Tonight I am grateful for the loud, rude man in the line at Boston market who was perceptive enough to notice me wince when he demanded a coupon for his next visit.
My reaction was involuntary. The man was genuinely loud, and I was standing directly beside him. He had been loud and rude throughout the entire process of ordering his dinner, but when it came time to pay, his demand for a coupon for his next visit was especially loud, and so I involuntarily winced.
“What’s your problem?” he asked.
“Hooray!” I thought. “An invitation to criticize.”
Though I had been tempted to say something from the moment the man had opened his mouth, I purposely chose to avoid the confrontation in fear that I might slow down the line behind me.
I’m also trying to be slightly less confrontational in my life. I have a daughter now and another child on the way, and my friends seem to think my willingness to engage in verbal combat will one day get me in trouble.
But ask me a question and I am obligated to answer.
“You’re loud,” I said. “And not very nice.”
Not surprising, this did not cause the man to lower his voice., Instead, he raised it, even though my remark was made with a purposely soft, almost whisper-like voice.
We exchanged a few verbal blows, neither one of us gaining the upper hand. A few minutes later, when the man saw me typing on my phone near the doors to the restaurant, he left his seat and accused me of texting about him.
I assured him that I wasn’t texting. I was tweeting. An entirely different thing. He didn’t understand at first, but when I explained to him that I was essentially sending a text message to about 800 followers, he expressed his outrage with considerable volume, causing me to leave.
Tonight I am grateful to this loud, obnoxious man for opening the door to criticism. Had he not noticed my wince or chosen to ignore it, I would probably still be annoyed with myself for letting the man’s rudeness go unchallenged.