I’ve realized that there are a lot of angry people in the world. As naïve as this sounds, this information has come as a surprise to me. I’ve been in my own little bubble of Stay Home Motherhood for the past many years, and I have only been in touch with people who I pay to see me. Therapists. Hair dressers. Doctors. Cardiac specialists. Basically people who have to be respectful to me or I’ll fire them. Or people who I chose to be in my world: good friends who understand me and my life. Friends who support me and believe in me and build me up.
Now I’m in a whole new world. The Real World. And not only the Real World, but the world of Emergency Medicine. In this world, people are rushed, panicked, sleep-deprived, annoyed, hot, hungry, scared, overworked, burnt out. All these factors make people angry. Which in turn makes people mean.
I’m always legitimately shocked when I come into contact with someone angry or mean. I always start out a fresh interaction with optimism that this is going to be a great experience. I’ll be kind, you’ll be kind, we’ll help each other out.
Not everyone feels that way, I’ve realized.
I have a perfect example from earlier this week. We had three EMT’s riding on our ambulance that day. We ended up needing to escalate the call to 911, because the patient needed care beyond what our “Basic EMT” level allowed us to give. The ambulance arrived from the fire department, and I got out of the driver’s seat to open the back doors of our ambulance. I greeted the paramedic from 911 with a cheerful “Hi!” as he climbed down from his rig. He didn’t answer me. Instead, he charged over to my partner who had gotten out of the front passenger seat of our ambulance, and started yelling at both of us. He was immediately angry and belligerent. He yelled, “The two of you have a serious patient in the back of the ambulance and you’re both sitting UP FRONT???” He kept yelling, and it took me a shocked millisecond to realize he was not going to be kind and friendly the way I was. I walked toward him with purpose, holding my hands up in front of me to block his accusations, loudly saying, “No no no! You’ve got it wrong. We have THREE riders today. Our partner is in the back of the ambulance with the patient.” The medic stopped yelling. He paused for a second and then walked silently towards the open back of the ambulance.
My blood was boiling. Usually I calmly take everyone’s crap and don’t make a scene. That day I actually said to that angry medic, “We DO know what we’re doing.”
I know- I’m “beneath” him. He’s a Mighty Medic and I’m a Basic EMT. He’s a man and I’m a woman. But I’ve seen this happen more than once in my short time in Emergency Medicine, and it’s always a man acting this way and it’s always completely uncalled for. If that medic had waited 7 seconds, he would have seen that we had another EMT in the back of our ambulance, caring for the patient. Did he actually think we are so incompetent that we would leave a sick patient alone in the back!?! He must have! He had no idea what was happening, just jumped to a conclusion, and was very mistaken.
My work partners think I’m funny. I am an eternal optimist. I can find good in almost every situation. I expect that others will be kind and respectful to me the way I am to them. My partners tease me because I believe every day is a good day and every call is for someone we can help. And if we’re tired or down, there’s nothing a little stop at Starbucks can’t fix.
I’m realizing why my partners think this is funny. It’s not the way the Real World usually works. It’s not the way typical people usually think.
But guess what. I don’t care. There is no reason on God’s green Earth why people need to be angry, rude, and condescending. Be better. Are you burnt out? Fix it. Take time off, find another profession, get some counseling or a massage or a new puppy. Are you tired? Again, take a day off and take a nap. Or stop partying until all hours of the morning and go to bed earlier. Find a hobby to fill your soul with joy. Are you having a bad day? Totally get that. Sometimes we have really super horrible things happen to us. But it’s not anyone else’s fault, so don’t take it out on an innocent bystander. Be a grown up and deal with it. And if you do have a hissy fit, take ownership of it. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. That medic could have said, “Sorry. I’ve been up for 27 hours and I lost a patient and I’m having a terrible day.” (Instead he continued to be rude, but whatever.)
I refuse to become a negative, burnt out, angry person just because I run into that in the Real World. I refuse to sink to that level. Instead, I expect everyone to come to my level, where we are all working on the same team to help people and we are all kind and respectful to each other. Seriously, we’re all on the same team- in Emergency Medicine, and in the world! In the majority of situations, no one is actually out to get anyone else. Why can’t we work to build each other up instead of tear each other down? I think some people believe that if they build others up, they lose their own power. They give their power away. Speaking as someone who constantly searches for ways to build others up, I know the opposite is true. When the people around me are happy and confident and believe in themselves, that makes my life better. When you share kindness and build others up, power multiplies. You’re better as a team. You’re better individually. The world as a whole is better.
I guess I honestly don’t understand the way some people can treat others with such hostility. In what reality is that ok? What makes people feel comfortable taking other people down with aggression and disrespect? I’m glad I don’t understand that. I hope it’s always a foreign concept to me and that I never become so complacent that I start to be that way.
I’ve also realized that I don’t need to just take it when someone is being rude. That’s giving my own power away. I can be assertive and tell someone when they’re wrong. Even if they’re a Medic and even if they’re a man.
While there have been instances of this kind of stupid behavior, the majority of people I cross paths with in my personal and professional life are completely delightful. I wish you could have the pleasure of working with the people I get to work with. These people are incredible. Smart and dedicated and open and creative and hilarious and amazing. I’m so proud to walk among them.
So while there are angry, mean people in the Real World, I will not let them define my reality. I choose to focus on the compassion and kindness I see instead of the people who act like raging idiots.
Build each other up. Be optimistic. There’s nothing a little Starbucks can’t fix. Today’s going to be a great day.