We often focus on how others irritate us, but do we consider how we may be irritating others?
Thursday morning I was on a flight to San Diego, seated next to an older married couple. I'll start by saying something positive about them. They seemed so happy and doted on one another.
That was where my admiration started and ended.
I followed "the rules" of the ride (turned cell phone off when asked to, put away all electronic devices until otherwise instructed, fastened seat belt) but some others didn't do it so quickly. The couple took it upon themselves to loudly instruct others to do what was really only the flight crew's place to do. I could hardly believe my ears when they started ranting over one woman not shutting her cell phone down quickly enough after the announcement was made. But the ride was just getting started...
For several hours I endured the idiosyncrasies of my seat mates. The first thing they did was put on their Bose soundproof headphones while they listened to music and read books on their iPads. What's wrong with this? Well, nothing except for the fact that the wife took the well-manicured long nails of her right hand and tapped them loudly on her tray table, in time to the beat of the music that she was listening to in her headphones. Since I'm not the flight Nazi, I resisted correcting her and just stared ahead in utter amazement. Tap...tap....tap...click...click...click...all the way to California.
Just when I thought it couldn't get worse, the husband pulled out a gallon size, ziploc bag of dum dum lollipops. They both took one. And then another. And then another. And then another. What's wrong with this? Nothing except for the fact that they both sucked and licked their dum dum pops as loudly as they could while listening to their music and reading their iPads. It was awful. It sounded sort of like my dog, Max, when he slurps water from his bowl. The woman had a little stand for her iPad so it held it up on the tray table so she could read it hands free. This enabled her to tap with her right hand while holding her lollipop with the left hand.
They kept devouring their dum dums as the little white sticks just piled up. Each had a napkin in front of them on the tray table to hold their collection of sticks. They just kept sucking and licking as loudly as they could as we went from coast to coast. Everyone around me appeared to be in as much amazement as I was over their inconsideration but we said nothing. Most people just put their own headphones on to block the sound.
Can this get any worse? Well, for the flight attendant, it did. Both husband and wife brought an empty water bottle of the stylish variety, about 20 oz. each, with them on the flight. Several times as the flight attendant passed, they would ask her to refill their water bottles. Seriously. Have you ever heard of such a thing? In between all the sucking and licking of their dum dums, they were swigging water like it was going out of style. I don't need to tell you what this required of me, being on the end seat...
"Excuse me, I need to use the restroom one more time..."
At least when they went potty I got a break from the incessant tapping, sucking and licking.
At the beginning of the flight this couple had taken it upon themselves to tell others what to do. Yet, they were oblivious about how their own behavior affected those around them.
That got me to thinking...how might I be oblivious to the ways I'm irritating others?
Last night my husband and I were on a date with another pastoral couple. On the way there, by ourselves in the car, I said, "Larry, what do I do that is an irritation to others, that if I worked on it and stopped doing it, would be a real blessing to those around me?"
He shared his honest opinion with me. It was very helpful and gave me some things to work on. I was grateful for his honesty.
What do I believe we all can glean from what I experienced on my plane ride to San Diego?
1) It's helpful to learn from the example (good or bad) of others. Don't just complain about what you notice -- LEARN.
2) Open yourself up to evaluation. Only through honest introspection and evaluation do we grow.
3) Ask someone who loves you and will tell you the truth, about how you can improve. Then take action!
Let's become less irritating, together!