting, we made up for in passive aggressive dinners.

Maybe many of you grew up in yelling houses. Where there were big, loud fights all the time. Maybe that’s better? Who knows. Or maybe there’s a happy middle. Not the underground buried anger – but also not the hot volcano of doom. A medium, appropriate amount of rage for every situation. I dunno.

This has been a trying year for many reasons. The least we can do is forgive ourselves for losing our shit every once in a while. I’m just asking you to direct it at the right people.

If the restaurant isn’t staffed right, that’s the manager or owners fault. If you don’t want to complain to them – you should pick another place to eat. The grocery store cashier has rules he/she was told to follow. You arguing at the register is a waste of time. And for gods sakes don’t go to customer service. They can’t help you change the system Norma Rae, calm down! Ask for a store manager and move aside so the rest of us can pay and get out.

And then there’s my all time favorite. If you are upset at the 20 year old call center rep, in some third world country, who is probably working 15 hours a day for 1% of minimum wage in this country and considers the job a blessing – you are angry at the wrong person! This young man or woman didn’t steal a job from anyone. They were given a golden ticket to get out of poverty in their country by a corporation that did not want to pay a living wage in the US. Find the CEO of that company, probably playing golf in Florida or Arizona, and be upset with them. Or at the very least, just ask to speak to the most senior person they can get you to.

I sound like I’m a cool cucumber all the time. Lie! Not true. I’ve been so mean to phone reps they’ve hung up on me. And what did that get me? Nada. Nothing.

I know people who ask for a manager are now called Karen’s. I fully own up to being a Karen sometimes. And I also know most people, like my family, would rather eat nails than make a fuss anywhere. But sometimes you have to, and it’s ok. It’s ok to be want something fixed. It’s ok to want things done the right way. That shouldn’t make you a Karen. But the how and who matter.

Thank the waitress who is overwhelmed. Thank the cashier who bagged your groceries. Be kind to people trying to make a small living. If they are annoyed, if they are iterated, it’s because they are in this with you. Not against you.

Now go get your free turkey Karen, you earned it.