What’s their problem?!
Familiar words often spoken about the family member who snaps for no reason, the work colleague who is always ready with a passive aggressive dig or the friend who is always in a bad mood. What’s their problem?! I’ve heard and spoken these words indignantly too many times to remember. Of course, I never really cared about what “their” problem was, it was a way of venting about a supposed injustice. Of bad behaviour by someone else, seemingly unwarranted.
I’m sat in Dublin airport as a write. I’ve a million and one things on my mind, work, life, friends, and a rather perplexing relationship problem (which no doubt will feature in a future blog). I know I have a short window to write this week’s blog because I’m behind schedule. The airport seats at the gate are busy, a couple in their late 20’s sit beside me. Well, she sits and he has to stand because it’s too busy. She snaps at him about their rucksacks. Oooooo rucksack I think, another thing to add to the to-do list…. My mind is racing but I’m trying to focus on the blog, I try to block them out. They talk about a coffee cup that was left discarded on her seat.
“Is that yours?” he asks her. Which is a weird question. Surely he’d know if it was her coffee cup given they’ve been walking around Dublin airport together. “No” She replies.
It’s at this point I should point out to you, lovely reader, that if it was my cup I would have already moved it when she came to sit down, or if I hadn’t yet, on hearing them discuss the cup I would have said “Sorry, that’s mine, let me move it for you.” I said and did neither of those things so obviously, the cup wasn’t mine. *Glad we’re clear*
“Will I throw it away?” He asks her.
She turns to me “Is this your coffee cup?” by this point I’m mildly agitated. She didn’t temper her interruption with a “Sorry to bother you” or a “Just checking before we throw this away…” She didn’t smile. So I look up at her and simply say “No” and return to my writing.
I don’t smile, I don’t acknowledge him, I don’t offer any chat about people nowadays leaving rubbish everywhere. Frankly, I can’t be bothered and they can see I’m in the middle of something.
I hear her suggest they go and sit “Over there.”
He says, loudly, as they gather their things and leave “You know my granddad told me that when he was young, people were polite.”
I look up as they walk off, smiling smugly at each other for telling me off. She looks back as I stare her in the face and say “Really?” her smile disappears and she turns away.
Clearly, they are thinking what is her problem at exactly the same time I’m thinking what is their problem? Who’s right and wrong in this situation? All three of us, because we all engaged in an exchange that turned out slightly unpleasant and unnecessary.
So what is their problem? Well, from the look of their clothes and backpacks, they are travelling rather than holidaying. They have Northern Irish accents so maybe they had to get up early to travel to Dublin and they’re tired. She is aggravated with him and I can tell that by her tone. Maybe they’ve just had a fight, maybe one is brewing. Perhaps they didn’t notice I’m trying to work. If anything, I look like a student, not someone who is a freelance writer. Maybe they have had a few experiences of bad customer service so far today which has tainted their view of people’s manners (or lack thereof). Either way, there are lots of reasons for this exchange. Granted, it’s a small-scale example of a petty issue but it’s a good example never the less.
I’ve had bigger, more important experiences of the same issue recently, where someone has a number of underlying issues with me and thinks I’m the one giving bad vibes, whereas I think she’s the one with the issue because I’ve given no reason for her to dislike me. It used to annoy me because it started to interfere with my friendships and who I’m allowed to socialise with. Now I’m at the point where instead of asking all and sundry “What’s her problem?!” I have put myself in her shoes and I can understand exactly what her problem is. I feel empathy for her and if anything I just want to fix it because it’s horrible feeling the way she does. I’ve been there too many times!
So yeah, I guess the moral of this week’s story is instead of just asking the question, “What’s their problem?!” why not try answering it too.