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Another Pushy Gringo

Dr David, Editor / Publisher

I've made excuses for my irritability. I've spent a lot of time, years and decades, blaming others for my peevishness. The world is full of people doing foolish, thoughtless things. So, if you're in the mood to be bothered, you've come to the right place.

Just the other afternoon, I went to Cava Sautto to buy a cheap bottle of white wine. You know, the nice shop on the corner of Zacateros and Nemesio Diez, right there where Codo starts. That wide, triangular intersection, is lined with curbside spaces where parking is not allowed. These days the busy exchange has a transit cop permanently positioned there to prevent exactly such inviting, but illegal, activity.

There were no legitimate parking spaces available. What was I supposed to do? I pulled in, across the street, behind another illegally parked car and set my hazard lights a blinking. I left the window down a bit for the dog, closed and locked the door, and ran, literally ran, not exactly dodging traffic, over and into the store. I took heart that the transit cop was occupied some good distance away from where I parked, chatting with two gentlemen in the street. Hurrying in and up the few steps, I went one row back and grabbed the bottle I had in mind. This wasn't my first time buying cheap white wine.

Things went wrong when I went to the cashier to pay for it. I have only myself to blame.

The check-out girl scanned the bottle and announce its value, "$108." As I was separating a $500 peso note from bills of lesser denominations, I made the mistake of explaining, or trying to explain, to her that I was in a hurry because I was illegally parked. On handing her the $500 pesos I asked her to give me $400 pesos change. I suppose that confused her even more. I thought that my putting down a ten-peso coin on the counter and pushing it her way would serve to clarify things, but she pushed the coin back towards me and tried to hand me $392 worth of change. Refusing her offer, I pushed the ten pesos back towards her, asking again for $400 pesos. Then, with visions of the transit cop removing my license plates dancing in my head, she reached for her calculator, but managed to do the math in hers before turning it on, and passed me two $200 pesos bills.

Pushy gringos, always in a hurry. As I extracted two pesos from the $392 on the counter between us, I asked her to excuse my rush. Then, remembering to say thank you, I hustled down the stairs and out the door. At least my irritability hadn't shown.

Blaming others is a common pasttime, no? But who can I blame when I get angry at inanimate objects. I hope, for your sake, that you have no idea what I'm talking about. But I get upset with things: cords that don't untangle, lids that won't unscrew, things that fall from where I have precariously perched them, what happens when I mistakenly right-click on my computer's touchpad (why is the touchpad off to the side, anyway?)... All of these and more are all likely to earn my wrath. I'm a lot better than I used to be... really, I am. Usually, I just laugh at myself. But sometimes I still have to count to ten.

In such circumstances, as a child or teen, when something wasn't complying with my wishes, I remember my father urging me to, "Break it! Break it!" I knew that master of sarcasm meant exactly the opposite of what he was saying, but a "Calm down. Take it easy," would have been kinder paternal advice.

It's all terribly dysfunctional, this getting peeved at things and people. Even if something has gone wrong, my irritability always makes things worse. Even if my interaction with someone provides me with a legitimate grievance, the way I expressed myself compounds the problem. Legitimate or not, my manner in these matters isn't friendly or efficient.

Life shows us, over and over again, what we are overlooking. The trick is to recognize it. When a difficult situation regularly recurs, when something keeps biting my ass, I know it's time to look at it from a new perspective.

This revisioning of the recurring problem, is alluded to in the Talmudic saying, "When three people tell you that you are drunk, you have to lie down." Imagine someone drunk, acting obnoxiously at a party. His wife quietly tells him he's making an ass of himself. A short while later, a friend tells him that he is making people uncomfortable. Finally, the host of the party invites him into a bedroom and asks him to lie down.

"Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable." - Mary Oliver
"The 'unimaginable' isn't always pretty." - Dr David

I needed to stop and look in a new light at the irritability that keeps recurring in my life. From where does it come? What is the message that is not getting through to me? What am I missing? I needed to lie down and think about, to imagine, where I picked up this neurotic behavior. I had to learn from it so that I can stop acting it out in my life. Here is what I came up with.

First, I remembered my mother having little angry monologues when she was frustrated with an object. The object never answered back, but she would curse it, addressing it as if it were consciously opposing her; "son of a bitch" is a phrase that comes echoing out of those past situations.

Then there was Dad. When my sister and I were both in our forties, she asked me, "Don't you think that the way Dad treated us made us smarter?" Without even thinking about it, with a rapidity that surprises me even now, I shot back, "No. I think we were already smart, and that the way he treated us just made us neurotic."

Dad expected us to think for ourselves. Now, there's nothing wrong with that. However, when we didn't get it, he got impatient, irritable, sarcastic and insulting. My sister and I put a lot of energy into not disappointing Dad.

Dad grew up during the Depression. The oldest sibling of five, if Dad didn't get it, if he weren't quick and resourceful, then there would not be enough food on the table. My intelligence may be more orderly than was his, but his was much quicker, much smarter on the street.

It occurs to me only now, that Dad brought that Depression era pressure to his disappointed in us. We weren't reading the clues, anticipating the situation. We were caught flatfooted. Our failure to understand let him down. We were not trying hard enough, not doing our part in the family.

I am aware that I really don't know what Dad was feeling. Little David certainly had no idea. But the child that I was made something up. That's what children do in such situations. They "make sense" of an abusive situation in a nonsensical way. That's the root of neurosis. That is the source of my neurotic irritability, what big David has been acting out all of his life.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

My irritability with people happens when I feel let down, when I judge that someone isn't doing their part. I get peeved when I imagine that people aren't reciprocating, aren't returning the care I give them.

My irritability with things is really irritability with myself. Not untangling is not the cord's fault. The jar not opening is not the lid's failure. I am guilty of seeing the world in terms of blame.

Someone observed, "The victim is complicit in his victimization." I've been my own worst enemy. Not capable of regularly receiving genuine affection, I've chosen people who weren't capable of repaying my affection, and eschewed people who were.

That's my new history, the story I'm telling myself, and you, now. Hopefully with this fuller, more nuanced understanding, I'll be freer to behave in a less self-frustrating way. At least I am better able to imagine caring for myself and letting others care for me.

I remember the Teddy Bear I had as a tyke. Almost alive, how important he was to me. I projected so much affection on him. The things which irritate me are stuffed animals of another type, more make believe. Once, I projected my love onto Teddy. Today I get angry at inanimate objects, real live people and myself. It is the same imaginative phenomenon with an opposite feeling.

Teddy is hibernating in a box somewhere north of the border. It's time to also give my irritability a rest.


Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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