“I just had a break-through. I have you to thank for it. For the first time in my life when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what to say and I said it.” — Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan’s character in the film, “You’ve Got Mail.”
We all know those people, right? You find yourself in a situation where your brain is forced into over-drive to find just the right thing to say. Unfortunately, out come words that are on the precipice of barely articulate. Sure, brilliance took place in your own mind, but not on the outside where it counts. Why is that?
Why is it that the intelligence button located in our noggin seems to turn off in the moment we need it most?
And it’s not pretty, is it? I can only speak for myself. I fumble or stutter and then I whimper and shuffle away. But as soon as I’m behind the wheel of my car, in the shower or retelling the incident du jour to my husband, friend or sibling, I’m brilllllllllliant. I’m concise. I’m on fire.
I recently experienced one of these uncomfortable occasions I speak of. My encounter was with a very rude woman. So rude that it has stayed with me for over a few weeks now. It was after attending a long, but wonderful day at a TEDx women’s conference, which is associated with the TED talks, yet independent. Wait, is that an oxymoron? Anyway, it needs to be noted that in no way did the organization, hosts, speakers, volunteers or venue have anything to do with this unfortunate skirmish. That being said…
The day’s event was filled with unbelievable speakers. The range of topics touched me deeply. You could feel the camaraderie in the room. The women (and one man) eloquently touched upon themes that included coming together, facing your fears, and moving forward in this world in a united way. It energized my soul. The day was beautifully wrapped up with a talented young singer. I was excited when I caught, out of the corner of my eye, said gifted one leaning on a wall selling her CDs. She was not alone. She was with (soon to be known as) “The one who ruined a perfectly fine day.”
Here’s how it went down:
I went up to the two of them and politely interrupted their conversation. I asked the singer how much her CD was going for and she politely replied with, “Six dollars.” Unfortunately, I only had a twenty. When I asked her for change, she profusely apologized that she did not have any. As I started to walk away to go get some, the woman in question said, “Why don’t you support the artist and give her the whole thing?” The young singer was clearly mortified and said quickly, “No, no that’s okay.”
In this moment, clarity of thought was nowhere to be found. Instead I only heard a loud crackling sound in my head. You know, like when you’re out on a lone road and can’t get a clear signal on your car radio? That crackling noise… and it was getting in the way of any sort of coherent comeback.
Let’s be clear. That woman? I didn’t know her. I’ve never seen her before in my life. Perfect stranger. But she spoke to me like she knew me. Like it was fine to say what she did. I realize there are rude people everywhere. I know this to be true. I don’t know if it was shock or stage fright, but my larynx unfairly froze up on me. Sadly, it wasn’t until about an hour later on the car ride home where my voice resurrected itself. Oh, I had allllll sorts of things to say to her then. Brilliant, funny, sucker punches. But in the moment? Nothing.
I may be over-reacting. What’s the big deal? The woman was just trying to stand behind the artist, yes? Maybe. But when I described what went down to a friend, she was outraged. Then I told my husband. He was amused, but thought she was completely out of line. That in and of itself, made me feel slightly better. I mean, for a day that was all about women supporting each other and coming together with new ideas, this woman was and is in need of a lesson in etiquette.
I’m not a time traveler. I can’t reverse it, but I can still have my say. And so, I
share, vent with you now, what I should’ve said then to the inappropriate woman:
“Wow. Thanks for just pissing all over my moment. I’m on a budget and I can’t afford to give anything right now. But I really wanted to do it. I wanted to do something good for her and for me. But you had to speak up. You had to make me feel like crap that I can’t afford to hand over my whole twenty bucks. Did that make you feel good? Well, thanks for making me feel bad and ruining what was otherwise a great day. Hey, you know what? Money doesn’t seem to be an issue for you. So, please, by all means, give her extra.”
It would be in my comfort zone to stand tall wearing a Scarlet “D” (for disgraced) and lackadaisical of me to give into the anger and sheer embarrassment I felt. But I won’t. I was inspired at the conference to start owning who I am. I just wish I’d absorbed all that proud womanhood in that instant of the passive-aggressive character assassination.
I’ve yet to have my Kathleen Kelly moment. It would’ve been so great had there been a speaker at TEDx who talked to us about how to gracefully articulate our most awesome, perfectly formed thoughts onto those unruly people that often cross our path. Dang, that would be a sold-out room! I mean, had I been in my right mind, I would’ve given Ms. Money Bags a piece… of my own. But in a way, I just sorta kinda did. Right? Still, food for thought, TEDx, food for thought.