Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Mea Culpa," "My Bad," or Whatever...


I have a reason for publishing the following post. Actually, two reasons: First of all, I wish to high heaven that I could find and apologize to the innocent man mentioned in this post for my despicable behavior also detailed here; if anyone in the Los Angeles area hears of a man who encountered such unimaginably rude behavior while in downtown's Union Station, I wish they'd have him contact me, or read this post, or both. Secondly, I fear that the incident described here just may be one of the first signs of my mental state deteriorating into irreversible dementia or insanity, and if that's the case, this post will be kind of the first installment of my personal journal chronicling that mental and emotional decline.

I don't know what  the modern young people call it these days, and I don't know if that really makes any difference anyway, since few people have accused me lately of being up-to-date or modern, and I haven't been young for a very long time (except, I guess, for my ironic surname). So I guess I'll just have to say it my way: I was wrong, very wrong; I'm sorry; I apologize. Actually, I wish I could apologize, but I have no way of identifying or locating the guy I wronged.

Here's what happened: Last Thursday afternoon, while helping some people with tourist or transit information at my volunteer gig, I overheard a man ask my co-volunteer if there is a Metro train to Robertson and Venice. She replied that she didn't know, but she'd look it up. Mind you, the man wasn't talking to me at all, and I was already with other people, but I butted into their conversation to inform them that No, there isn't a train to that corner, but there is a bus that'll take them there, and that he could get the bus from the Metro Purple Line Wilshire/Western station. The man ignored me and repeated his question to my coworker, and she informed him that I had already answered his question. The man told her that he had asked her, and since she was at the Information Booth. she should have the information. I jumped into their conversation again and informed him that I fairly regularly patronize the thrift shop just north of the Starbucks on that corner. He looked quizzically at the both of us, then said (correctly), "that makes no sense. I'm confused." At that, for whatever reason, I saw red --- and blew up at him. "So what language should I tell you in? You came for information, and I gave you information, and I told you in perfectly clear English that No, there's no train to that corner, but there is a bus, and that you can take a Purple Line train to that bus," I yelled.

"You don't have to be so rude," the gentleman said, quite correctly, and much more calmly than I would have. "You have no business dealing with the public."

I went ballistic on him, yelling and screaming at him like the madman that I obviously was (am?).

Let me pause here to remind you of three salient things: (1) I was already supposedly helping someone else, so that's where my attention should have been concentrated; (2) the man specifically addressed my co-worker, not me, so I should not have butted in at all; and (3) the information I gave was wrong; although what I (incorrectly) heard as a destination was "Pico and Robertson," where there does happen to be a Starbucks, just south of the Its A Wrap thrift shop that I patronize, what the man actually asked about was the train to Venice and Robertson --- and despite what I told him, there most certainly is a train to that spot; it's the final, Culver City station of the Metro Rail Expo Line. If the man was going home, or was otherwise familiar with that corner, the "information" I gave him was very clearly incorrect, and as he said, it Made.No.Sense.

Apparently, my reaction had been so loud that a security officer came in and asked if I was having a problem. When I said No, he said that someone had told him that a guy was yelling at me. By then, I was beginning to come back to my senses, and told him that No, I was the one who had been yelling, but that everything was alright. I immediately knew that I had been wrong, and looked for the gentleman (he, not I, had certainly been exactly that) so I could apologize. Unfortunately, I move slowly and painfully these days, and even though I saw him, he was too far away for me to catch him.

This has bothered me tremendously ever since. Those who know me know that I am anal about giving correct information, and about receiving (and giving) good, civil customer service. In one fell swoop, I'd violated both of those principles. I think I know why it happened; I think there actually was a reason, but I don't want anyone to think that I'm offering that reason as an excuse. There was absolutely no excuse for my attitude and behavior, even if there just might have been a reason. More about that later.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time I'd done something like that. I've been a volunteer at that location for 18 years, and I can remember having blown up at people and shouting like a screaming meemee four times; this was, though, the only time I think I've done it to someone who was not obviously deranged (not that the other people's mental state should have had any bearing whatsoever on my attitude and behavior toward them). But I just couldn't seem to help myself.

Okay, the reason (remember, not the excuse) for my behavior: I am on two medications which I am supposed to be taking daily, but which have such high co-pays that I have gradually tapered off taking one, and then the other. That's what I now recall had also happened in the past when I behaved intemperately toward others. Anyway, the first sign I usually have of there being a problem is the fact that my thinking and behavior become more, for want of a better term, "scattered." No one who knows me would ever accuse me of being a "neat freak," but I do live a fairly orderly life, and my home is usually pretty clean and orderly. What I've noticed, though, is that there are times when I just Don't Care that dirty dishes remain in my sink all day, or even overnight. Dirty clothes don't make it into the hamper? Oh well. So? Little things like that, which could gradually build into much larger things: Didn't take a shower this morning? That's alright, I'll take a shower or bath tonight. Didn't take a shower yesterday morning OR a bath or shower last night? Oh well; I'm not going anywhere anyway, so what? That kind of thinking and behavior bothers me when I'm "myself." But it's what gradually takes over when I'm not on my meds. Soon, I become impatient and short-tempered (which is also not "me"). And then, what seems to be the Pit of my Situation --- a strongly bipolar kind of thinking and acting seems to take over: One minute, one second, I'm happy as a lark and just smiling and joking away; the very next minute --- or second --- a switch seems to flip, and I'm a yelling, hollering maniac. And, I'll even go St. Peter, too (remember that Apostle? He clearly also had what we'd today call Anger Management problems, and he was known to --- as the Bible discreetly states it --- "speak with curses"; in other words, he had a potty mouth --- he'd cuss folks out!). When I pull a St. Peter, I know something is very wrong. Fortunately, with the man Friday I didn't "speak with curses" (ahem!), but I certainly did lose my temper for absolutely no reason, legitimate or otherwise.

My very advanced age, coupled with my not being able to take my prescribed meds, is what I think is the reason why I behaved as I did, but there was no excuse for such deplorable behavior.

People who know me seem to think I'm a wonderful, calm, civil Christian man. That's why I think that those who overheard my screeching last Friday must have thought that it was someone else who was screaming at me, not the other way around. Unless and until they see it, that's why few people can imagine that I'd act like that. That's why I pray regularly, Dear Heavenly Father, please help me each day to become more and more the person people seem to think I am, and less and less the person You and I both know that I actually am.

Amen.