Born To Be Nice

Being an introvert takes a toll on me. It also has the advantage of giving me the reason to write, thus opening a small window to correspond with the outside world. Although no matter how much we write to share, I suspect the deeper truth lies in what we don’t talk about. Still, it’s worthwhile to scrutinize yourself within the stretched limits of your comfort zone. I will stretch it a bit this time, by recalling an incident that happened some while ago –

In the parking lot of a department store, I was sitting in my car playing with my phone. Out of the corner of one eye I saw someone approach the car. A sullen-looking woman, she was pushing a shopping cart squeezing through the narrow gap between my car and the one next to it.

There was abundant empty space around the parking lot, but for some unknown reason she just had to choose that cramped passage to get through, scratching my car with her cart, all the way from the hood to the trunk. The screeching sound was nerve-wracking.

I sat transfixed to my seat, struck by her unthinkable behavior, completely caught off guard by such unusual rough in a civilized world. More fundamental though, I was inhibited by the vexed look on her face. I am not a confident person up front. At times I might seem forthright hiding behind a screen writing something, but in everyday life I am the extremely thin-skinned type, particularly dreading outright clash.

It might have something to do with my vocal range – it is narrow, the kind of voice unaccustomed to holler. I envy the way people exchange greetings on high notes. In rich and shrill voices, other women in my neighborhood carry on high-pitched conversations across the street, effortlessly, soaring up into silvery guffaw if the situation calls for. But I can’t. If I try to greet someone from a distance street-wide, what’s meant to sound lighthearted will come out secretive, with the tail end of some unintelligible words getting frayed, eventually lost into thin air. Usually I just smile and wave.

It also has something to do with my broken English. Unlike writing, when you go verbal you can’t look up a word in dictionary, but have to make do with whatever you’ve got at your instant disposal. Sometimes I feel as if I have in me a presidential inauguration speech in Chinese ready to launch or transmit, but once I attempt it with my primitive-stage English, everything sounds underdeveloped and uncultured – there is nothing presidential about it.

But for the most part the culprit is my personality. Being as introverted as I am, I have this tendency to avoid making a scene at all costs. In a restaurant if the waitperson gets my order wrong, I keep quiet and pretend everything turns out all right. The most embarrassing thing for me, is to speak out in public and draw attention to myself. In grocery store I buy some eggs and the cashier asks, “Have you checked your eggs?” I always feel funny and uneasy, taking it personal, wanting to counter, “How? Am I supposed to? Oh, you mean the chicken eggs!” But I never go that far of course, just smile and nod.

At dental office, when I was ready to leave, the hygienist asked in all earnest tones about the complimentary oral-care kit, “What color would you like for your toothbrush?” I wanted to say it doesn’t matter, since I use electric toothbrush only, besides the traditional ones they give out are too flimsy. But I felt obliged to play along and said, “Purple.” Turns out she didn’t have a purple at hand, so I hastened to add, “Green would be perfect too.” But she’s already darted out the door to extend her search into other rooms, making it a mission to hunt down a purple one for me. And I had to wait indefinitely, wasting her energy and my time, wondering why I couldn’t just say no in the first place.

So I sat transfixed to my car seat, shock-stricken and tongue-tied, as this exasperated-looking woman pushing her shopping cart scratching my car, all the way from the hood to the trunk.

How could I be so defenseless, in the face of such unreasonable infliction? I thought to myself as she disappeared from my rear-view mirror. And I’ve been pondering it ever since, long after I have had those unsightly scratchy marks repainted.

At first the sense of self-rebuke was acute, I felt full of guilt, for not standing up for myself. For heaven’s sake, you need to take on vocal training, join a Toastmaster, practice laughter yoga – I pledged to myself clenching my fists.

Over time though, the heaves of upset subside little by little, until the residuals retreat into some secondary memory. What appears more primary in my awareness now, as I think back to the incident, is the deeply unhappy expression on the woman’s face.

I recall how her eyelids were drooped and the lines around her mouth pulled down, how she’s biting her lower lip and huddling up her body, which was wrapped in a drab sweater that must be put on in a careless hurry, and how her straggly hair floated in every direction, like the tail plumes of a frightened fleeting bird … I realize the woman was in great distress.

Maybe she’s exhausted taking care of an autistic child or a parent with dementia? Or she could be undergoing a bitter divorce. Her house might have gone into foreclosure. She just got diagnosed with cancer? Her boss had been giving her a hard time at work? Or maybe her identity got stolen. Her landlord got busted hiding a dead body in the attic? The Zen master she’d been following turned out to be a fraud? Or perhaps for the first time in her life she just found out she was adopted, and the truth about her birth remained elusive and dubious … Suddenly it seems so many things could’ve gone awry in this random stranger’s life.

Whatever the reason is, it wouldn’t justify the scratches she had left on my car. But it would evidence the reality that we could all get absentminded at some point in life. Everybody in this world is battling a secret battle of their own, and practicing compassion might be the only way to win.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius once went to the market with a disciple named Zilu. At a unit price of four copper coins per kilo, Zilu bought two kilos of cabbage from a vendor, handing over eight coins to pay for it. But the vendor insisted that two times four would be nine. The argument escalated to a point where Zilu said, “Let’s go to the court, if the judge said it’s nine, I’d pay you that and also give you my hat.” The vendor said, “Since the great Confucius is here, why not ask him to be the judge. If he said it’s eight, I’d cut off my hand.”

Upon hearing this, Confucius said to Zilu, “I think it should be nine. Why don’t you give him one more coin and your hat.” Zilu reluctantly did as told, and the vendor happily accepted. Later on Confucius said to Zilu, “Here’s some money for your new hat. I said it’s nine because it’s not worth being right costing someone to cut off his hand.”

Next time my car got scratched again, would I summon up enough compassion, to help that person take ease, and also help myself make peace? We’ll see. At least the mere thought of it seems to boost up my confidence a little bit.

chicken2 (3)

42 Comments

  1. Liked by 1 person

  2. Nothing wrong with being introverted, or living in a bit of shell. I enjoy and highly value my quiet time. I enjoy it more now that I’ve aged and don’t have any desire to spend time in the company of most people. Just special ones πŸ™‚ I’ve always been an introvert and always empathetic. That sets one up for being taken advantage of periodically but there are times we come out swinging from these shells. I can see your dilemma with the car. I probably would have gotten out, said something and steered her away, but I still admire your compassion. As for the car thing, cars are not everything to all men. Nor is sports, or any any BS you hear being said is an “all man thing.” Property is just that. It has utility. A scratched surface won’t keep me from driving west, and it just might keep someone else from vandalizing it, since it’s not so shiny anymore πŸ™‚

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    1. Didn’t realize you’re introvert too, Harold. Your crafty post “The Conman” was misleading, all those mesmerizing tales about sitting in a bar telling stories made me almost mistake you as the Conman himself 🐧 Happy to know you don’t have a shiny new car, that’s just too sexy πŸ¦„ I’ve been meaning to tell you how much I enjoyed what you shared in your “Open Range – Revisited”. Armed with only a tool box you packed up and bugged out the backdoor after a run-up with the law, in a beat-up yet dependable ‘recreational vehicle’ with dents all over, heading toward the open range in the Midwest with no road in mind, eating rainbow trout all the way till you reached some random town, earning your meagre keep with odd jobs before coming across nuclear reactions of some sorts … What a life! I never get to run free and wild like that. It sounds simple and minimal but I know it actually requires some practical skills. For an impractical person like me, reading your posts is a way of life.

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      1. LOL – me – the conman. πŸ™‚ No. There is a certain anonymity you have at a bar in a foreign place. No history. No baggage. And often the people you meet are the same – wanderers. So it’s pretty easy to have a fun exchange knowing it is time limited, unless, of course, they are on the con. I find myself very reserved in some situations, yet I handled situations with life in the balance when I was a nurse without a second thought. And I remembered going to court for the first time and thinking, why am I worrying about this, no one is going to die in there today. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my stories. All true. Not all moments were glamorous, but it was very illuminating for me. And I love being back on the road again now. Yet for all my interactions in the world, and my love of Nature and animals, I find it hard to come out of my shell with other humans at times. And women, while I love women, women are scary πŸ™‚

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        1. I know what you mean by saying women are scary 🐠 As a member of the clan, I know them too well, starting from myself inside out. I know how women can be fussy, oversensitive, petty, manipulating, unforgiven and never let-go. We are very complicated. Men are much simpler. Usually I feel more stressful being around women. In my own family I watch with sympathy how men have so little breathing space under women’s control. But I guess it’s all prewired this way, there is nothing we could do about it. If you still can’t live without women, you have to accept them as they are. But I thought you should’ve become a master level ‘womanizer’ already, after those two or three divorces of yours 🐿🐞

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          1. I’ve apologized many times for the behavior of my clan. Just not very classy. Sadly, many men get rewarded for their bad behavior. I could never be a womanizer. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic. I still believe that intimate relationships are sacred. Still believe in soul contracts and soul mates. And I don’t match societal’s definition of being “handsome.” LOL. No, I’m a beta male. I wrote a blog post on that πŸ™ƒ

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I had to google what ‘beta male’ means, so many new words I have yet to learn🐌 Looks like it means you do whatever your ‘soul contractor’ asks you to do – that’s not irresistibly sexy. What’s irresistibly sexy is you know what she wants before she asks. But that would be difficult I know. The only thing I can say to help cheer you up is ‘handsome’ has nothing to do with sexy … I have yet to read that post of yours about ‘beta male’, must be quite entertaining with your unique sense of humor 🐧

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              1. I’m not sure my definition of beta male quite matches Google’s, but let’s just say I lack the arrogance that alpha males have. And could, perhaps, use a little more self confidence with relationships. Knowing what a woman wants is challenging. My daughter once told me that women don’t even know what they want. I have learned though that intelligence can at times be a hindrance, and that caveman conquering is sometimes preferred. Such a confusing arena. While handsome is not necessarily sexy, it is the superficial that many focus on and that, unfortunately, is often what opens the door to some. Instead of learning about the inner being. I find writing is a good arena for me to be less of an introvert 🌹

                Liked by 1 person

              2. This was part of a series I wrote: The Beta Male – Being β€œWoke” – Part 3
                https://earthwalkingworld.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/the-beta-male-being-woke-part-3/

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                1. Then it has to depend on what kind of women you want to ‘conquer’? Do you mostly just want a female companion, or do you want someone to share an inner joke? If just a female companion, then the ‘easy targets’ you approach might really not know what they want. If you want someone to get you and share your laughs, then intelligence is a must, ‘caveman conquering’ would seem a bit foolhardy, particularly for a man of certain age, intelligence is all he got … And if you want a woman to admire your ‘inner being’, she has to be the type who knows what she wants – such women do exist.

                  If you want someone in-between – a female neither too foolish nor too clever, then other than meeting her wants and her needs, maybe you could try to ‘inspire’ her to realize what she truly wants even before she discovers it herself. If you could do that, you would be a ‘mega male’, at every risk hitting a home run … To sum up, be an inspiration to her mind, don’t be a piece of furniture in her room 🐏

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                  1. It’s reassuring to know such women do exist. Yes, for her to get me and share laughs. And a mutual admiring of each other’s inner beings. Inspiring each other would be a wonderous thing. I like your summation. I was once told I was “useful.” I don’t think I’ve had a greater insult. A rare gem is what I seek, and a chance to be her rare gem

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Try to think it this way – when she said you’re useful, it’s not an insult greater than if she considered you a piece of furniture. At least she admitted you’re useful, while furniture could be useless you know … Anyways, a beautiful soul like you deserves another beautiful soul. Hope is a necessary thing. Without hope, the heroes in “The Shawshank Redemption” would not attain freedom. And the movie has another message: friendship is essential. Without friendship, what’s the point for Andy being on that beach? Now, the Early Riser is not exactly qualified being a ‘life coach’ πŸ¦€ night night Harold, have a nice dream πŸ¦‰

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                    2. There is hope. And friendship. 😊 Sleep well, and you have pleasant dreams too😴

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  3. Dot – These days I park as far away from the store as I can. lol
    I’m not sure I would be as compassionate as you with this woman.
    You know – a man’s car is everything to him. πŸ˜‰
    But being mindful of and compassionate towards one another is something desperately needed in our reactive society.
    I try but often fail. Thanks for the lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I often watch in amazement how men treat their cars as their soulmates and true loves. To me, a car is just a bulky machine, and when I drive I feel as if it’s driving me instead of I am driving it – not the most collected feeling in the world. I look forward to the day self-driving cars become the norm, so I could sit in the back seat reading a novel and still go places …

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  4. Oh Dot! What are we going to do with you? I say this in the most respected way because your humanity shines out like a beacon in today’s backwards society. Your issues may be at the root of this cause but the results are truly inspiring. Though I do worry for you, a lamb among wolves.

    I want to advice you in anyway I think may help, but I cannot, because no one can live in the exact same reality that you do. All I can do is keep reading and hope for you one day a confidence even mildly, to go with your already kind heart and insights into other human beings. And the peace of mind in accepting who you are.

    You are already special β€” no great change is needed at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Wayne πŸ₯­ Those are very kindhearted words. No gift I would expect from you could be greater than your acceptance of who I am and encouragement for me to further cultivate my confidence. You are truly a wise man. One can tell it instantly reading your words. Thanks for being my friend!

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  5. Speaking your mind needn’t be confrontational and just stating your case in a matter of fact way can be very powerful.

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    1. I appreciate you taking time to read, Graham. I’ve been learning a lot about ‘stating your case in a matter-of-fact way’ from viewing your posts and comments, thanks for being the inspiration!

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  6. Hi Dot! I thought I’d visit and say hello and I’m glad I did. I too live in a mixed Asian family of Chinese and Korean. I would never have it any other way. I truly enjoyed this first read on my visit. I am a deep introvert. My Meyers-Briggs personality profile is INFJ, the rarest personality on earth and most INFJ’s are female so being a male is a garauntee I will not live a normal life, which I enjoy to no end. I recognize your feelings right away in this incident. I am more tuned to good social grace and manners even in controversy. I see you have an ability to see a deeper world even at your own discomfort and you teach us with this story that confrontation, even if deserved, is not always the right course of action. I have adopted the Yin and Yang of everything in a traditional way modified to the eccentricity of my own mind and how I see the world. I hope you won’t mind my barging in like this. I talk of manners and then walk right in unannounced. Well, that’s the eccentric part. Nice to meet you.

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    1. I am a classic INFJ too! I believe I have an intuition about people and I can smell any trace of eccentricity and controversy trillion lightyears away, no matter how much good social grace and manners in armory … So in this sense you didn’t exactly walk in unannounced. Nice to meet you too πŸ’

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      1. That is amazing DOT! We INFJ’s have an extra sensory capability when we locate each other. I only know two INFJ. You and another blogger named Kymber. WP connects us. You’ve made my day. I can no longer be classified as a single instance of a rare species. There are more of us out there.

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        1. It is amazing HYPE. Now let’s classify you as endangered species – meaning still on the unusual culinary menu of the Chinese and in very danger of being attempted as a life time adventure πŸ¦€

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Waaaa haaaa haaaa! Why do I find that a fun thing to do? Hopefully, I can still tolerate large doses of sesame seed oil and red pepper sauce.

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            1. Don’t worry, red hot peppers are used mostly in cuisines around Wuhan areas, in the part of China where I come from, we slow cook in rice wine and soy sauce, nipping it softly, one wouldn’t even know what’s happening πŸ¦‹

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              1. Ahhh, that seems very relaxing with just the right amount of pep. I still make my tea with the Gaiwan tea set. I think a good tea afterward would fit right in.

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                1. Yes, that would fit in perfectly. At home we use Gaiwan tea set making Kung Fu tea. Particularly after a multi-course meal that entails overwhelming amount of metabolic activities, a good tea is quintessential ☘️

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Indeed, we see tea life through similar lenses. Tea for health and social enjoyment is an activity most of us can enjoy. In fact, tomorrow the daughters and grand daughters are coming over to fix a traditional tea party in celebration of my youngest graduation. Rice cake, fruit, tea and an American Mac and Cheese just to please our Asian and American ancestors.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Can’t believe you have granddaughters! You overflow with such exuberant youth and vigor, sporting a grand example of a man in his prime, at most in his 40s. Probably you just got married early, carrying on your great grand Asian ancestors’ tradition on prolificacy and prosperity? Congratulations to your youngest πŸŽˆπŸ§ΈπŸŽ‚

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Thank you Dot! I am just a tiny bit older depending on which calendar we look at or how I feel in the morning when I wake up. You know when you have a daughter in an Asian home she has to learn art, music, be of good manners and get married off very early before she gets her first wrinkle. Now I have grand daughters with an energetic grandpa that likes to spoil them. We are three generations in our home and I enjoy this very much.

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                    3. You lead such fascinating impressive life πŸ₯‘ I didn’t know Asian traditions got preserved in America way better than in Asia! Do you mean you are 3 generations living under one roof, or do you mean as one big family but in separate houses? I can’t imagine an INFJ live in a full house. I myself need lots of space, and I thought other INFJs are more or less the same? If you live in a full house and really enjoy it, we’ll have to take you off the endangered list, re-classify you as rare species. A rare breed of INFJ deserves all the protection and preservation – I would never let any Chinese gourmet pep and endanger him again 🦏

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. Oh yes, I have a section of the house for myself because I need lots of good introvert alone time. But we all live in the same house. It is a good design with everyone having their own bedroom and bathroom so peace and quiet is well preserved. I do like having the family all together. We get a lot of things done working together and the little ones learn a lot and they behave well because a lot of grown ups surround them to care for them. I’m in charge of reading and art. That’s the best part because it’s quiet work. 😎πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯

                      Liked by 1 person

  7. Timothy Price

    I’m like William, an introvert that is forced to be somewhat of an extrovert. I think you did the right thing by not confronting the woman. Since she was in such a bad state of mind, who knows what she would have done if you had confronted her. Being Chinese with broken English, might have made matters worse. Although, when you are really mad, it’s amazing how fluent you can become in a second language. When we lived in Spain, my Spanish was never very good. I got by. But one day some kids were being mean to my daughter, and their mother was an instigator. I let into that lady with a verbal tirade. Everyone was shocked by the quality of Spanish that I laid on that woman. My daughter, who is completely bilingual was impressed. That was a one-off, however, because I went back to my broken Spanish after that.

    I understand how you don’t want to confront people, make a scene or bring attention to yourself. I am very much that way, and I’m flexible with wrong orders or people making mistakes; however, I’m a tough negotiator when it comes to dealing with building leases, equipment and services.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You not only can be tough and rise up to the occasion, you are also the most versatile I see on blogosphere – the lyrics you write, the songs you play, the guitars you assemble, the videos you produce, the sunset skies you capture, the migratory birds you tender, the street scenes you cater, the quirky terms you buster … And you make use of your talents for the better good – to entertain the people and pamper the animals! Your daughter is lucky. Every daughter would be proud and fortunate to have a cool father just like you πŸ¦„

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Timothy Price

        Wow! Dot. That is such an elegant, well written and touching comment. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your choice of words.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I am really happy you like it πŸ‘

          Liked by 1 person

  8. If you don’t stand up for yourself no one else will. You can think, well, the car is just a thing, it’s fixable, and she’s a person who is troubled and let it pass. Or you can place a higher value on your property and protect your investment. In America, you scratch a car like that, bullets be flyin’. Also, if the cashier says “β€œHave you checked your eggs?” they are either being very rude, or they find you attractive and are trying to “hit” on you. If someone said that in America, a face would be slapped, the manager would be called….someone might be fired. No one has a sense of humor anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Everything happened in the US. The ultra-extroverted atmosphere of American culture can be exhausting for me. I know I shouldn’t go into my nut shell but it’s really more comfortable in here πŸ„ I don’t think the eggs-related incidents were due to the reasons as serious as you thought though, I guess it’s the standard practice of the grocery store to remind customers to make sure their chicken eggs not broken or something, although it makes me feel slightly uneasy every time πŸ¦€ When’s the new episode ready? I know you’ve got it – a “Machine Gun” mind can only be splendid and imposing 🐎

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL. Soon. Thanks for asking.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. New post up, just for you.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I tend to think of myself as an introvert that life has forced to act like an extrovert. As a Police Officer and expert in a number of subjects, I developed a persona to project when I’m on duty or teaching that has little to do with who I really am. but when I don’t have to be on, I’d just as soon sit home and not be bothered.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a comforting discovery for me that a Police Officer and expert of your special fields can turn out to be an introvert on the inside, thanks for sharing 🌱 It reminds me of a classic Russian novel that’s once quite popular in China, “How The Steel Was Tempered”. I haven’t read it, but the title has been impressive and unforgettable. It must have taken steely resolve for an introverted person to get teamwork expertly performed.

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