The older I get, the more I wish I could say whatever I want without fear of repercussions. It gets tiresome having to always be politically correct and feel responsible for people’s feelings. I am constantly searching for the right language to use so as not to hurt, upset, offend, anger, alienate, or demotivate someone.
Not that I want to be a jerk, but once and a while it would be a relief to tell someone what I really think, exactly as I am thinking it, instead of keeping my mouth shut or censoring my words.
Like that former co-worker who clipped his fingernails at his desk. I wanted to shout, “Why in the hell would you do that here? It is disgusting and unsanitary. Who raised you to think that’s okay?” Instead, not trusting myself to find a polite way to ask him to stop, I said nothing and cringed each time I heard a clip.
How I long, even for a day, to do away with the filter and speak my mind as I please.
In response to that job interview question: How do you cope with stress? “Mostly I do yoga and journal, but on really bad days I drink an entire bottle of wine, then pick a fight with my husband.”
To the delusional college senior who is applying to medical school and asked me to write a recommendation, even though her GPA is 2.6, she flunked chemistry, and has yet to volunteer in a health care setting, “Girl, you do realize that your chances of getting into medical school anytime soon are like no way in hell?”
Twice in my life I actually said what I wanted without a filter and the feeling of freedom was liberating. The first time was in a supermarket checkout line. An item rang up higher than I’d expected, so the cashier put on a blinking light to alert the manager to come over. The people in line behind me started to shift impatiently.
Then one guy said, “There’s one in every line.”
I could have chosen the path of dignity and kept my mouth shut. Instead, I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, are you referring to me? Yeah, because I purposely selected an item that I knew would ring up incorrectly just so I could hold up the line and wreck your day. Because it’s all about you.”
He went still. Said nothing. In a moment, he slinked away. The others in line avoided my gaze. Turns out the item had rung up incorrectly. Ha!
The second time was when the worst plumber on the planet entered my basement to inspect a leaking pipe. I followed him down and told him that every time I turned on the outside hose to water the garden, a loud, thumping sound roared through the pipes. The resulting conversation went something like this:
“Lady, I don’t know anything about a thumping sound,” he sneered. “I don’t know what’s wrong with the pipes.”
I said, “Neither do we, which is why we called a plumber, so you can figure it out and fix it. By the way, did your boss mention that we don’t have hot water in the kitchen sink and the downstairs toilet is running?”
“Jesus,” he said, “No, he didn’t. It’s almost four o’clock. I wasn’t planning on being here all night.”
We went back and forth like this for several minutes, mostly with him bitching and moaning and gesticulating, until finally I exploded.
“Listen, mister. My mother-in-law passed away last week, just before that my husband was in the hospital and almost died, and now I have to stand here and deal with you? If you don’t want the [expletive] job, leave.”
I feared he might strike me, so aghast did he appear. Instead, he held up his hands as if surrendering.
“Calm down, lady. I’ll take care of everything.”
While part of me could not believe I had just spoken to him like that, another part was glad I had. Clearly, it was the only kind of language he understood. Some people need to hear it straight, no filter involved.
Imagine if everyone in the world said exactly what was on their minds? We would either be at war constantly or maybe we might start behaving better. Then there’s the matter of having to take in what we dish out. Would we want to know what people wish they could say to us? Probably not.
As I was writing this, Justin Timberlake’s “Say Something” kept playing in my mind. Here’s the song if you want to listen.