Have you ever had to deal with someone like yourself?

November 28, 2022 Comments Off on Have you ever had to deal with someone like yourself?

I was listening to a guy in AA talk about his relapse, how he was sitting in a park with a fifth of whiskey watching the sun go down. He’s a manager and spends a lot of his time dealing with employee problems. As he sat there he was pretty despondent. His long (for him) period of sobriety was down the drain, and now he was getting quietly stoned with no other purpose than oblivion.

He got to thinking about a confrontation he’d had with an employee earlier that week. The employee refused to admit he’d done anything wrong, or that he ever did anything wrong, and instead foisted all the difficulties off on management, other workers, the nature of the job, you name it. Towards the end of the fifteen-minute interview, which was going to end in either termination or another chance, the manager guy pulled out what he called his “nuclear weapon.”

“I always save this for the last, and only for the worst employees. You’d be amazed at how often it works. After going back and forth and both of us being totally exasperated with the other, I looked at this guy and said, ‘Tell me something. Have you ever had to deal with someone like yourself?’

“The guy looked at his feet as it sunk in, and finally, pretty shit-facedly, he said, honestly, ‘No.’ So I told him to think about that and I’d give him another chance. And you know what? It worked out.

“So here I was, getting bombed in the park, and I dropped the nuclear bomb on myself. ‘Have you ever had to deal with someone like yourself?’ Frankly, I hadn’t. And if I ever did run across anyone like myself, I have no idea what I’d do, how I’d handle it. That gave me real insight. Start looking at myself as someone I’d have to deal with, and then see if that changes my approach. It does. It kind of works.”

After he finished speaking, I thought long and hard. I’ve never had to deal with someone like myself. I’ve never even known anyone like myself, by which I mean so perverse, so angry, so ready to lash out, so unreflective, so wholly inconsiderate of how others feel, so completely indifferent to how my actions affect others, so fully ensconced in meeting my own whims to the exclusion of everyone else’s needs … and if I ever ran into someone even vaguely like myself, what in the world would I do?

Fate, as they say, provided an interlocutory answer.

I had come to a hill, three hours into an arduous ride during which time I’d minded my own business and no one else’s. I hadn’t looked at the smattering of other cyclists when they passed or were going in the other direction, save to note that they were in fact on bikes.

At the bottom of the hill a rider flew down in the opposite direction, and as I began going up I heard the sound of whooshing wheels and of pedals pushing a fast-moving chain over gear teeth. “Ah, he’s doing intervals,” I thought.

Suddenly his speed dropped to almost nothing and the rider pulled up next to me with his front wheel even with my pedals so that he could see me but I couldn’t see him without turning my head. “Obviously someone who knows me,” I concluded. “I’m supposed to look back now and make eye contact.”

But I didn’t. I kept my slow pace and so did he for ten or fifteen seconds, which is a lot longer than it sounds until you realize you’re being stalked. Finally, he pulled up almost even to me and I glanced out of the corner of my eye.

It was someone I knew, all right, and his face was twisted with rage. I steeled myself for the onslaught, expecting a torrent of profanity or a slew of insults. Instead of either, enraged almost to the point that he couldn’t speak, he yelled “Why haven’t you been answering my texts?” I hit my rear brake, and made a hard left up a side street. “Have a great day, dude!” he sneered.

My heart was pounding because this guy was me. Angry, explosive, thrilled to have cornered his prey, and relishing the slaughter. A couple of weeks ago it would have ended badly; at the very least it would have ended worse than it did.

But as Pogo used to say, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” It took a wholly new mindset to use my newfound wisdom and simply walk away, though technically I was riding. The ability to recognize your own worst traits in someone else, and then do something different from what you’re expected to do when all your buttons have been pushed, isn’t easy, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is.


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