Thursday, February 23, 2012

Unfamiliar emotions

Today, while trying to wrangle my camp children at work, I noticed a group of visitors whose children were busily dragging rotting logs and large branches and building something.

This is a fun pastime, I agree.  However, this is a nature center, and you can't drag the landscape around.

I asked them, in the nicest way possible, to please stop, because the logs were in that place for a reason, and apologized for ruining the fun.

One of the adults indicated that they would not comply with my request, without a good reason.

I was so shocked by being challenged that I couldn't come up with a valid reason beyond "The grounds coordinator put them there, and he doesn't usually do things for no reason."

The adult continued to push me for a valid reason.  Her tone was, in my mind, condescending.

Through my dizzying confusion, I heard my voice say "I can call the grounds coordinator, and ask him."

"Why don't you do that, then."


I called the grounds coordinator, and explained the situation (out of earshot) and he came out and explained that it was habitat for animals and black widows like to nest in woodpiles.  I retreated before they spoke, as I was shaking with anger, and rounded up my kids.  He returned to the office, and indicated that they complied once given a reason, and then left with the rest of their group.

I can't decide what I'm more angry at- the fact that I was basically told to go to hell for doing my job (and that was indeed the tone behind the words, which were all polite), or my own inability to control my emotions enough to come up with a simple valid reason not to drag the logs around.

I am incredibly even-keeled most of the time, and when I can't stay poised and comfortable, it scares me.  My blood pressure is still up, and I am still having to take deep breaths.  This interaction happened over an hour ago.

I do not think people challenge me very often.  I am just shy of six feet tall, about a buck eighty, and I tend to knit my brows together when I'm in the sun, which makes me look severe.  I generally speak with a firm, loud tone.  Kids challenge me, and I can usually shut it down with a look.  I can handle the challenges of children, because they're not real people yet and they're still learning how to interact with adults and each other.  When another adult challenges me, I can usually stay calm, because adults can have different viewpoints, and not everyone will agree with me.

When I am challenged by another adult at WORK, I am overcome.  It makes me feel disrespected as a professional, and insignificant as an individual.  I may not be rich, I may not be terribly influential, but gorram it, I have schlepped my ass around this nature center for close to six years, and dealt with all manner of indignities.  I shovel animal shit for 20% of my workday.  I am screeched at by children aged two to twenty.  I work in an unheated building and type with frozen fingers.  I have a farmer's tan that will never go away.  There are always twigs somewhere on my person.  Later, I have to defrost fucking frozen mice to feed to a snake who will probably bite me.  I am shat on by wildlife at least once a week.


Today was not good.  The guest probably does not know how viciously pissed I am, but I will still stew on this interaction for several days.

I should work on being able to let things go.


  1. It can be really challenging to let people's stupidity not affect you. I work in government and I'm constantly shocked at how rude staff members can be toward me sometimes. STAFF that I work with daily. Most people seem to be so self-absorbed that they forget other people are PEOPLE, just like them.

    I'm impressed that you can handle the children without snapping. But you make a good point - their personality flaws are usually excusable.

    1. I let a lot of things slide. I presume everyone around me is having the worst day ever and that their dog just died, and that their parents raised them poorly and they don't know any better. Today's idiocy went way beyond that- it stank of entitlement and a holier-than-thou mindset that angers me deep into the vindictive parts of my being.

      It will take every ounce of self-control not to ream out the next telemarketer that calls. I will not magnify the anger by directing it on unsuspecting phone-bank employees.

  2. Some days, it's hard not to become a complete misanthrope.

    When I'm suddenly asked an unexpected question or put on the spot for an immediate reaction, two things happen - my brain shuts down and time slows so that my three-second pause feels like three days. Then I babble something stupid. Ten minutes after I'm out of the situation, I think of a fantastic answer. I hate it. HATE myself for it. And I don't get over those instances. I'm still angry with myself for dumb things I said years ago.

    If I knew how to let those things go, I would certainly share the trick. The only thing I can offer is an understanding of the feelings. And for what it's worth, much respect for the strength and perseverance it takes to work with children in the cold and in the sun.

    1. Dealing with kids is merely exhausting. I really don't consider them "real people" yet, so I don't get personally offended by anything that they do or say. The fact that this woman challenged my authority in front of her students AND mine is what made this such an egregious slap in the face. Yes, this woman was affiliated with a school group. I don't know if she's a teacher or a parent, but either way, it was awful modeling for those kids.

      And while my tongue was tied in the heat of the moment, I bet I could write a fantastically formal, icy, angry letter to the principal of that school, and embarrass the hell out of her after the fact, in front of people she will have to deal with repeatedly over the course of several years. But that might just be the revenge fantasies talking.