Today is a demarcation point. In short, there are three forward realities: stop, start, and continue. One Presidential candidate will stop the rhetoric and go home defeated. The other will make history and start shouldering the awesome weight of the United States mantle of leadership. As for the rest us, we will continue our own paths, leading at all levels within the private and public sector. We will adjust and find our way forward. Life will persist. It always does.
While waiting at the gate for an early morning flight from DFW to ORD, I noticed that I was second on the upgrade list. If you fly between these two airports you know that being second on the list gives you little cause for celebration. There is always a very high percentage of Executive Platinum and Platinum frequent flyers on this flight. Over a 14 month period of flying back and forth, I scarcely was upgraded and the cabin was always full. But that’s just the luck of the draw…or is it?
As I was boarding this morning, the woman in front of me stopped and surveyed the First Class cabin. She noted, as I did, that there were two open seats. Boarding was still in progress so the seats were not necessarily available. And even if they were, there is a ‘pecking order’ among frequent flyers that has to do with your status and when you checked in. According to the list, on this flight, I was second in line for an upgrade and the first was already seated in First Class.
So here’s what happened next.
The woman in front of me takes a side step and speaks to the First Class flight attendant in a low voice. Fortunately, I have big ears and they work. So, her voice was not low enough for me to miss what was said. She wanted one of the two remaining seats and asked if she could just plop down in one. He told her that it wasn’t his call to make and she would have to go back up to the boarding agents to have her seat switched. So off she went. In the interim, I informed the First Class flight attendant that I was next in line for the upgrade and showed him on my AA.com app. He assured me that if the seat was available that I would get it. I was okay with that and went to my assigned seat at 10C. Thankfully, that put me clearly in eyeshot of First Class. In about 5 minutes, the same woman sauntered back on the plane and helped herself to a First Class seat. My seat. I got up, calmly approached the First Class flight attendant and asked if he could help me to understand what just happened. He could not, and suggested that I take the matter up with the gate agent. So I did. When I got back to the gate it was clear that they had already been forewarned of my arrival. I very politely asked again if anyone could help me understand how I was skipped on the upgrade list. Well, it turns out that I wasn’t. The gate agent had told the passenger that even if the seat were available, as they had to wait three more minutes before it could be released, it would go to me. In defiance, she had just walked back on the plane and sat down in the seat anyway.
Upon hearing this, the gate agent said, “She did what?” And then assured me that they would handle the matter. With that, I went back to re-board the plane. To my surprise, by the time I was back onboard she had already been asked to vacate the seat. Three minutes later I was upgraded to 3F and settled in for a much needed breakfast!
I know that’s sounds like what happens when a baby’s diaper fails. Wet blankets are people who lack the ability to be happy or excited for anyone other than themselves. And sometimes they can’t even do that. Everyone knows at least one person like this. Sadly, they are lurking all around us hanging in the shadows until something good happens to the people around them. And then they show up dripping with cold water to extinguish the fires of excitement.
Get promoted on your job and they are the first to say how much harder the work will be and share horror stories about your new manager who they have never met. Meet a celebrity in that airport and they will tell you that it was an impersonator. See the President’s motorcade go by and he waves at you and they will say, “…you ain’t seeing nothing thru that tint.” Some people call them haters, but wet blankets are the worst kind of haters. They are people you know, love, and sometimes respect. Folks you thought were in your corner cheering for you. In fact, they are anchors wishing to moor your where you are and to dull your senses with the status quo. They can’t handle any change that causes you to ascend in your career, be recognized by others, or makes you feel good about yourself…not even for one moment.
Their taunts sound harmless, but bear closer inspection. Of all the things they could say, why choose something negative or deflating? Words are powerful. They can uplift or tear down, bring joy or cause sadness, motivate or discourage.
But here’s the real question: Why be a wet blanket to people you call your friends or worse, your own family members? Further, how does being a wet blanket benefit a hater? Well, maybe the answer lies within. Some folks fail to acknowledge the success of others because it keeps them from having to look at themselves and their achievements, rather the lack thereof. It’s human nature to compare ourselves with others. But when you are unhappy with yourself it can be hard to peer in the mirror of introspection.
Truthfully, cheering for others is a learned behavior. You aren’t always going to be the starter. Heck, sometimes you are not even on the field of play. So what! Pick a team and start cheering for them!
Throw that blanket in a dryer and start learning to be encouraging and master that until you are inspirational. How? That’s easy as 1, 2, 3.
1.) Think before you speak.
2.) Make the decision to be constructive.
3.) Pay attention to how your words impact others.
And keep at it until it becomes second nature.
Have you ever been asked, “Do you mind if I…” as the person who’s speaking is already taken an unsanctioned liberty to proceed in the anticipation of a green light from you? I certainly have many times. And most of the time I don’t mind, but every so often I get annoyed by the impoliteness and the down right disregard for others that some people have. How would you handle the following scenarios?
a.) You have been working 14 hour days away from home for two weeks. It’s finally time to go home and you have been confirmed in First Class in your aisle seat and you are thinking about the free cocktails waiting aboard. When you get to the plane, your seat it is occupied and the guy sitting in your assigned seat says, “Welcome aboard, my travel companion wanted to sit next to me during this flight so we can hold hands. Do you mind if I sit in your aisle sear and you sit in my window seat two rows back?”
b.) You are going to see the opening show of Marvel’s Dr. Strange, you buy your tickets online to ensure that you have the best vantage point in the middle of the theater. You even have the reclining seats. Your tire blew out on the way to the theater and after calling AAA, you just make it as the last preview is ending. When you get to your seats someone is in one of them. You let him know that you purchased K and L and one only one of them is vacant. You notice an empty seat to the left of his date, but before you can say another word he shrugs. Then he goes on to say, “Look, we have been sitting here for twenty minutes, have gotten comfortable, ordered food, and the movie is starting right now. Do you mind moving down to the right two seats so we don’t have to move all of our things and so everyone else can enjoy the movie?”
c.) You finally made it to the next restaurant on your foodie list and it was as good as the reviews. The price was right and the portions were too large to finish. You get a doggie bag, which you plan to eat, and you go home to tell your roommate about the total experience and why it’s going on your all time favorite list. You go to your room to retrieve you MacPro so you can write a quick review to add to your blog and when you return you find your roommate sampling your leftovers by picking out all of the braised meats from the bed of rice and sautéed vegetables. When she notices the look on your face she asks, “Do you mind if I try a little of your leftovers before I go back to clipping my toe nails?”
d.) You finally got invited to the party of the most popular person in your sub-division. They also happen to be eligible and you want to make a good impression. You pick up a expensive outfit that you know is outside your budget, but rationalize it’s a good investment. On the day of the party your best friend comes over and raids your closet. You receive a text just as you finish your shower and are about to get dressed. The text says, “My boyfriend’s parents are in town and I want to make a good impression. I will meet you at the party later. By the way, I borrowed that dress that was hanging in the black bag. I would have taken the shoes too, but your feet are two sizes bigger than mine. This was all last minute. Do you mind if I left the dress I was going to wear since this one is newer and didn’t need to be ironed?”
e.) You rent a car for a family member for tells you they want to ride in style to the prom. They get sick with the flu and end up at the emergency and never make it to the dance. You come by to check up on them and while you’re at it, you figure you might as well turn the vehicle back in since your coupon from Uber will cover your fare to get back home. When you ask for the keys, your cousin goes into a coughing fit and after several moments you have to repeat your request. Your cousin says, “Well, you know I didn’t make it to the prom, but what you don’t know is that I promised my best friend and her date a ride. Would you mind if I gave them the keys to the car. They should be back with the by noon since that when the hotel will make them check out. They are really good drivers?”
What would you do? Would you mind?
You just can’t. So stop trying.
The best you can expect is to be true to yourself, to pray your impact matches your intentions, and to try not to deliberately offend anyone. But the fact is that more than likely someone will be upset anyway. Its inescapable. Sometimes they’ll have good cause and at other times not. If you start from the premise above, it then comes down to perspective…yours versus everyone else’s.
I once gave a family member some furniture only to have another one tell me I should have given it to them. To be fair, neither of them deserved it and had I had ample space I would have kept it. I was living in Houston during Hurricane Katrina when families displaced from New Orleans began to pour into the city. I remember going to Popeye’s Chicken and ordering 200 pieces of chicken and buying a half of pallet of bottled water and loaves of bread to take to the local social services offices as a donation. When I got there I was confronted by a woman who wanted to know why there were no wings or Louisiana hot sauce.
My first thought was to take the chicken to work and set it in the cafeteria where I knew it would be immediately appreciated. Instead, I smiled and went back to work.
The way I look at it, you should only give what you can walk away from. You can’t control what people will do, know what people are thinking, or always predict how people really feel.
But you can be consistent, values based, and purpose driven.
Relationships are very important. They sum us up. It is impossible to add context to who you are as an independent variable. Your self description will always includes references to other people, groups, and organizations like your family, your alma mater, and your occupation.
In the produce store of life you are not the pit in the peach. Strip away everyone and everything else and you won’t be left standing tall…alone.
You are the onion that is composed of layers and layers of relationships. Some are close and others aren’t. Cut an onion perfectly down the center and you will find an empty place. That means we sometimes need time alone. Because there are times when we need to withdraw to recharge.
But “me time” can’t last forever. We are wired to socialize and we keep finding more ways to do it.
As we increase our touch points we exponentially increase the demands that we place on each other. And quite frankly, we can’t meet all of those expectations. We don’t have enough to give to fill all the orders. So we make decisions and judgement calls about what’s most important. Sometimes we get it right and at other times we don’t. But after all, we are human and for all our strength we are frail.
A good friend of mine shared that she wasn’t worried about the two Presidential candidates as she felt she could predict the outcome of the election. (That remains to be seen on November 8th.) However, she was very concerned about the fanatical hate-mongers that make up some of the support base for the nominees for President of United States. I shared with her that the hate mongers have always been here. We should be grateful that we now know who some of them are.
Voting is a civic duty. But there is nothing civic or civil about being hateful. We should always be able to agree to disagree in ways that aren’t disagreeable. On November 8th, we have the opportunity to cast our vote for whoever we wish. And the day after, life goes on as it always does.