Nice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

There I was, plastic shopping basket resting in the crook of my arm, with nothing on my mind other than which chocolate bar I could purchase and then immediately consume. I was at the end of the aisle directly across from the customer service counter at my local Whole Foods. I was in introvert mode, get in and get out with as little human contact as possible.

Head down, intently studying my many sugary options, I began to hear a loud voice. At first the words were indistinguishable. The emotion was clear. I am fucking mad and I’m not going to take it anymore! Directly after each wave of garbled vitriol was a clear and calm apology. I’m so sorry ma’am. My apologies. Perhaps I didn’t hear you. Likely an employee that couldn’t fire back even though I’m sure he wanted to.

I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t want to hear. I certainly was not going to look up. Get in and get out with as little human contact as possible, remember? Then the voice, so large and furious, spat out a comment that I could not ignore. I said I was paying with a debit card! What are you, stupid?! I looked up and watched as everyone around her did exactly nothing to keep her from berating a perfectly congenial and probably completely innocent man.

I can’t tell you what compelled me to move towards the verbal melee but my feet were carrying me in that direction before my head could figure out why I was or if I should be doing it. The woman was about my height and weight, her hair pulled back in a taut ponytail. Had her hair been a bed you could have bounced a quarter off it. She was so engrossed in dressing down the cashier she didn’t seem to notice me sidling up to her.

I quietly said, “Excuse me, is this really necessary?” And with that, the kraken was released. From both of us.

Yes it is necessary and this is none of your fucking business! 

You could barely slide a sheet of paper between our noses. She leaned her body into mine in what I could only imagine was an effort at intimidation. Unlike the cashier, who had a job to protect, I had a little more leeway with my retort.

Now, I’ve got a mouth on me but don’t have the fists to back it up. I have the fighting style of two safety patrols vying for the affection of the elementary aged boy who thinks pi jokes are hilarious. It’s lots of arm flailing and wincing. Before I could even consider my own physical ability and safety, I leaned further in and shouted, “Yes, it is my business because everyone in the fucking store can hear you!”

I had a brief moment of regret as a vision of her socking me in the mouth with her balled up fist flashed before my eyes. Not only did she not hit me, she took a half step back when I stepped in. As is usually the case with loudmouths, her bark was worse than her bite. I don’t remember much of what was said during our exchange that carried on for less than 30 seconds, but the fucks flew far and wide. Realizing that I had tangled myself into a live version of the comments section of a political internet post, I walked away letting a curt fuck off trail behind me.

I returned to the chocolate bars, my heart racing so fast I could hear every beat in my ears, grabbed what looked good and headed out to finish my shopping. I can’t say I “won” our little argument, but I at least managed to suffocate her argument with the cashier. He was now on the phone to management asking for assistance. With only our backs to look at, she now had no one to yell at, no one to diminish, no one to take her shit. She stood quietly waiting to have her items rung up.

You should know, that isn’t me. Well, that wasn’t me. I was always a nice girl, never one to want to make waves, always trying to smooth over any rough edges. Forever saying please and thank you and apologizing for my very existence. Always more interested in your comfort, never my own. I didn’t want to be a bother. Then came the tumor.

Now, the tumor didn’t automatically take my nice away. It took time. Years, in fact. I was pleasant and agreeable when my first oncologist said I needed surgery. I didn’t talk back when he suggested I could be like his other patients that endured years of Tamoxifen without complaining like I was. When he flippantly asked why I hadn’t been able to walk on my own yet just a month after my surgery I gave him a polite chuckle with my shoulder shrug.

I had not fully shed my need for nice then, but there were hints at the fire growing in my belly. There was the time I told the hotshot med student, a surgical intern who could have easily played the antagonist with a popped collar in any John Hughes flick, to fuck off when he returned my refusal to walk the day of my surgery with a smug, what else are you going to do today, lay around? And I did turn down the offer of a second surgery the first time it was suggested, but I shudder to think of how close I came to relenting the second time.

To this day I’m still convinced he would have eventually taken my leg had I consented to that second surgery and kept him as my doc, all because I was too nice to challenge his medical acumen.

It may have been a guilty conscience that made him send me in the direction of the specialist that successfully treated my tumor, it may have been divine providence. There is no question, though, what the reason is for why I have not yet settled and will never settle for just any old oncologist. The hardest lessons are the greatest lessons, the ones that take you where you’re supposed to be even when you think you’re not ready to go.

Please and thank you have not left me. Kindness is a different animal. Kind asserts, nice surrenders. Kind is an offer, nice is capitulation. While I may still be kind, I am no longer nice. I am more harsh. I speak my mind. I appreciate the beauty of rough edges. I will go toe to toe with you. When I am done, we are through. I won’t look back. I can’t. Nice doesn’t live here anymore.

I was nice, then came the tumor. Then came the lessons, tough ones that I thought might break me. I was nice, but life had other plans for me. I was nice, but that was taken from me before I knew I was ready to see it go. Nice was ripped from my left hip a few years ago. The hardest lessons are indeed the greatest lessons and they have given me a priceless education. I was nice. I’m not anymore and I have the scars to prove it.

 

*Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.

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55 thoughts on “Nice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

  1. I had a somewhat similar experience recently with a stranger commenting on my child’s slowness at climbing a slide. I think I won the moral argument as he swore at me x Afterwards I shook and cried but then felt better as I hadn’t let him away with it!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Sounds like nice wouldn’t have worked with the angry person above anyway. But I understand about being sick and not being as nice overall. I was too nice before though. And now, I realize taht there are many things we “play nice at” that just aren’t that important. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is a great post….I identified with it on multiple levels for many reasons. I am a 25 year survivor of Stage IV cancer. YaY! But I have also spent my entire life treading water in the “too nice to speak up” group….and hating that about myself. Since I don’t have much practice at it, the times I have attempted to be assertive, I have gone overboard and botched it…….so I retreated back to my hole once again. Therefore I love to read about similar “treaders” who finally “made it out” successfully. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Congratulations! I’m so happy to hear you are doing well. I stick my foot in my mouth all the time trying to be more assertive. You foul up and then you learn. I guess now I don’t mind messing up. At least I tried. I’d rather try and mess up than not even attempt.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. :-). Yes, I too am quite familiar with the taste of my foot! As I get older, I do find myself attempting more, and that feels good…..still a long ways to go though.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Being a 25 year survivor of not just cancer but Stage IV cancer gives you the right to say and do most anything nice or not. Thanks for the comment even though it’s not my blog today thank you for. I know about that water treading business. I’ve always wanted to keep the peace. At middle age now I’m
      Finally getting the hang of speaking my mind but still stand far enough away that I can’t get smashed too much either verbally or physically. One day I’m gonna save an innocent person from a bully. That’s on my bucket list. Ha.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m all for straight talking these days. I used to be such a people pleaser. I’m still very kind & caring. I don’t want to ever lose that, but apologising for my existence has definitely waned in recent times. Maybe years of pain endured & age has changed this for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yep….age and maturity also does this to us. Well done for standing up to this awful person & helping the cashier. How anyone thinks they have the right to act like this towards another human being is beyond me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People have let them get away with it for too long. There were two rows of people waiting in line that did nothing, didn’t even utter a peep. While we were screaming at each other someone did suggest they get out their phones and record it, though. Helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree, nice and kind are barely second cousins. When I read books written in 1800s England, the word “nice” has nothing to do with being kind. It signifies being particular, fastidious even. No one uses it in that sense anymore, but I think it’s interesting to think about how the word has evolved. Being nice confines us, being kind expands us. That situation sounds like a pressure-cooker; one where I don’t know what I would actually have done. I’m glad you stood up for someone else. I like to think I’d find some way to do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I lived a lot of years in the South being nice. For me, it stopped on the day that members of my partner’s family decided to treat my mom the way they’d been treating me for years. I took it, but there was no way in hell I was going to have her do the same. Needless to say, there were oh-so-many fucks flying.
    I don’t know why people think they can tangle with us, Christine. Maybe we look “nicer” than we are and they just can’t anticipate our ability to open up a can of verbal whoop ass.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. OMG. Chris, GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!!! How I wish I could be that assertive when the situation calls for it!!! “Nice” has still not left me, so ingrained as it is – and now I’m 71 and maybe hope is gone that it ever *will* leave. Did you read my blog post a while ago about the poor little mistreated dog? And dumb fearful me who couldn’t speak up? I’m ashamed of myself, now especially in light of what you were able to do. 😦 YAY for you!!!
    (just btw this was the post: https://crossedeyesanddottedtees.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/why-didnt-i-do-something/ )

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am often too ‘nice’ for my own good, However, I was cheering you on as I was reading this. I cannot stand people who belittle others in such a public way just to make themselves feel good. That woman had no right to take her frustration out on the cashier in front of you all (or in private either for that matter)!!
    I applaud you for stepping in and contrary to what you beleive, you ARE nice!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Another excellent blog post Christine. Your posts always hit the nail on the head AND manage to be funny. I think the kick-ass kind version of you is the best way to go.

    I really hate people like that! I’ve worked in enough shops to feel bad for whoever is being shouted at. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  11. “Kind asserts, nice surrenders”. How true this is. And as far as fucks flying, I am so much better at dealing with the soul vacuum people who look to steal everyone’s happiness away. I get that I’m not walking in their shoes, I do. But still, as you write on the perspective we come to having, I can’t help thinking that I’ve never taken it out on others. Not like that, I haven’t. You did good.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I stopped being “nice” after I left my abusive ex, my daughter’s biological father.
    I was a cashier a few years ago during the Christmas season to make some extra money. One of the supervisors was a total fucking bitch.
    One day, I had accidentally rang up something at the wrong price, so I flipped on my light switch, signaling that I needed assistance.
    The supervisor, who was at least 10 years younger than me, said “What are you stupid or something?”
    That was the last straw. I took off my smock, threw it at her and told her to fuck off.
    It felt wonderful and I don’t regret doing it. I heard from a mutual coworker than she ended up getting canned about a month later.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’ve often described myself as someone who wouldn’t say shit if I had a mouthful. I hold back because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings even if they’ve hurt me. I think I’ve only ever told someone to fuck off once and I remember it felt good. Thank you, this has inspired me so I’m gonna practice more.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. You admit you have not heard the whole exchange, which is why you cannot really judge the woman you picked a fight with. I have a really low threshold for stupidity, so she might have had a point. Maybe the cashier wasn’t really all that bright and the people in line were in a hurry and getting annoyed with his/her incompetence.

    However, with that aside – I applaud you. Too many people nowadays will not stand up for anyone. It actually terrifies me. It starts from little things, but it goes as far as rape, murder, etc. For some reason or other, people seem to have evolved to missing a backbone.

    Personally, I know quite a few people who are/were terribly ill and are still the nicest people I know. However, like you, they will not stand for BS. Good for you, good for them. But be nice where nice is due.

    Like

    1. I didn’t pick a fight. I knew I’d probably get one, but I didn’t initiate it. I very calmly asked if her yelling was necessary. Also, nothing, and I mean nothing, justifies you calling someone fucking stupid. If you’re unhappy with the service then you ask for a manager or you leave your groceries at the cash register and take your money elsewhere. If you call someone fucking stupid because they didn’t ring your groceries up properly then you’re an asshole.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. But here’s the thing….this post proves that you are, indeed, nice! Only a nice person would have called out the rude person who was intimidating someone unneccesarily. Way to go. We need more people who refuse to stand idly by while other people get hurt. We need more people who care enough about other people to take the risk and say something.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Your storytelling is compelling. Now I am trying to figure out if I have lost my nice from my tumor and all the resulting @#%$. The doctor who should have diagnosed me needs to be drawn and quartered, but I’ve never confronted him. I’ve gone through all kinds of thinking and decisions and choices over that. But I still despise him and his arrogance. But did I lose my nice from it? I don’t think so. I think maybe I became more kind and tolerant from it. So since I’m not Saint Luanne, where did that put me before the tumor hahahaha?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Aaah but you were nice in that situation. You were very nice to the cashier and very nice in that you decided that neither you nor anyone else should have to deal with that blowhard. I get you though. I’ve gotten to a point in life too where I am less likely to put up with anyone’s stupid shit for very long.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. You’re such a badass. I would want to do what you did in that situation, and my heart would go out to the worker, but plainly put, I’m a wimp. I also like the distinction you made between nice and kind; it’s an important distinction. A few people pointed out that you were indeed being nice, but rather, I think you you were being kind.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Boy can I relate to this! I used to be ‘nice’ as well…the nurses in the ward called be their princess when I was there for 2 months as I never complained. But now. Now I speak up when I’m hurting or think something is wrong…what’s the point of holding it all in 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Well done for saying something. I’m terrible in situations like that, I always think of what to say after the situation has happened.
    Brilliantly written.
    I too am gradually loosing my ‘nice’ partly age and partly disability I think. You can only take so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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