Years ago, before the kids were born, Elysha and I went to the movies.
We’ve gone to the movies since the kids were born, of course, despite warnings from those rotten people who like to make parenting sound like guerrilla warfare that we never would. In fact, in the two years after our first child, Clara, was born, Elysha and I saw 29 movies together. Many of them were drive-in films, viewed while Clara slept peacefully in the backseat.
You can suck or you can find a way.
On this particular evening, it began to rain while we were watching the film, and by the time we exited the theater, it was a downpour of Biblical proportions. Standing under the shelter of the awning of the AMC theater, I told Elysha to wait while I ran for the car.
In the 30 seconds it took for me to sprint across the parking lot and get into the car, I was soaked to the skin.
As I pulled up to the front of the theater, a large crowed had gathered under the awning alongside Elysha. Some were waiting for partners to retrieve cars, but a considerable number were waiting out the downpour, hoping it would ease up a bit before they braved the storm.
In that crowd was a colleague. A fellow teacher. Someone who worked alongside both Elysha and me.
Realizing that even the 12 or 15 feet that Elysha would have to traverse between the sidewalk and the car would leave her drenched, I had an idea. The sidewalk in front of the theater was wide and graded rather than curbed, probably to accommodate people with disabilities.
“Perfect,” I thought.
Instead of stopping, I turned and pulled right up onto the curbing, stopping the car on the sidewalk, thereby allowing Elysha to climb in without getting a drop of rain on her head.
I was feeling pretty good about my ingenuity, and so, too was Elysha.
The next day at school, I learned through the grapevine that the colleague who had been standing in that crowd and had witnessed my maneuver had been less than impressed.
“Who does he think he is?” she told my fellow teachers.
“Why does he think he can drive right up on the sidewalk while the rest of us were waiting or getting wet?”
“A teacher shouldn’t be setting an example like that.”
She told a lot of people about my maneuver. Many came to me, both amused and impressed with my clever solution. A few warned me of my colleague’s ire and subterfuge. A couple who agreed with her assessment chided me on my decision.
She, of course, never said a word to me. She was a coward.
But I’ve never understood her anger, even though I see examples like it often.
No one was harmed by my decision. Allowing Elysha to avoid the rain didn’t cause anyone else to become any wetter. Elysha got lucky and they did not, but they lost nothing in the process. My decision didn't cost them a single thing.
Yet my colleague was angry just the same.
I’ll never understand the anger that I so often see from people when someone is the benefactor of luck, ingenuity, a calculated risk, or excellent timing.
When your colleague is unexpectedly chosen to lead a conference in Miami because she submitted an application on a whim and was accepted, why be angry that she will miss three days of work in the cold of January and you will not?
When your coworker forgets to complete a report that took you hours to finish but no one ever notices or cares, why be outraged that he was lucky enough to avoid the work? His failure to complete the report cost you nothing. Why not be happy for his good fortune?
When your friend falls ass backward into a job that pays her twice as much as you with double the benefits and quadruple the vacation - a job you never wanted in the first place - why not be thrilled for her?
And when a husband chivalrously drives up on a sidewalk to allow his wife to avoid the rain, why not be happy for the lady who stayed dry and the man who protected his love from the elements?
When a person’s good fortune, ingenuity, willingness to take a risk, or good luck rewards them with good fortune while costing you nothing, why not simply be happy for the that person?
I didn’t mind all that much that my colleague was angry with me. I was annoyed that she was speaking about me behind my back because I can’t stand that level of cowardice and deceit, but even that I could ignore.
But the difficulty that people have in celebrating the good fortune of others will always baffle me. It’s an awful, ugly, small-minded tendency that says a lot about a person, and nothing good.
NOTE: This does not apply to the game of golf. When your opponent slices his drive deep into the trees, but the ball somehow ricochets back into the center of the fairway, you are permitted to despise your friend for the next three holes.
Golf isn't the real world. Golf is polite, friendly, fun-loving warfare. All bets are off.