Life Day By Day,  Life Matters

Annoyingly polite

If we are an active participant in life annoying situations or people will form part of our life. Most of us can cope with little annoyances. Someone pushes in and takes your place in the queue. Or you drive into a car space to find a shopping trolley occupying the space. These situations happen regularly. But what if we find annoyance is our best friend? Is it time to do something about it? A debriefing with a friend or an appointment with a therapist.

Or do we need to question ourselves? Have you been in a situation and so annoyed, but do nothing about it? If so, you have experienced the annoyingly polite scenario. This labelling of behaviour will be clearer as you read on.

What type of annoyances do we put up with? And why do we put up with them?

Around 22 years ago I was travelling on the train from Brisbane to Landsborough. The trip takes around 1 hour, 20 minutes. We lived in Maleny at the time, a 20-minute drive from the Landsborough Railway Station.

When I arrived at Central Station, Brisbane, the platform was pulsating with people. A cold wind was whipping down the tunnel. I was looking forward to the comfort of a warm carriage. Once the doors of the train opened, I quickly moved to a vacant seat. A few stops later the person next to me got off and I moved to the window seat. Then a man sat down next to me. He was very obese. I had to squash against the window so that our arms and other parts of our body did not touch!

train railway near trees
Train travel can be enjoyable, with the right companion.
Photo by Krivec Ales on

The train rumbles along the track and an unexpected shudder slams my arm into the metal wall. Thoughts are running through my head faster than the train.

Why don’t you move to another seat?

If you move to another seat, he will think it is because he is fat.

How did he get so obese? He must be unhappy. Does he suffer from depression?

Does he have low self-esteem? If I move to another seat and he realises I moved away from him it will reinforce his sense of worthlessness.

Stay where you are and keep reading your book.

I have read the same paragraph three times. It is hard to concentrate sitting squashed up against the window. Keep reading!

Why doesn’t he move? Doesn’t he want more room? He must be able to see there are plenty of vacant seats.

The train rumbles on …

Every stop along the way I hoped that that the next stop was his station. But no, he remained my travelling companion. There we were sitting together as though we were old friends when the rest of the seats in the carriage were empty. We both got off at Landsborough.

Later I questioned myself about why I did not move. I was uncomfortable. But I did not do anything about it. Why did I remain in my seat? Why didn’t I pretend I had arrived at my stop and move to another seat? But, no, I remained squashed up next to the window. So much that my arm was hurting by the time I arrived home. So, what drives this type of behaviour?

I concluded that I did not want to offend the person. Therefore, I remained stuck, sitting next to him. I could have, but I did not do anything about it. I was too polite. More so, I was annoyingly polite! And worse still, I annoyed myself.

I know it is not ‘politically correct’ to call people ‘fat.’ If I said he was an enthusiastic eater who has put on lots of kilos – is that a better and kinder description? What about all the ‘fatty’ and ‘skinny’ jokes my sister Susan and I would tell each other and laugh, and laugh? Of course, we were children at the time, before anyone knew about being ‘politically correct.’

Fat shaming can hurt people. And I do not like hurting people. But I what I did on the train was me being too polite. I was putting my own needs last. There was nothing wrong with changing seats. It did not matter what ‘he’ thought about me or my behaviour. It was not as though we were about to become lifelong buddies. We never even spoke.

So, I put his well-being before mine. That was not a sensible decision and something I have changed. At times, it is okay to put our own needs first. A life-lesson I now understand.

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