Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Responding to Anger with Love=Magic

Before talking on cell phones wasn’t allowed in cars, I used to talk while driving a fair amount. I had a long commute and it was the perfect time to catch up with friends or family. On this particular day, it happened to be raining, there happened to be heavy traffic, and I happened to have a car without anti-lock brakes. So when the car in front of me screeched to a halt and I instinctively slammed on my brakes, I slid directly into his back bumper with a loud bang.

“I have to call you back,” I said to my husband at the time, “I just hit a car.”

I got out to survey the damage only to be greeted with one of the most obscene mouths I had ever before encountered. It went something like this minus the swear words:

“Who do you think you are driving like that? Do you know how much this car costs? The bumper alone probably costs more than your entire car! And I saw you talking on the phone, too. Cars are for driving, they’re not social playgrounds…” This well-dressed businessman went on and on, his tirade practically changing weather patterns, say nothing of his blood pressure or the color of his face. I stood facing him, looking him straight in the eye the entire time. Occasionally, I nodded my head in agreement. When his speech slowed, I dared to respond.

“You’re right. All of this is completely my fault and I take full responsibility. I understand your anger, you have a right to it, and whatever I can do to make this situation better, to make you feel better, I will do. You have a beautiful car and I am sure you have invested a lot of money into it so go ahead, yell at me some more.” And then a little quieter I said, “Of course I’d prefer less swear words, but that too, is your right.” Then I smiled, but barely.

The man didn’t start up again but instead, put his hands in his pockets, paced a bit around his car looking at me then the ground, and then back at me again. He walked to the bumper which was oddly unscathed, staring at it and scratching his head. From where I stood, I couldn’t see any damage but I wasn’t about to defend myself. It was, like I said, entirely my fault. Finally, he came up to me. He pulled out his wallet.

“I’ve never met anyone that handled a situation quite like you just did and I’d like to offer you a job.” He handed me his business card. He was the CEO of a large, well-respected company. “You are exactly the kind of person I want working for me.”

I was speechless but managed a thank you and a heartfelt smile.

He outstretched his hand, “No,” he said. “Thank you.” And he got in his car and drove away.

I got in mine only then realizing my knees were shaking. I took a deep breath just as the cell phone rang. It was my husband.

“Are you alright? What happened?” He was worried, and rightly so.

“I’m ok. The man I just hit thanked me and offered me a job.”

“What? Are you kidding me?” He was shocked but I could hear his smile.

“I’ll explain it all when I when I get home.” I said with a toothy grin, a giggle escaping just enough for him to know that everything was going to be just fine.