In all things human

I got disconnected three times.

Three times.

In a row.

“Just hold one moment while we transfer you to confirm,” they’d say sweetly, just before I heard a strange sound.   The sound of silence.  The vacuum of a disconnected phone line.  The sound of my impotent, mediocre frustration growing to a boiling point of irrational, helpless rage.

Nothing can be quite so delightful as customer service, eh?

Or how about when the woman in customer service would ask me for all my details, “I’ll just need that information before transferring you,” and the guy in cancellations would say, “I’ll just need all that information again, you’re in a new department.”  Then, moments later, the guy says, “You seem irritated at me already!”  I say through gritted teeth, “I’m not irritated at you, it’s not personal, I’m irritated because I’ve been disconnected twice already and -” CLICK.  I think he’d decided he didn’t want to deal with one more stress case on the phone.

Ah, the rage of powerlessness.  A tiny fist shaking at an faceless, stonewalling bureaucracy.

And finally, when I do finally get to someone who can help me, wouldn’t you know that I then had to sigh, “I have to go.  I’ve run out of time.  Just make a note on my file,” knowing that I’d just have to call back and start everything All. Over. Again.

During this little adventure, I was not at my yoga best.  As I left the phone and the house behind me to bike downtown for class, I was still fuming with the tape of “angry and wronged customer” running through my head.  How dare they have such lousy service!  How dare they be so inconsiderate of my time and my needs!  How dare they WRONG ME SO!

But what could I do, I realized.  It was done.  Over.  The moment was past.  Now, I couldn’t change a thing.  If I wanted to enjoy my commute and my class, I was going to have to find a way to let it go.  To leave my anger behind me.

It’s a challenge to leave anger behind, especially when it feels sooooo righteous.  My brain would much rather stew in a morass of “why I’m right and they’re wrong” than think about how nice the weather is or even (*gasp*) contemplate how difficult it must be to have to talk to angry customers all day.

But what good does being “right” do me?  Sure, I get to shore up my ego, but at the same time I get this strange hardening sensation happening somewhere in my chest.  The brick laying of an impenetrable walls of certitude.  It certainly doesn’t get me any closer to actually getting a resolution on my phone issue.  Customer service is completely unaware that I am sending psychological daggers at them during my bike ride.  Absolutely no one was benefiting – least of all me – from rehashing the situation.  All I was doing was wasting time that I could have spent enjoying the ride, feeling the wind, breathing.

As I rode, I had to laugh to myself.  Or really, at myself.  I don’t want to live a life hashing out imaginary conversations in my head just to prove that I can come out of a situation looking better.  Looking “right.”  I tried to let go.  Which is really hard to do, because it’s really a matter of undoing something.  But the intention was there.  And my anger started to fade.   I started to enjoy the ride.  And sure, I caught myself circling back into my defensive brain loops more than once.  But I’d just laugh at myself, tell myself it was okay, and try to focus on riding my bike again.

There is a Zen koan.  Something to the effect that there is a monk hanging out on the side of a cliff by his fingernails.  He will soon fall off.  He can’t pull himself up, and below him there is a Tiger circling, ready to pounce.  Just then, he spies some strawberries and is able to take a bite of one.  How sweet the juice is!

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