Lots to get off my chest

Dear President Trump,

I’m usually very happy when Friday rolls around because it’s my work-at-home day when I can get actual work done that requires actual thought. I don’t do so hot in the thinking realm when I’m constantly interrupted and distracted, either by VA email (much of which has nothing to do with me) or by the steady stream of pedestrians right outside my office window. Anyway, this week I’m especially happy it’s Friday because I’m so glad yesterday is over, it having been one of the worst days in recent memory. I know you don’t care about my bad days or really, anyone else’s bad days, but I’m going to share the highlights of this bad day with you because looking back, they crystallized for me some of the key things about you that so get under my skin.

The day started out with a challenging meeting about a paper that I’m fourth author on. Being this far down in the author chain normally means that after helping to shape what’s going to be covered and how it will be approached, I get to come in towards the end with editing and fine tuning. Maybe the problem is that I missed the initial shaping meeting, but I’ve poured hours into trying to salvage this thing and finally asked to meet in person to try to hash out what to do.

Despite the other authors agreeing with me, the lead author dug in her heels around her original approach. She also tried to school me on the basics of correlation and regression. I was steaming. Fortunately one of the other folks was able to get some movement and we agreed on a sensible central question and a solid statistical approach to address it. I thought I was home free until we were discussing what should go in the model and someone asked why I’d said a particular variable should be in there. It didn’t make sense for that variable to be included because it’s too highly correlated with a key variable, but instead of just saying “oh right, that was a mistake” I said “I was trying to be conciliatory.” Although true, it was a very passive aggressive thing to have said out loud. And what’s worse, at that moment I didn’t care. I had had it.

I had to (got to) leave that meeting before it was over because I needed to meet a prospective data manager for another project, who upon first greeting, accidentally stabbed me with the pen she was holding when we shook hands. I just now realized that this was my instant karma for having been petty and fairly pissy in the earlier meeting. Thank you universe. Not surprisingly this next meeting got off to a bit of a rocky start, but it ended up ok – she was lovely and well suited to the position and I managed to shed some of the crappy energy from the first meeting and not hold the pen incident against her too much.

Oh, but then there was the drive home. Do you know how to drive? It’s a real question – I’m thinking you don’t. But if you do, I really think you should find a way to go incognito so you can travel to 10 or 12 major US cities at rush hour and drive 5 to 10 miles in the thick of it. You can take a security person or two along if you want, but you have to drive. It’s special. Every day is special. And yesterday was especially special – people were f*cking maniacs. And I didn’t hold my shit together well at all.

Where I get on I-5 there’s a metered onramp with an HOV free-pass lane that multitudes of single occupant drivers routinely whiz through as those of us law-abiding single occupant drivers wait our turns (you would call us ‘chumps,’ I’m sure). Once you get to go, this onramp is one of two separate onramps that feeds onto the freeway in the same place, folding into a single lane that is the exit lane for another freeway that only becomes available to the main traffic at the point where the two onramps emerge. It’s a complicated snarl and the team that designed it was comprised of sadists.

Anyway, yesterday after a half dozen SOV cheaters went by in the HOV lane, it was finally my turn to go. I was staying to the right of the solid white line that’s supposed to bring some order to the two merging onramps when I saw a pick-up truck in the left onramp lane cross the solid white and rush up onto my bumper. It was clear he wanted to go around me on the right where there was no lane and so to discourage this, I moved over slightly to the right. Didn’t matter. He squeezed through, sped up and proceeded to blaze past three more cars on the right, barely clearing them and the concrete barrier edging the freeway. He scared me. Badly. And I honked at him and flipped him off, neither of which I’ve done in a very long time. I felt somewhat chagrined and managed to hold it together the rest of the way home, which really wasn’t any better with regards to risk-taking cheaters who appeared to think nothing of endangering everyone around them. I was very relieved to get home without another instant karma incident because I sure was not behaving well in word, thought, or flip-off deed.

It was a trying, full on day and unfortunately I resorted to primitive reactivity in response to those people who pushed my buttons much the same way you do. Apparently I am a unique and irreplaceable work of art…. in progress.

May we be safe from our own reactions to frustrating and/or scary behaviors.
May we be willing to take the high road (and may we be able to find it).
May we suck it up and model healthy maturity and dignity even when we desperately want to act out.
May we make peace with the reality that bad actors exist without rolling over.

Tracy Simpson

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