Have you ever had first-day-on-the-job drama? That’s a YES for me. Back in the day, when I worked in corporate America, I found myself staring into the glares of an angry man, hitting me full speed with his tirades.
I’d just gotten a promotion within my company, a position many were vying for. I was eager to learn the new role so, I worked through my lunch. My appetite didn’t share my career aspirations. Hunger pulled my attention to a bag of microwave popcorn. First-day jitters got the best of me, because I couldn’t figure out their dated, complex microwave.
I’d stepped away from the break room after hitting a preset button for what I thought was two-minutes, apparently, it was 20!
Trying to be discrete, I expeditiously nabbed the burnt kernels and tossed them into an outside trash. I used an alternate door to re-enter in hopes of not being indicted for the nostril offense. Now back at my desk, a haze of smoke hovered above my cubicle, taunting me like a bully. I blinked a few times and became startled to find a large figure with glaring eyes. “Are you the woman that popped the popcorn?” A stern, male voice demanded.
He was dressed in a suit and tie, clean shaven, with a crew cut. He was all business, but I figured I could soften him with a quick admission. “Yes. It was me. I’m really sorry.” I had a big smile and pouty eyes that begged forgiveness.
With zero mercy, his lips fired insults like bullets on a shooting range. It was something along the lines of, me, being too stupid to work a microwave, being banned from popping popcorn again, and him having to send employees home because they couldn’t breathe due to the smoke.
Once he was done with his verbal assault, he walked away with a strut, as if he felt good about ripping into me. I was stunned and didn’t respond at all.
I felt victimized that day. I didn’t recognize the lesson I now know manifested as a result of that incident. Wisdom had placed me in a classroom that was foolproof in order to prove I could exercise restraint. Trust me that Claudia, (the hot-head I once was) had a hot temper and had it not been my “first-day” silence wouldn’t have been my selection.
However, as I grew professionally I also matured psychologically. Today, I would still choose not to respond but instead of feeling victimized, I believe I would feel empowered.
How do I know?
Allow me to usher you through a more recent scenario. After pulling into an alley off the parking lot of my bank, another vehicle rolled up from the opposite direction and we found our headlights beaming at one another. I needed to make an immediate right for the ATM. There was 20 feet on the left side, so I sat idle, waiting for access. Instead, the female driver proceeded to flail her arms, point her fingers and mouth what looked like a few words that rhyme with witch and possibly a compound word that starts with mother.
I felt an overwhelming sense not to react. No gestures, facial expressions and rap lyrics reciprocated, I just drove around. Two hours later, I was playing with my daughters in front of my house when this eerily familiar vehicle pulled up to my neighbor’s house across the street. To my horror, sitting in the driver seat was that same ‘bleep’ mouth driver. I don’t even want to consider what could have transpired had I chosen to escalate matters earlier with an equal exchange of aggression. However, because I hadn’t, there was nothing to be finished and our lives carried on peacefully without incident.
Let me challenge you to ignore the ignorant and belligerent actions of others. We choose to invite peace or chaos into our lives based on how we respond to situations around us. We have the right to remain silent. Wisdom is always present, if you cling to her, she will guard and protect you.
Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.