The Importance of Being Important

A vintage "return to sender" stamp bringing to mind the Dead Letter Office, where undeliverable letters go to rest

To Whom It May Concern;

I’m guessing the details of our brief encounter are insignificant to someone like you, so allow me to refresh your memory.

Sunday morning around 9:30. I was sitting in the corner of the neighborhood Starbucks, chatting with a dear friend, Becca. The coffee shop was moderately full.

I happened to be sitting next to an electrical outlet, a surprisingly rare commodity for a Starbucks that’s only a couple years old.

Becca and I were talking. You approached me and said, “Excuse me, would you mind moving to another seat so my wife can use the outlet?”

Now do you remember?

A thousand thoughts flew through my mind. The one that particularly stood out was “How Dare You?”

Remarkably, I didn’t react. I responded.

With no snark in my voice, I said, “I’m planning on departing in ten minutes or so. You’re welcome to my seat when I leave.”

You may have responded with “OK” or something like that and then moved on.

I watched you seat your wife catty-corner across from me, one seat away from the wall and another outlet. The young woman sitting next to the wall graciously helped your wife run her power cord from the outlet to her seat.

I’ve been thinking about our encounter. For better or worse. Allow me to share some of the conclusions I’ve drawn.

Though dressed casually, your perfectly ironed clothes, your close-cropped hair tells me your appearance is important to you even on a lazy Sunday morning at Starbucks.

Accustomed to getting your way, you interrupted my conversation, unapologetically requesting I change seats, as if you deserve special treatment

As a side note, when discussing the traffic, I attribute the aggressiveness and rudeness to the fact that Washington, DC drivers are the most important people in the world so their time is more valuable than everyone else’s.

Does that sound familiar? I’m betting it does.

As a result of our encounter, I stayed in my seat for a additional hour. I noticed your wife diligently working on her laptop, while you sat elsewhere, reading the Sunday Times. I didn’t notice a single glance my way.

Is that how it works?

You look at moments like this as victories? You savor wins, accept losses and move on? I could work on that. Obviously.

Finally, and feel free to skip this since it doesn’t concern you, what does all this say about me?

Why couldn’t I let it go? Why did it our encounter leave such a sour taste in my mouth for the next couple hours?

Why did it make me feel unimportant?

One of the Tara Brach’s Buddhist teachings in Radical Acceptance, is acknowledging that when you have an adverse reaction to someone, what is upsetting you is not the person, but your reaction to the person.

Accordingly, you can’t change the person, but you can better understand your reaction and choose a different path.

Thanks for listening.

Stay in touch. Connect. Comment.

PS: A little narcissism for your viewing pleasure

12 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Important

  1. Glad you stood up for yourself. It’s the mulling over it FOREVER afterward that really sucks. Jerks like that probably just got out of church, too. Narcissism gets a bad wrap, but it, like so many things, runs along a positive and negative spectrum. Narcissism when it’s at the zero point is healthy as per psychological theories. Then you get those far right psychopath types that we send to prison. Your coffee shop guy is a righty. On the left spectrum you get…
    It’s not bad, it is what it is. I wrote a poem about it. I’ll try to find a link for you. Oops. Nope. I sent that one to Boston Review. They’ve had it seven months now. I’m expecting a rejection letter any day. When I get it I’ll put it on my blog. It’s called One Way Mirror. You might try reading The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. It’s a short little book.
    Deep stuff, but short.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll check out both the link and the book. My immediate thought is that at the zero end of the spectrum, is it really narcissism, or just a healthy sense of self? I’ll read the post and see if I still feel the same way.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jungian psychology isn’t for everyone. But you seem to be the creative type… Buddhism fits nicely with it though when you mix it with a little phenomenological existentialism. I love thinking comparatively.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. LOL What??? Okay. I’ll be careful. I’ve already been accused of being “mocking” today in what started as a very jokey post. No mocking here, Jon Freedman. You’re writing as a woman as a man. How much more creative can you get? LOL I hope you know I LOVE your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. o’ phew! Turns out it was a mix up on the other post. I was just informed. That threw me off balance… Okay. Now I can go back to harassing you with confidence. 🙂 But oh, good. So glad you know I’m kidding. I better go meditate. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

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