OK class, today’s assignment is to create the most annoying place ever; ready?
Let’s begin by populating it with lots of tired, irritable inhabitants confined to a cramped area with hardly any places to rest and absolutely no spot to get comfortable. Many of these folks will wear too much perfume or, better yet, haven’t seen the working end of a shower in days. Of course, the whole environment has to be far from home, and — oh yes — let’s make it extremely loud.
Now, let’s spruce up the annoyance factor by tossing in some arcane commands.
Rule one: You are only allowed to have in your ownership one container of essential items; but the consequences for possessing those is that is you must drag them behind you wherever you go; a ball and chain.
Rule Two: Not for a minute can you let them leave your custody. If you want to add more items, you can purchase from a very limited supply of things that will be far more costly than they should be, and you must stand in long lines to obtain them (don’t forget, you must have your container always in tow).
Rule Three: Nosy, ill-mannered, discourteous natives will handle and interrogate you at will, sporadically rummage through your package of personal belongings, and time after time subject you to yet additional seemingly useless rules which may change at any time.
I think we’re done.
Traveling has a knack to make anybody cranky; so, I had empathy for the nine-year-old with the pink suitcase waiting in the petrified line to board the jet. Her dad, bent close to her, staring unflinchingly into her eyes, was wagging his finger for emphasis and scolding her sotto voce. “We don’t push people out of the way. We wait our turn, do you understand?”
Her eyes drilling into the floor of the gateway, an angry expression contorting her face, she rocked defiantly from side-to-side, holding steadfast, “He’s not ‘people;’ he’s my little brother! And he’s slow! I want to get on the airplane all ready! I’m tired!”
“I understand,” replied her father, “We’re all frustrated. But that doesn’t excuse pushing. Are we clear?”
“I want to get on the airplane!” She stomped her foot for emphasis and crossed her arms across her chest.
“We will go on the airplane when you apologize to Robbie. Tell him you’re sorry.”
Begrudgingly realizing she had no choice and finally accepting the parameters, she faced her sibling, mumbled something, then looked back at Dad.
“Very good,” he said; hugged her, rose to his full height and took her by the hand as the family proceeded forward. She had learned her lesson, her reward being that she now able to proceed to her objective.
As I watched the drama, it dawned on me that this process does not end when we move away from our parents. It is a sequence that presents itself continually: Frustration. Lesson. Acceptance. Progress. Repeat cycle as necessary until learned.
The only difference between those of us with single-digit ages and smooth skin, and those of us with a few years under our belts and a road map of wrinkles, is that we aren’t always fortunate enough to have someone explain the guidelines so clearly.