I'm on business travel this week, and the hotel I usually stay at "overbooked" (despite a completely deserted lobby and bar), so they sent me to a dingy motel on the other side of town. The moldy popcorn ceilings, faulty appliances, and flickering lights aren't particularly relaxing, but on the bright side I can finally take advantage of my restlessness to get some writing done.
I'm pretty annoyed that we didn't have rooms to stay in despite holding reservations for weeks in advance, but I also realize it's probably just the result of a freak accident where nobody is at fault and agitating won't get you anywhere. But my boss just kept probing the hotel staff for answers, even belittling them as we left, and I found myself (once again) disgusted by his behavior. He huffed and puffed, criticized the hotel staff's outfit choices (not to their faces, but still), and even suggested that we should get to stay over other guests because of our loyalty status at the hotel chain.
The whole fiasco made me think of this Tim Ferriss blog post about test-driving people, a term Tim uses to describe intentionally putting people in mildly distressing situations to see how they react to adversity. To be clear, I think his examples (purposely forgetting your wallet when out for dinner with friends, telling people wrong reservation times, purposely missing trains/buses/planes) verge on manipulative, but I can see the value in the underlying concept, even if I would never use or tolerate them.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone when they get caught in the rain! Some will run with their hands over their heads, others will smile and take a deep breath while enjoying the wind. What does this say about one’s relationship to discomfort? The reaction to surprise? The need for control?
I dislike annoyances like being put in this motel as much as anyone, but I try to remind myself that these inconveniences can provide valuable insights into other peoples' character. Do they feel like they're entitled to a certain treatment? Do they get mad, and worse, take that anger out on others? I've realized it's much easier to spend time with people who have smaller egos and higher tolerance for discomfort, and I try to avoid people like my boss who let the smallest things set them off into fits of rage.
I haven't been writing regularly recently because in addition to being busy with work, I've not been feeling the best. Life has thrown me some surprises, and while it's not that I don't have friends to talk to in times like this I still feel isolated from them. Most don't pick up the phone, and others don't really understand/empathize or give comforting advice. Sometimes I make irrational choices, and it takes a very emotionally intelligent friend to ask if I want their opinion (as opposed to just a sympathetic ear), and if I do, to give it in a way that doesn't make me feel judged or ashamed. It's not their fault; I know I'm really fickle and sensitive and that finding the right words to comfort is a mix of science, art, and sorcery.
That being said, I don't want to come off like I'm ungrateful for my friends, because they do support me in many ways I do and don't notice. Today I'm really thankful for my one work friend for FaceTiming me after work to check on me since she noticed me crying in the office. She asked me if I wanted to talk about what was bothering me, asked if I wanted to hear her opinion, and respected my wishes. She didn't have to do all that but she did and I'm so touched by her kindness. I'm going to miss at least one person when I get fired 🥺
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