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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Not Suffering Fools Lightly and Other Bits of Carelessness

I once had a friend tell me that I did not suffer fools lightly. I think that this is increasingly true. I have no tolerance for nonsense anymore and I seem to be able to zip my lip, bite my tongue, or turn my cheek less and less.

What this means is that if something bothers me, I say it out loud, ask why it's happening and maybe even suggest corrective behavior. Now to be clear, I'm not talking about things like when you receive the wrong food at a restaurant or someone accidently bumping into you or human sorts of things. I'm talking about nasty comments, selfish acts and generally rude behavior. I try to be reasonable and not aggressive, but this sort of simple openness does not suit our current social contracts very well - although I like to fantasize that I sometimes say things that others just think.

Example #1: I went to my sister's 50th birthday party last December. It was a simple affair with just family. Her brother-in-law was there and he made a couple of what I thought were fairly inappropriate, off-color remarks to/about my sister. I believe they were meant to be cleaver. I think he was being a major douche bag. Although I wanted to confront him at the time, I didn't say anything. The next time I met with my sister and her husband, however, I asked about him and the comments. I wanted to understand why no one was calling him out. Why do we tolerate bad behavior? To be polite? Is the definition of polite "to tolerate douche baggery"? I don't think so.

Example #2: the other day, I was riding the 'eL' home. I had just had my chemo so I felt a little barfy and had a bit of a headache. I had my eyes closed to make the ride go faster and suddenly smelled a cigarette. Now for those of you who don't know, smoking on the 'eL' is not allowed and it hardly ever happens, in my experience. I opened my eyes and looked around. I spotted a young white man smoking a cigarette, flicking the ashes into the palm of his hand, and then eating the ashes. I kept trying to catch his eye so that he could see my displeasure. Nothing. People were staring at him and covering their mouths & noses with scarves and cupped hands. About five minutes passed when he decided to get up and walk up and down the isle, spreading his cigarette smoke more evenly around the car. Something inside me snapped. I thought, "Really? Really? I have lung cancer, I'm on my way home from chemo and I and everyone else here have to tolerate this bonehead smoking INSIDE the 'eL' car?!?" I heard myself say rather loudly,

"Boy! Why don't you just sit down?!"

He looked at me at which point I could see that he was definitely 'not right'. "Just a little edgy...a little edgy," he said. "Oh crap," I thought. You never know when you run into someone who's 'not right' on the 'eL' what kind of 'not right' they are. Some can be pretty aggressive and kind of scary. But I thought, "In for a dime, in for a dollar," gulped, and said,

"Then put out the cigarette!" I shouted.

He stopped walking, dropped the cigarette and vigorously stomped it out. He continued to walk back and forth, but as it was the cigarette that was the biggest problem, I was satisfied. I was also surprised. If I would have known that all it took was a commanding voice and direction, I would have hollered at him from the get go.

There was a day, and not so long ago, when there was no way that I would have either talked to my sister and brother-in-law about a bonehead relative or carelessly confronted a person of questionable mental status in the confines of an 'eL' car.

Many of the fears that I once had are completely gone. I haven't decided if my new-found forthrightness is a good thing or not. I have to say, it feels pretty good.

I feel like I'm living honestly for maybe the first time in my life.


  1. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to view your thoughts. Lung cancer has touched my life- through my father- and I wish you the best with your battle. I hope you continue to find your 'not suffering fools lightly' a liberating experience!

    1. Thank you for reading my thoughts, rg. I hope they're helpful as you deal with your father's illness....or at least a sort of distraction. Be strong.

  2. I was researching the phrase "suffer fools lightly" for a post to my blog, and google led me to this blog post. I was writing about my wife's miserable experience with aggravating people while I was stuck in prison unable to help her. Your description was perfect and I've referenced it in a new post I'm working on. I pray for your complete recovery. Thanks for writing.

  3. I don't suffer fools lightly either and do tell them if there rude so far in the last few months I have limited to half the amount of restaurants I can visit locally have hung up on and have had a sandwich thrown at my head ...about an average month really

  4. I don't suffer fools lightly either and do tell them if there rude so far in the last few months I have limited to half the amount of restaurants I can visit locally have hung up on and have had a sandwich thrown at my head ...about an average month really

  5. My Boss wrote me a Testimonial letter and he used "doesn't suffer fools lightly" to descibe me. So i googled it up and i came across your blogspot. I believe that you and i share this expression.I wish you a full recovery and a long life.