Sometimes Mean Is Mean

Hard to miss this guy.  He stood out amidst all his co-workers, eager new drivers and terror-stricken moms and dads.  He seemed mean. He was complaining about someone being out on the driver course during hours of operation.  That’s an honest complaint on his part. Yet there are ways to address this appropriately, and his was not one of them. Yelling and complaining in front of everyone, including the newbie drivers that might be on the course with him next! And one of the newbies was our daughter, Brittany.

No one, especially Brittany, wanted this guy to be their driving instructor.  It was scary enough just trying to pass the test. Heck, new drivers are more likely to pass the driver’s test than most of us, because we’re likely overconfident and not in the crosshairs. With this nasty guy, crosshairs are a massive understatement!

So, there we were a few weeks later. We were practicing a final time in the dreaded parallel parking section. This is the most feared challenge on the course, and Britt wanted one more shot at it.   As Britt was backing in according to plan, the road parallel to us lit up. It lit up with the nasty guy in the middle of a test run with a new driver. Just as he pulled over, red and hot, I realized my mistake.  I misread the hours of operation for Saturday and was about to pay the price.  Yikes! This could be bad. And it was.

As he started yelling at me, he very rudely directed us to the sign that read “no driving on course during hours of operation.”  The sign was right at the parallel parking section. I missed it, badly.

Immediately, I wanted to apologize and yet, try to explain my misunderstanding.  And to be very honest, I was already hot about his attitude and approach, especially the way he handled himself before. Just not a nice guy. He was right, yes. But wow, there are better ways to address it.

I also realized quickly that Britt might be driving with him in just a few minutes. So I held my tongue, told him it had nothing to do with my daughter, it was all me and apologized profusely. Totally humbling.

A few minutes later it was time for the test. And yes, we got him. Wow, looking at Brittany’s face as he approached, and then as they drove away… that was awful. Just a few minutes earlier, I didn’t just poke this bear, I lit him up!

She failed. He offered his reasons. Whatever. Brittany went back a week or so later, had a different, very nice instructor, and passed. Oh, but he was there that day, and griping about something else. What a mess.

Hey, he was right. We were there at the wrong time.

Yet, thinking about all the people I’ve ever met over my lifetime, this guy stands out above all. He was the meanest, nastiest, and verbally abusive.

And while I teach workshops based on books like How to Win Friends and Influence People, this guy was the anomaly.  

As my friend and mentor for so many years said about one of my speaking engagements, “Why did you focus on that one negative guy when you had a whole room of people fully engaged?”

Good point. While it’s good human behavior to be nice regardless of the other person’s demeanor, some people will not change.

Sometimes it’s best to move on and just make a fun story out of it.