An Admitted Crab

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey:

I am turning into a cranky old lady. I have every reason to be thankful for my life style, but when I go out in public to do errands I get really crabby. 

I have so many pet peeves!  Homeless guys everywhere! Walking their dogs all day on the hot asphalt streets oblivious to the pain on the dog’s paws, people having intense conversations on their cell phones in public, drivers who suddenly turn in front of you without using their signals. 

When I first moved here in ’93, I felt differently than I do now. I loved this town, I never felt hurried, I was nice, I smiled at strangers, I wasn’t tailgated while driving. Now I feel hurried by a cashier or a receptionist staring intently into computer screens offering no chance of eye contact or being friendly anymore. Even my doctors are in a hurry, typing into their computers during my brief visits.

I live alone and enjoy my home so much. I have lots of pursuits, a wonderful array of books I enjoy reading, window shopping on Amazon, cooking, gardening….yet I fear becoming a recluse is unhealthy. Should I stay home more and enjoy myself, or get out there and get ticked off?  What can I do to change my attitude?

An Admitted Crab

Dear Reader,

I appreciated your very honest email. You are an articulate “crab” who understands herself well!

If it’s at all reassuring, every ‘pet peeve’ you listed is sadly, all too common. (Don’t get me started on people who don’t use their turn signals!) The world is moving at a faster pace and it seems as though good manners and good service are getting harder and harder to come by. 

I’m encouraged that you want to know how to change your attitude. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) Understandably, your perspective has become narrowly defined. (With daily infractions, this is easy to do.) Sadly, the result is that you now tend to see only what you expect. Please work towards remembering that the world is still full of decent, considerate, and kind people. Look for these folks when you are out and about. Trust me, they are all around us.

2) While lack of manners and consideration is certainly quite troubling, another way to increase your tolerance is by recognizing that some people do not live up to your standards. You will do better to accept this segment of the population as a reality. In doing so, you will not be as disappointed or surprised by the poor behaviors of others.

3) It feels as though you are personalizing all of this inconsideration, which naturally results in irritation, frustration, anger, etc. Keep in mind that rude people are not singling you out for their inconsiderate behavior. No, they are mis-treating each and every one of us!  The more you are able to see that this is not about you personally, the better you will be at tolerating these irritating behaviors.

4) When someone is rude, take a deep, relaxing breath and then pay close attention to the “story” you are telling yourself. Focus on your immediate self-talk, those negative messages that continue to reinforce your attitudes. Try to rewrite what you are telling yourself. For example, you hear yourself say: “Oh, there are just too many terrible drivers these days.” Shift that message to, “Thank goodness most of us on the streets are careful about driving.” This takes practice but it can be done.

However tempting it may be to stay home more, you were absolutely correct when you wrote that “becoming a recluse is unhealthy.” Instead of avoiding the problem, practice the tips I’ve shared, surround yourself with positive, like-minded friends, seek out happy entertainment, smile at strangers, and only frequent businesses where you know the service is good. 

One final note. Please don’t be intimidated by your physician. Simply explain that when you feel rushed, the quality of your appointment suffers. Offer to do your part by preparing a list of questions and concerns to be addressed during your appointment. 

And remember … I am somewhere out there on the highway with you! Look for the woman happily singing at the top of her lungs, pleased that no one can hear her! 

photo credit:

(Click here to return to The Second Half online archives)