I just had a huge argument with a neighbor! Brooke, my 4 year old daughter, and I were were sitting cheek by jowl, painting her doll house together on our deck outside. I live in a town house on the third floor, and we were having a great time as Brooke was “the Boss” of interior and exterior design and painting.
As Brooke and I were discussing what color we should paint some of the doll furniture, her knee hit the little glass of water we were using to clean our paint brushes.
The water fell down onto the woman on the first floor, who just happened to be standing directly below on her deck at the same time. The screams that ensued were horrific, you would have thought a glob of napalm was singing this woman. I said I was sorry and attempted to explain as she writhed in pain, recounting every insult that she has built up from prior objects that have apparently fell from my deck onto her little patio, including pigeon droppings that I guess I am now accountable for.
Her husband, coming to her defense, quickly ran upstairs to scold me and my irresponsible behavior. I had to endure 5 minutes of egocentric yelling. Phrases he used were, “you are constantly dropping things off your deck onto our patio below!”, “why don’t you manage you daughter more responsibly?”, “if I were I would do…” And on and on… I witnessed a complete limbic hijack, and I knew any communication from my side had zero relevance.
Of course I had placed a one inch piece of plywood over the deck to prevent such a travesty, but that was not good enough, as his wife now was so upset and she would have to change her shirt. He then tried to help postulate a way for me to prevent such horrible events like this from happening in the future. Perhaps installing a water proof plastic tarp over the entirety of my deck, would mitigate further life threatening assaults on their sensibilities.
This is where people mistakenly think they are being reasonable, logical and rational, by managing their external world and not their internal ones. My disgruntled neighbor engaged me in a logical “discussion” over what he believes is responsible behavior. I would counter with, is it more responsible to have control over ones own internal reaction to events, or is it more responsible to help others see the errors of their ways? Where does perspective come in to play? Does any inconvenience to a person justify their subsequent actions, and does the totality of the event need to be considered?
I am responsible and I do need to help prevent any further encumbrances upon my neighbors in the future, but this pervasive need to denigrate others without putting things into perspective separates us and lessens us all. Putting minor inconveniences of an adult over the fun of a child seems a bit ridiculous to me, but then again I’m an unreasonable man.