The Warsaw Pact

I should be driving back from the airport right now, having retrieved my wife and son after their trip to Bulgaria. What I am doing instead is writing a blog entry, which of course I would have done earlier if they weren't currently chilling in Warsaw, thanks to a two hour flight delay. At least it's not Heathrow or JFK or one of those horrible places, though.

So yeah, the dog and I have been here by ourselves for the last 10 days, and whilst we've entertained ourselves well enough, it will be nice to have the rest of the family back. I expect that Rover will lose the plot entirely when Lyani and Kai walk through the door.

I had this idea today when I was riding my bike and I dinged the bell so that two people walking side by side would switch to single file so I could pass them without hitting them or getting hit in the face by a bush, but then of course they maintained present course and speed so I had to risk the bush and luckily I was wearing my helmet so I could just duck my head and pray there weren't any solid branches in there. My idea was to write a piece about all the things that annoy me, but do it in a really passive aggressive way and make a joke that it was an assignment for my Swedish citizenship exam, because passive aggression is even more Swedish than IKEA, but then I ended up realising that there really aren't that many things that annoy me enough to write a humorous piece about.

There are things that make me angry, injustices of all sort and when Arsenal lose a game of football, but for the most part, I don't get annoyed when people don't behave like I think they should. This is the result of a conscious choice, though. You see, a few years back (six or so, if my memory serves), I was commuting to work every day, and was always getting annoyed by things like people standing on the wrong side of the escalator or not waiting for people to get off the train before barging in or people stopping suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk or whatever. I took my wife to see La Boheme at the opera house downtown, and after the opera, we were catching the train home. We needed to walk down a long escalator, and a train was coming, so we wanted to hurry up and catch it. Two young women were standing side by side on the escalator, blocking our path, and I said "Move!" to them in quite an angry tone of voice, and my wife gave me a look.

We missed that train and had to wait five whole minutes for the next one, during which time my wife told me that it really bothered her when I acted like that. "What do you mean?" I said, "They were clearly in the wrong and because of that we missed our train." "So what?" she said, "Now you're annoyed, I'm annoyed, and do you think those two learned their lesson and will never be mildly inconsiderate again in their lives?" I recognised this as one of those questions that don't require an answer, so I shut my mouth and thought a little about what she'd said. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that she had a good point. Me getting angry at random commuters had no effect on the world other than making me feel worse.

So I tried to break the habit starting the next morning on my way to work. When someone didn't move their bag off the seat so someone else could sit down, instead of letting the righteous anger course through my veins, I just ignored it. Or tried to, at least. When someone pushed onto the train as I was trying to get off, I just squeezed past them and went on with my day.

It didn't happen overnight, and it took a lot of intentional effort, but I was able to train myself to stop expecting everyone to behave exactly as I thought they should behave at all times. Because let's face it, there are about a million reasons why someone could commit one of these minor commuting sins. Maybe they're in a hurry for a really valid reason (late for a job interview, for example). Maybe they're distracted and don't notice they're standing in the middle of the bike path. Maybe they're really tired because they just got off a double shift at some shitty job. Or maybe they're an inconsiderate prick, but I honestly think that is the least likely of the many reasons people do inconsiderate things.

Plus, who the fuck am I to judge what the right thing for other people to do is? I can certainly judge what the right thing for me to do is, and then I can feel better about myself by doing that thing, so maybe that's what I should concentrate on doing, rather than being the arbiter of decency for everyone moving around the city of Stockholm.

And you know what? It worked. Not getting all worked up about what other people are doing has actually made me happier.

So sorry, no fun article about things I hate. Instead, I'm going to take a nice cold shower and get in a few turns of Civ V before it's time to drive to the airport and pick up the family.

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Published: 2022-07-01

Tagged: waffle