I was in the post office yesterday. I had two parcels to pick up, and a bill to pay for my mother-in-law.
There was a long line.
I waited quite a while, until I was one back from being served. And then a postal lady stepped up to the counter and yelled out: Anyone with parcels to pick up?
So I stepped forward, grateful to be finally served, gave her my two slips for the parcels, and she went off to get them. She came back a short time later with my two parcels, which I duly signed for.
Then I said: And I have a bill to pay too.
Oh, I’m just doing parcels, she said. You’ll have to get back into the line to pay a bill.
You mean I have to go to the back of the line? I said.
That’s right, she said. I said “parcels only.”
Actually, I said, controlling my irritation, you didn’t say “parcels only,” you said “anyone with parcels.” There’s a difference.
I’m just doing parcels, the woman said crossly, and dismissed me to serve someone else.
I had to go to the back of the line, which had grown considerably longer.
I was furious.
Why was I furious?
Because the woman didn’t own up to her mistake. And it wouldn’t have taken her that much effort to process the bill then and there. And she could easily have said: No, you don’t have to go to the back of the line. You can be served next at the next counter.
Plus she didn’t apologise.
She then started calling out again: Anyone with parcels? Parcels only. Parcels only please.
I used to get angry. The things that angered me were:
- People who hide behind rules
- People who lack courage
- People who lack integrity
I got angry about social injustice. Racism. Political corruption. Blind and heartless bureaucracy.
I made films about these things. That helped purge a lot of my anger.
I used to think that anger was good. It motivated me to do things – to try to instigate change. I could use anger strategically. I never saw the fallout.
And there was fallout.
I failed to see that anger can be corrosive, destructive. That when you get angry, you lose control. You actually diminish your status. You think you gain power, but in fact the opposite happens. You lose power. And respect.
When I was younger, I would have kicked up a stink at that post office counter. I didn’t yesterday. I smiled and I got to the back of the line.
I think the Camino has helped me with all this.