A Moment Matters

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And So Does Kindness


 

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

It’s morning and I’m waking up rough after some really painful dental work. I’m running late for work but I’m trying to stay calm and just get there.

I’m traversing a road that is something of an unofficial border. On one side is a series of slightly rough neighborhoods where gentrification is coming hard and fast. And painfully.

The other side is the “good” side of the road (scare quotes used intentionally). Gentrification has already arrived to this side of the road, for both better and for worse.

I stop at a red light at a major intersection. I am first in line and there is a long line of cars behind me.

“Who Can It Be Now,” plays from the oldies station on my radio. A popular song from my high school years is now an oldie. Don’t get me started.

I tap my thumb on the steering wheel and hum along when to my left, a local denizen, a gentleman who has seen better days, enters the crosswalk taking something of a slanting route over the white lines.

In his hand he’s carrying an open tall boy and holding it close to his chest. He’s smiling, though his face and his skin looks like he’s seen some things.

I am alternately like “right on!” because why not beer at almost nine in in the morning? Then “oooh, damn” because beer at nine in the morning possibly means chasing a few demons somewhere around nine o’clock the night before.

But I don’t know this guy’s story, so I don’t judge.

As he ambles amiably in front of the grill of my very old and very tired car in the center lane, in the right lane an oblivious driver in a black Mercedes whips right into the crosswalk, intent on turning right and doing it right now, and damn near hits the guy.

Our beer drinking friend pulls up short, steps back and slightly bows, waving the Mercedes along. It pulls out in a huff, if I can attribute huffiness to a car.

Then the man in the crosswalk turns to me and smiles a lopsided smile and waves. I do what any decent member of the human race should do, I wave back. I briefly entertain a “I should not have done that” thought because I have learned through enough years living near and in big cities that sometimes it’s just better not to engage.

But I was wrong for thinking that. As I wave, he smiles a little wider, peers around the corner of my car to be sure the coast is clear, then makes his way safely to the other side of the road.

My light turns green and I drive on, thinking about the guy, this city where I now live, the ever growing division between rich and poor, and the implications of gentrification. I also think about how delicious the lemon scone sitting in the passenger seat is going to be when I get to work and gobble it up.

I get to the place of my employment, find a parking spot, quick yank the parking break and start my day. Something about the man with the tall boy sticks with me and I can’t quite figure out why.

One thing I know for sure is that I have to write about it, to capture the fleeting moment and memorialize it for myself as much as for anyone else.

And so I have.

This item first appeared on Medium, find more of my work @karenfayeth over there.

I Don’t Want To Be Right. Okay, Maybe I Do.

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In my quest to 1) become a better person and 2) survive 2016 intact, several weeks ago I signed up for a mindfulness meditation class.

The instructor is lovely and the class is, well, relaxing. It makes me calmer and a better person in so many ways.

This whole meditation thing doesn’t really jibe with my New Mexico upbringing. Stress reduction is a bit different ’round here than it was there.

For example, where I live now, it’s awful hard to take a three-hour ride upon my favorite horse in order to relax. And driving out to Chopes for enchiladas and a beer is a longer drive than I can make in a day.

Meditation it is, then.

Last week, we had a long class discussion about the use of one’s car horn. How it’s not mindful or necessary to lay on the horn while traveling this world. How it can make things worse by scaring the other driver or making the other driver mad (and bad things come from that).

This is also in line with The Good Man and his rules for better living. Since we live in a more urban city than I’ve ever lived in before, he has asked me nicely give my horn honking a rest. These are tense times and occasionally I travel through tough neighborhoods. Who knows how the ol’ toot-toot will be received?

Really, this is all sage advice, both from the Vispassana teacher and the man I married.

Until yesterday, when I found myself in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood. Where the Chinatown in San Francisco is something of a tourist delight, the Oakland Chinatown is a serious ethnic neighborhood. It sits near Oakland’s downtown, so it’s busy, jam packed with traffic, and not to be taken lightly.

I’ve spent many an hour in Oakland’s Chinatown over my years and I love it. It had been a while, and was nice to be there again. I had a couple things on my shopping list that can only be found in that neighborhood.

As I rolled into the area, I made my way past city buses and double-parked cars, and was filled with glee to find a nice wide parking spot on the street just around the corner from where I needed to be. Score!

I carefully maneuvered over, waited while the car ahead loaded her kid in the car, had my blinker on the whole time and as I pulled forward to align and began to back into the spot, some $%^& started to pull head first into my spot.

Yay, verily, there was much laying on of horns. Oh yes. My beloved Jeep is equipped with not one but two bassy air horns that make it clear to whomever is on the receiving end that they have been properly honked. One firm flat-palm press lights up the hearing cavities of all nearby.

I held that Jeep horn with a solid hand, owing my destiny to all of the fabulous people throughout my years here in the Bay Area who taught me how to survive in a city. Indeed. I followed the playbook and hoped to hell this wouldn’t escalate into that driver getting out of their car.

Thus, as the interloper assessed the situation, she surely noticed my sixteen-year-old Jeep was far less shiny than her almost new SUV nosing into my spot. I held steady, knowing even then that the person backing in is at a disadvantage to the person trying to head in.

Finally the fancy car threw it in reverse and left, giving me an exaggerated shrug on the way by.

Here is the true confession: Damn did honking the hell out of my horn feel good. Like, real good. Like cold beer after a hard day of yard work. Like that first bite of a Chopes enchilada (egg and sour cream on top). Like finally getting out the splinter that is starting to fester.

I know it goes against everything my spouse and my learned teacher have asked of me. It wasn’t peaceful, nor kind. But damn did it feel good.

Almost too good.

Okay, okay. The horn honking is over. The satisfaction was quick and delicious. The endorphins rose and quickly dissipated.

Today I’ll rededicate myself to the peaceful life. To being more kind. To being more centered. To let traffic solve itself without the help of two weighty and meaningful Jeep air horns.

They don’t call meditation a practice for nothing. It takes work. Perfection is not expected. (I’ll add this note, I refrained from both cursing and arm waving in addition to the horn. It’s something to build on.)

Given the same situation, would I honk it up again? Hee, hee…probably.

Okay, okay. I’ll try harder.

Ooooohmmmmmmmmmmmmm……




Recycling one of my favorite photos.





Image found here.





Woke Up This Morning…

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…and put on my cranky pants. The extra heavy-duty pants of crank.

Whoooo doggies am I cranky. And what’s worse, I know I’m cranky and can’t seem to step out of it.

I just blasted a coworker who sent a really inane request over to my team. To be fair, it is a REALLY inane request and something needed to be said. However, saying “this request needs additional definition and will be challenging to deliver in the time frame requested” is different from turning on both fire hoses to full blast.

Yeah. I did that. The full blast thing.

I apologized. Yes, I did. I said “I don’t believe this is an appropriate request but I was wrong to blast you for that.”

Being humble makes me feel bad about myself and my actions. It was the right thing to do, but also makes me a bit more cranky. Over the course of my now twenty year career I have been blasted right and left, and usually without remorse.

Leadership up to the CEOs of large companies have had some harsh words that landed on me. This includes one senior level executive who said to me and a peer as we presented a project we had worked on that needed approval: “You two are f—ed, your analysis is f—ed, now get the f— out of my office!”

Not one of my best days at work.

One might say, well, if you have been blasted by successful leaders who did so without remorse, then why do you feel bad about it?

Because I hated being blasted. I hated being treated like something lower than a piece of crud. I thought it was wrong every time it was done to me. It was inappropriate, and it was demoralizing, so why would I perpetuate this behavior?

Some might say that apologizing is a sign of weakness. Maybe. Or maybe it’s a sign of strength to not act like a temper tantrum throwing toddler, or at least owning it and apologizing when one does. Who knows?

But, some might say, some of the great leaders of our modern times including Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison (among many others) are known for their profound temper tantrums. Sure. You don’t hear the stories of the great leaders who acted with grace. That doesn’t sell newspapers.

At this point I should admit that I don’t know the right answer. I only have to live with myself today, tomorrow, years ahead. I have to lie down at night and decide if the way I treated people was the way I wanted to be treated. I have to own who I am and how I act.

I can’t reconcile venting my cranky pants on someone and not owning that and apologizing. There is a difference in being firm and a bit demanding and being a jerk.

May I always work hard so I know where that line lands.









Image found here.




It Works Great. Until It Doesn’t.

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Over the past months I have been regaling you, my loyal reader, with tales from the rails as I find myself commuting several days a week on the Bay Area Rapid Transit, colloquially known as BART.

I study timetables like a monk, leap tall staircases like a superhero and have learned which seats face forward for the ride (good) instead of backward (nausea).

I got this. I so got this. I am a commuter! And I have to say that for all the complaints and issues and bad press BART takes, they really do run a pretty efficient system.

Well. Most of the time.

Today was one of those outlier days.

Seems the San Francisco Police Department was alerted to a suspicious package at the Powell street station and thus all BART trains were brought to a rapid halt.

Not so much rapid transit as rapid sit there and wait.

I was further down the peninsula when this closure came down, so we sat at one station for about ten minutes. Then we advanced to the next station and waited about fifteen minutes. Then we moved on to the next.

I thought “ok, they are just slowing traffic. No problem.”

Nope. At the 24th street station they announced “This train is now out of service, all passengers must exit the train.” No warning. No lead up to the bad news. Just “get off!”

What? I say again….WHAT?!?!

So there I was about halfway through my ride standing on the platform in a so-so neighborhood of San Francisco wondering what in the sam hell I was going to do.

I considered taking a cab to a farther station along the line, but since no trains were being allowed through the onel station, there was really no advantage to this.

So I waited.

And waited.

Finally they said that trains were being allowed through the station but not stopping.

Fine.

A train came along directly that was already full of people trying to make the morning commute (they weren’t thrown off of their train!).

All of us orphaned commuters tried to shove onto that train but it just wasn’t working. Curse words were shouted. Bodies were smashed up against each other. I briefly thought that we needed Japanese-style commuter train pushers.

Me? I balked. I stood back from the fray.

Then I got smart. I turned away from the crowd and walked all the way to the end of the platform. When the next train arrived, there was hardly anyone waiting to get onto the first car and I slipped onboard.

All in, I was only about half hour later to work than I’d intended, so I can’t really complain.

But I’m gonna anyway. Ok, maybe not too much. In hindsight, throwing us all off the train seems like a bad idea. I think they took the train out of service in order to try to make up schedule time.

And the yo-yo who left the shoebox with blinking lights and wires isn’t BART’s fault.

But. Just. GRRRRR!






Image from SFGate.com.




Such A Lot Of Fuss For A Little Orange Sticker

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Sheesh. Grownups sometimes. They get so worked up about stuff. Little stuff. I mean, gawd.

: rolleyes :

So whatever, last week I got this piece of paper left on my windshield. It seems that this one guy with a uniform thinks he’s all important and stuff and he says that my car didn’t have enough adornment. He said I needed to have this orange thing on my car instead of the pretty blue one that was already there.

And I have to give him some money, too.

My car was just sitting at the Bart station minding its own business! Ffft! What a bunch of baloney.

And because this is all a big game of hide and go seek, they don’t make it easy for me to get the orange sticker since I wasn’t in line the first time they were giving them out.

It’s like everyone gets a giggle by how frustrated I get running around asking everyone for a stupid orange sticker. I don’t even want the thing! I like the blue one better!

But fine. I played their game and I ran around until I got dizzy and my head hurt and it wasn’t funny anymore.

Then I had to write out a piece of paper that means money in their game and sign it and give it to them.

For that big amount of money I wrote down on the thing called a check, they gave me a little orange sticker so I can be one of the cool kids, too.

It’s not even that nice a sticker. Plain really. Just has 2013 printed on it and some other numbers. Big whoop. No rhinestones or glitter or gold leaf or anything.

But I guess you are supposed to stand in line when they tell you to so you can pay the money and get one of the stickers. When you move and don’t get the message that you are supposed to stand in line and pay your money, then you whiff it by three months everyone gets really mean about it.

Buncha bullies.

Anyhow, here, see for yourself. It’s not that nice. The blue one was prettier.

Whatever.

Well played, DMV, well played. Maybe that almost $200 I just gave you can go toward some sensitivity training for your employees. Just sayin’.





Ok, so I blurred the serial number because this is the internet and who knows where this stuff ends up.



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Photo by Karen Fayeth, Copyright 2013, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




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