Once, on a first date, I was telling a story that made me seem pitiful (because that’s smart first date conversation), and the guy looked at me with a sweet yet pitying look and said, “I love people.” At the same time that I was embarrassed for provoking such a response, I was also jealous because I never feel that sentiment. In fact, I often proclaim to hate people. It’s not true–not deep down–but I think I’m pretty convincing.
But yesterday, for some reason that can best be described as no reason at all, while at work, someone did something that would normally slightly annoy me and instead of being annoyed, I smiled and thought, “I love people.” As soon as I thought it, I questioned it.
What was happening?
I couldn’t figure it out, so I went to go pee. When I got to the restroom, a cleaning guy was standing outside. I asked him if he was working in the bathroom and he said he was about to leave as soon as he replaced the soap. This took unreasonably long (like 45 seconds). Normally, I’d be frustrated to wait, but instead I just patiently waited by the door. On my way back from the restroom, I passed a woman complaining about her job. Normally I’d think, Stop whining, but instead I thought, Aww.
Something was seriously going on here.
Later, when I got on the subway, it was time to truly test out my new-found love. If anything could return me to my usual hatred, it was people’s inability to act like decent human beings on the subway. But the crowds of bodies showing disregard for the other bodies didn’t irk me. When I got on the train and couldn’t lean against the door because the woman who got on after me stood just close enough to it that another person couldn’t fit but not close enough to lean against it herself, I calmly reached up to hold the bar.
Then I looked up and saw a poorly written ad for a psychic. Usually, the terrible spelling and bad grammar would drive me crazy. Instead, I read how this woman promised to “use the power or your orah” and I smiled. Instead of getting angry about “or your orah,” I was simply amused. And I still loved people.
Next, I went to the grocery store. If the subway didn’t do the trick, standing in line behind people who appeared to have never visited the grocery store or used a credit card or encountered an automatic door before in their lives would definitely do it.
I ended up in the line with the cashier on his first day at the job. Normally, I’d be seething. “Of course,” I’d complain silently. “I’m always in the wrong line.” Instead, I just watched as the boy asked the guy bagging the groceries for the numbers to look up the bananas and apples and peppers (which he called squash). When it was finally my turn and he couldn’t find the bar code on the box of crackers, I told him, “It’s on the bottom.” Not in a mean voice, and not in an exasperated voice. In a normal one.
By the time I left the store, I was no longer thinking, “I love people.” But I also wasn’t thinking, “I hate people.”
So, okay, a sustained shift from “I hate people” to “I don’t mind people” may not be as great as the brief one from hating to loving them, but for me, it’s still a noticeable one. And now that it’s a new year and I can no longer say it’s the year everything in my life went crazy, I suppose I do need something new to talk about. I only have so many pitiful stories to break out for first dates; I might as well add “how I learned to no longer completely hate people” to the repertoire. Only, I don’t know how it happened, so it will be a very short story–which I’m sure the guy will appreciate.