Fly on the Wall


I am quite enjoying the fact that motorcycle season has begun and we are getting out and about more often. With the spring air, the warmer weather, the additional sunshine and the longer daylight hours, it is always my goal to get outside as much as possible. This week alone, though, there were two interesting incidents, that I experienced along my way, worth noting.

In the first situation, I was on my motorcycle, stopped at a red light. I was in the left turning lane and a vehicle was parked next to me with the windows fully down. There were only two occupants in the vehicle and they were having a heated conversation. I could hear them yelling at one another and noticed a male in the driver’s seat and a female in the passenger seat.

Considering that I wear a full helmet with chin and face shield, it was impossible to hear exactly what they were saying. All I know is that they were being belligerent, condescending and disrespectful to one another. There were swear words, angry tones, hateful gestures and a general feeling of toxic energy emitting from the car, like the scent of a skunk lingering near. I was grateful to be slightly behind them, as I don’t think they realized anyone was in earshot.

I felt sad in that moment. I am sure they had serious issues to discuss but it was the way they seemed comfortable having the conversation that caught my attention. Where they married? Were they friends? Were they siblings? In any case, their relationship seemed extremely strained and yet, I had the sense that this was a common interaction for them. The guy continued to smoke a cigarette, between insults, with one arm resting on the top of the steering wheel.

During the second incident, I was walking with my daughter and grandchildren, pushing a triple stroller with the babies in sleepers and blankets, all ready for bed. We were keeping quite a quick pace, since the stroller is actually a jogger and moves smooth, like a feather. Clipping along, I noticed a couple walking in the same direction we were, on the other side of the street. The older fellow smiled at the sight of all of the babies and we continued on our way.

Within a couple of minutes, we were getting ahead of them. I then heard their argument erupt. They were dressed quite nicely, as if they were returning from or headed to a restaurant for a nice dinner, and she was complaining that he was walking too fast. She then got upset and began to accuse him of thinking she was too fat and that if she was in better shape, he would be happier. They began hurling insults at one another. I pretended that I didn’t hear them and kept our breakneck pace, like getting out of Dodge.

I could hear them yelling, for about a half a block, even though their words faded into the distance. The only reason we were going so fast is that we were rushing to get the kids back to where my daughter was staying, since a nap before bedtime is like poking the three little bears. If they fell asleep, but woke up when put into bed, they may be awake for hours. All I know is that the couple on the street seemed to be at odds with one another. Maybe they thought we were racing them and he didn’t like getting beat by a small army of little people.

The thing that stood out for me the most, from these two fleeting events, was how rude some people are to one another, even though they are in some type of intimate relationship. Maybe that is how they always talk to one another . Maybe they banter that way but it doesn’t bother them. Maybe they don’t know any different. Maybe they have become so accustomed to their interactions that they don’t see it as a problem.

I really think that if we audio recorded our interactions with the people in our bubble that it would tell an interesting story. Are we respectful? Are we appreciative? Are we loving? Are we caring? Are we patient? Are we kind? Are we understanding? Are we encouraging? Are we grateful? It really got me thinking.

Toxic relationships affect all of us – especially in our homes and our workplaces. Our mood, our energy, our spirit, our sense of security and safety is impacted, each and every day, by how we choose to interact with others. Since we can’t change anyone else, what can we do to insure that our relationships are healthier?

Even when we have problems that we are working through or issues that come up, I wonder if we would talk differently to one another if we knew that strangers could hear us, like I heard this week? What about if we knew how much our toxic interactions affected any children in our home? Since strangers don’t matter so much in this equation, maybe if we just focus on the most important people in our lives and the people who we spend the most time with.

This week, imagine an audio recording all of your conversations. What story would your recordings say? If not so good, what are you willing to do about it? It may be an interesting experiment, to be the fly on the wall….

Topsail Island Walk: