Patience, kindness and Ground Hog Day

Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.  Don’t confuse my patience with apathy.

I don’t consider myself a kind person.  I am a nice person.

I don’t consider myself a patient person.  I am patient.

Well, about 90 percent of the time.  But I am also a Gemini.  My astrological sign dictates that I have a twin personality.

And as everyone who is fortunate enough to have a Gemini in their lives knows, an evil twin lurks beneath the surface of even the kindest and most patient Gemini.

It’s not really evil.  It just hates it when people mistake its kindness for weakness and its patience for apathy.

“I don’t like it when you’re angry,” a friend recently told me.

That’s because I don’t get angry often.  When I do, it’s not pretty.

But because it’s so out of character for me, it makes more impact.

In the recent past I can recall two very specific instances when my evil twin came out to play.  Both happened at work.

Scenario #1:

I was in the middle of training a new associate producer at work.  She had been with us for about a week and had been included in the chit chat in which I engage my colleagues when I get to work.

I like to start off the day on a light note.  By the time I get to the station, the overnight staff has already been there for 5 hours.  The way I see it, bringing a little levity to the moment changes the room’s energy and increases productivity.  So, after I put down my briefcase and boot up my computer, I walk the 20 feet from my desk to the “producer’s pod” in the middle of the newsroom and engage in a little light banter.

“Anything I should know?” I ask the Executive Producer.

She fills me in on the overnight updates and then we move on to more important things like, “How long has that pizza been sitting in the break room?  Is it safe to eat a slice?”

That was the scenario when training for the new associate producer I mentioned a few sentences back began.

But she had more important things going on.  Like the fight via text messaging she was having with her boyfriend.  A fight she had no intentions of stopping for something as trivial as learning to do her job.

I ignored the first text message.  The second annoyed  me.

After the third, the transformation from peaceful Barb to evil Barb began.  Metamorphosis complete, this came out of my mouth.

“Clearly you have more important things going on right now.  And training to do your job can’t compete with that drama.  Let me know when you’re not too busy.  Hopefully I’ll have time for you then.”

Translation: Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.  Don’t confuse my patience with apathy.

Scenario #2:

I had been at work for all of 15 minutes when my phone rang.  The caller ID identified it as an outside call, most likely from a viewer.

“Is Mary there?”  the caller asked.  (Mary isn’t her real name.  In fact, I don’t even know anyone named Mary so it’s a safe name to use to make a point and disguise the guilty.)

“This isn’t her extension,” I replied.

“Oh, what’s her extension?” the caller asked.

Since Mary was about 10 feet away, I called out, “Mary, what’s your extension?”

She replied.  I conveyed the info to the caller and hung up.

Not five minutes had passed when my phone rang again.

“Is Mary there?”  the caller asked.

“I told you this wasn’t her extension,” I told him.

“Oh, what’s her extension?” he asked.

Suddenly I was Bill Murray in a scene from Ground Hog Day, destined to relive the moment until I got it right.

I looked over to Mary’s desk, and saw she was no longer sitting there.  I couldn’t remember her extension.

“I don’t know her extension,” I replied to the caller.

“You knew it before,” he said with a tone not quite up to my evil twin’s liking.

That’s when something within the deep, dark recesses of the grey matter in my brain snapped.

Before I could say something I was going to regret, I hung up.  But the grey matter had already been disturbed and like the Incredible Hulk, once its fury is unleashed, nothing could tame it.

“Where’s Mary?” I asked another coworker who, by the look on his face, was more than just a tad bit alarmed by the flames shooting out of my head.

“Um, she’s in the studio,” he replied, whimpering like a scared puppy, afraid of getting too close to the crazed, demented woman who just a few seconds earlier had been peacefully sitting at her desk, eating a bowl of oatmeal and drinking juice from a Sippy cup.

“Tell her I want to talk to her when she comes back,” I said, now standing like a cat waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse, oatmeal threatening to spew out of its mouth.

Three minutes later, Mary walked back into the newsroom.

“Listen, tell your friend to lose the attitude and lose my extension,” I said, not stopping to realize that my out of context statement made about as much sense as if I’d said, “Hey, Mary, your little lamb’s fleece is as white as snow.”

I didn’t yell, but my eyes were screaming and shooting death daggers ready to stab anyone who dared to intervene.

People were ducking for cover.  I thought Mary was going to weep.

Translation (in case you didn’t get it the first time):  Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.  Don’t confuse my patience with apathy.

The thing is that I get angry, but I get over it right away.  I mean it.  Within seconds the anger dissipates and I’m back to normal.  My point has already been made, so why wallow in being pissed?

The above mentioned producer got trained the very same day I unleashed my anger at her.  Mary and I were laughing hysterically at what happened a few minutes after my death daggers retreated.

This way of dealing with the important issues in my life has served me well for over half a decade.  It reinforces that I’m human, and gains respect by not harboring anger or holding grudges.

Now, if I could only get my evil twin to stop being so shy about coming out to play when my significant other is around, Ground Hog Day would be a thing of the past.

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