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“Within each of us, ofttimes, there dwells a mighty and raging fury.” (Stan Lee, author, Incredible Hulk)
To say that you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry is true. But, most of the time, I do a good job of hiding my private rage from public view.
Last weekend, though, I came dangerously close to hulking-out: to bursting onto YouTube in yet another urban brawl gone viral—one more middle-aged woman ordered by the Court to take an Anger Management course.
My husband said it best last Saturday morning, as we tried to scrape our nearly lifeless, sleep-deprived bodies off the unimaginably soft sheets: that sleeping in a hotel is as impossible as sleeping in a hospital because there’s always something going on in the hallway.
In our marriage, Mark usually takes care of mysterious night noises whereas I’m in charge of dispatching aggressive telemarketers and annoying door-to-door solicitors. The group of people outside our hotel room, using their outdoor voices at 2:00 am, was, admittedly, a little closer to my area of expertise. And as an early bird who was outnumbered 3 to 1 by night-hawks growing up I’ve been shushing people since the day I was born.
In this I have a lot of practice. Unfortunately, it is also the source of my mighty and raging fury.
I realize now that my first call for silence was too vague. I’d been expecting drunken hockey players and was surprised to discover a dozen well-heeled boomer-zoomers. I thought being polite might have worked. I was wrong. After 10 more minutes it was clear that “Hey guys, do you think you could keep it down?” had been taken as a rhetorical question.
My heart was pounding as my feet hit the carpet for the second time. The kettle was boiling, the whistle ‘bout ready to blow.
This time I was terse and emphatic about the noise—stop it, or else!—and I played the sleeping child card, although I don’t know why. Perhaps I did it to incentivize a return to civilized behaviour. After all, at least some of them had to have been parents themselves.
One of the women in the group turned and looked at me. She was tall and blonde; one of these 60-is-the-new-40 types with an elegant up-do, wearing a long gray-blue silk gown. She was sipping a glass of wine, and in her cold, dead, shark-like eyes there was... nothing... not even a basic acknowledgment of our common humanity.
There was only the power of the group against the flea that was me. She, like the others, was unreachable, impermeable, immune to reason or compassion. In the end she turned her back to me and partied on.
I saw red.
What I wanted to do—versus what I actually did—are supposed to live at opposite ends of a broad spectrum of human behaviour. But at that moment they felt way too close for comfort. That’s probably what scared me most of all.
There was a choice to be made: go kamikaze vigilante or call hotel security. It was a clear choice, to be sure. But as these apparently disparate responses rubbed shoulders, impulsivity had captured my imagination, however briefly. In that fleeting moment I saw how easily a person could make a bad call.
“This is it,” I thought, “this is how it happens.”
This is how a guy on a plane comes to fisticuffs with a woman who wants to recline her seat onto his lap. This is how an otherwise law-abiding citizen crossing the street goes Raging Bull, banging on the hood of a car, shouting, “You wanna piece of me?!” while a vehicle revs uncomfortably close to him. (So what if your car is going 2 kph—nobody wants a 3,500 pound Chihuahua nipping at their heels!)
Are we all just ticking time-bombs waiting for the perfect confluence of factors to set us off? After last weekend I think it’s a wonder we do as well as we do in close quarters.
The next morning I was in Old Testament vengeance-is-mine mode. The day of my tormentors’ calamity was at hand, their doom being swiftly and noisily delivered at every turn: the hairdryer, the shower, my biggest, baddest hollering-the-boys-in-for-dinner voice. If there were hung over wedding guests within earshot they were going to hear me one way or another.
Later that morning I stood at the breakfast buffet, casually scanning the room for the tall heartless woman in whose shadow I’d almost come undone. I had a little something special in mind for her scrambled eggs.
Thankfully, she was nowhere in sight.
“Do you still need this Tabasco sauce?” asked the waitress.
“No, thanks,” I said, “I think I’m over it now.”