Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop: Woulda Coulda Shoulda

An interesting idea to ponder from Mama Kat this week. Not the part about who Lou Holz might be. I know who he is. Because college football is, like, my favorite thing. After chocolate.

1.) Lou Holtz (don’t ask me who that is) once said, “life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” Do you believe this? Describe a time when you feel like you could have responded a different way and produced a different outcome.

I’m not especially good at confrontation. I don’t like it. It has the potential to end badly. But not confronting the multitude of douche-nozzles who are walking the planet and calling them out on the douche-nozzle-y things they do often causes me to seethe silently, sometimes for YEARS after an incident. I’m still a little upset at myself for not speaking up about a person I knew had stolen things at a past job when items started to go missing at our current workplace. And I know he stole things because I’d been at the previous workplace with him and been the one who caught him stealing. But I’m kind of a wimp.

I’m better about confronting people about things now than I was when I was younger and it’s partly because I care less about how they’ll react. I recently stopped a guy who had stolen a parking spot I’d been waiting for and told him that he’d just bum-rushed the spot and totally took it from me. He tried to tell me he wasn’t an asshole, which is fine but I didn’t believe him until he got into his car and let me have the spot I’d been waiting for. That was when his non-asshole cred was proved to me.

But despite that kind of successful confrontation, I still fall down on the job of calling a douche-nozzle a douche-nozzle. Just the other day, I saw a woman who looked, to the naked eye, to be pregnant. She was most definitely in the company of a toddler because while pregnancy can  be hard to spot, toddlers are seldom subtle. This possibly-pregnant, definitley child-accompanied woman was standing in front of the metro, chatting on the phone and smoking a cigarette. Now, I am in possession of LOADS of information about how bad smoking is for people who aren’t pregnant and don’t spend time around little kids, never mind how smoking affects fetuses, infants and children. I’m also a former smoker who successfully quit more than 13 years ago. But did I say to this woman  “Hey, you don’t have to be a slave to those little cigarettes that are killing you and harming your maybe-baby and toddler. Here’s the number of a free service you can call for help quitting. (1-800-Quit-Now).” No, instead I remembered how hostile and defensive I used to get when people tried to confront me about smoking and slunk away giving myself the excuse that I was on my way to daycare, that she was on the phone, that she probably already knew how bad smoking was and someone else trying to tell her would just make her mad. But I can’t shake the feeling that I would have been doing her a favor by writing down the quit line number and handing it to her without judgment. Maybe she would have quit and saved herself from emphysema, saved her toddler from asthma, and saved her unborn baby from the risks of low-birthweight or SIDS.

I should have passed the same quit line number to the two women I saw the following day who finished cigarettes while waiting to cross the street and simply dropped the still-burning butts into the road. Instead of saying anything useful, offering them any assistance, I just pulled a total passive aggressive maneuver and haughtily stomped their cigarettes out for them without a word. (And really, if I couldn’t muster the cojones to tell them about quit lines, I should have at least muttered “Only you can prevent forest fires” loud enough for them to hear. Or something like that.)

But I didn’t say anything. Because I did confront someone recently and it ended…well, here’s the story.

I had parked in a residential neighborhood near a church where a truck touch event was being held. I had walked back to my car with C who was tired, cranky, and poopy. I was changing him in his stroller when a woman and her tween-aged son came walking up the street putting flyers on cars. I HATE finding flyers on my car. Hate it. The lady walked up to me said “Hi, how are you?”

I looked up at her, frazzled from dealing with a tantruming toddler who didn’t want to be changed out of his poopy diaper and said “I’m…um…”

“Oh, you’re busy!” she said and began walking toward the front of my car with her stack of flyers.

“Please, don’t put that on my car.”

She looked affronted and asked if she could hand me one. I asked, still frazzled and a little short with her, asked what it was. A flyer to join their pool. I explained that we weren’t joining a pool this summer. She turned, walked off and called back, sarcastically, “Thanks for parking in our neighborhood.”

Um, ok.

I got in my car and caught up with her to try and explain that we weren’t joining a pool because C has tubes in his ears and doesn’t enjoy swimming and that’s why I didn’t want the flyer. She launched into a tirade about how I had been rude to her when she was just inviting me to join their pool, that she was giving me privacy to change a diaper when she walked to the front of my car, it wasn’t to put a flyer there and I was rude to assume that’s why she did it. I tried to interject but she wasn’t listening. Finally, I said “You know what? You’re a snotty bitch. I don’t like you.”

And I drove away.

While I do derive a bit of satisfaction from the mental image of this woman standing speechless in the road, I also know I didn’t really win. For one thing, I cussed with my son in the backseat which is never good. I also resorted to elementary-school-level insults and followed up with “I don’t like you.” Really? I don’t like you? Where did I even come up with that?

And finally, in the she-said/she-said contest of who was ruder in that situation? I think we can all agree that it was me.

If you smoke and want to quit, you can and you should. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit for help quitting!

Mama's Losin' It

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7 comments for “Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop: Woulda Coulda Shoulda

  1. August 12, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I used to work for the American Cancer Society and I answered their Quit Line calls. I spoke with so many people about how many times they tried to call but it was hard and they were scared. It is such a hard thing to do if your heart isn’t in it. I really wouldn’t beat yourself too much about not giving her the number.

  2. D
    August 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I think we all talk a big game when it comes to calling people out. But then when it’s time, we get scared and start doubting if we should really be the ones standing up for “the cause” – whatever that may be. Also, we can’t control how other people will respond to our attempts. Don’t worry about that lady – you attempted to explain yourself and she didn’t care to listen. Next time you know that resorting to names (which is funny and easy to do – I totally get this!) won’t leave you feeling satisfied.

  3. August 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Visiting from Mama Kats…

    I think it is so hard to handle confrontation in a way that doesn’t end badly … especially with strangers. You just never know what mental space the person is in at the time. My husband is always saying “It isn’t worth getting beaten up or shot.”

    And I think she was going to put the flyer on your windshield too.

  4. August 12, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I still get anger stomach when I think about not confronting this idiot older woman who spent the ENTIRE carousel ride loudly complaining that my 3 year old daughter had taken her pony. Even though we had not.

    Sometimes I wish I would have something. BUT, I know I would have just lost my fucking mind, and I did NOT want to have that happen.

    Seriously. What idiot person does that?

  5. August 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I think my problem is that I kind of enjoy confrontation. It’s something like a sport for me. Last winter I almost threw down with a 90-year-old lady who complained that she wanted my children’s seats at a symphony concert. And it still makes me giggle. Oooh, I think I was just inspired to write something …

  6. August 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I’m the same – I don’t like confrontation, but I can inwardly seethe over something for a really long time. I spend way too much time composing speeches in my head that I never ever give.. I’m trying to learn to pick my battles, that sometimes I need to be a little more confrontational, even for my own sanity.
    I enjoyed your post.. Stopped in from Mama Kat’s.

  7. EJ
    August 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    You make my day…with truth and insight that reassures me I might be OK in a world that feels like it’s flying off the edge.

    But do tell, where o where did you get the term “douche-nozzle”?! I’m NOT a young-lady but wow–that’s a new one…and I LIKE it!
    OMG, I’m like my 4 -year old w/ a new word!

    Maybe it’s just taking a break from a terribly stressful day to read your post…but I’m fighting off fits of laughter and uncontrollable tears…your truth hits home for me…THANK YOU.

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