It has dawned on me that being nice gets you nothing. Look at me, I’ve been all nice, and understanding, and patient, and I’m broke and living alone in a senior’s building. This is not my ideal, dreamed-of outcome. I wanted to start this essay with, “It has dawned on me that being nice gets you "jack-shit,” but I used “nothing” as the object instead of “jack-shit,” because I figured “jack-shit” might upset some people, and I didn’t want to do that. Good Gosh.
People don’t care if you’re nice. News flash: “Life is not a poem. It’s a sentence.” I never wake up and go, “Oh, goodie.” People who say that are delusional and likely smoking something. I wake up and, “...get dressed, get the coffee started, don’t lie in bed because that’s a slippery slope;” I have to manage myself. I can’t drink anymore because even my body is fed up with me. I tried mushrooms, and I am a fan, and I’d like to try all of the drugs but I’m 60, so I have to take these naps, and you have to watch how much coffee you drink. I still push it. Sometimes, I will drink coffee at night. Suck on that.
You know I’ve spent most of my life in therapy, wondering why nothing was working out. I think it was because I was nice all that time. Even thinking about it right now makes me want to throw something. If I had been an asshole, I’d be rich right now. I’d have a yacht, and I would have so much power that I would change the spelling of ‘yacht,’ for fun. I’d change it to ‘yought,’ just to piss everyone off, so they would never forget that I’m not nice anymore.
Being nice just gets you into situations that you’d rather not be in. Here’s an example: On a winter afternoon a few years ago, I was going to attend a choral concert, which I would normally never do unless I was dragged there out of guilt because I knew someone who was singing, and I couldn’t go, “Oh, I missed your concert because I was at home, comfortable, and happy.” I put on some decent clothes, the kind that a fully functioning human might wear, and drove to the venue. I parked, and was walking along the sidewalk towards the entry way to the church where the singing was to take place. As I got closer, an older, frail woman stepped onto the sidewalk from the parking area. She had a walker, and I noticed that a man in the parking lot, whom I assumed was her husband, was watching after her, concerned. She gave him a wave, and then continued on, head down. This was a small town, so it was clear that the pair were heading for the concert as well, otherwise there was no other real reason for them to be out walking in that area, plus it was winter, and they were both elderly; I knew she wasn’t headed to the park to make snow angels–I’m quick that way. The man was inching back towards his car as he had parked it to help his wife out, but now had to move it to a proper spot. I made eye contact with him, motioned that I would look after his wife, and stepped in to walk beside her. I introduced myself and chatted with her, so she wouldn't think I had slowed only to steal her hat and then make a break for it. I told her we were headed to the same event, so I was glad to walk with her. She mentioned that she was worried about how she was going to climb the front steps of the church in order to get inside and see the concert. I let her know that this church had a side entrance, and I was pretty sure that there was an elevator so that she didn’t have to worry. I don’t remember how I knew this. I’m not a church-goer. My withering brain is pruning useless details and that might have been one of them.
We made our way to the side entrance along with other concert-goers. I held the door for the lady, and we both spotted the elevator just inside the doorway. I pressed the button on the side panel, the elevator doors opened, and just as she stepped in her husband appeared at the door, and he stepped in with her. With that, I sent them off with a wave, as if they were heading out on a ship, and I had fought some dragon, and filled the cache with gold and food for their journey; ordered the sirens to stand down. Yes I felt good, because I had helped someone. So, fine. Now the doors closed and up they went, to the main floor, or some portal to another dimension; I didn’t continue to track them. I turned to take the stairs up, but one moment earlier the whole choir had come up from the green room in the basement, and its members were standing on the stairs, blocking the way for me to get to my seat. I stood there and made some comment about the elevator, and some, salmon-mouthed gargoyle member of the choir said, “Well why didn’t you just take the stairs?” like I was some kind of a moron. I wanted to explain to her about assisting the elderly woman, but I didn’t. Neither did I suggest that she not worry about me, but rather the sounds she was going to make in the next hour, and why. Instead, I stood there like a chump. I waited politely for the members of the choir to file past and off of the stairway, found my seat, and I will say that I did enjoy the concert. I did. It sounded nice, once I calmed down and stopped pretending to shoot lasers out of my eyes at gargoyle woman.
You know that the 'nice' part of me is whispering in my ear that I shouldn't assign fish, or gothic attributes to people who were only doing their best. My 'nice' part wants me to be dull as a door-stop. Really, it's trying to kill me by causing me to second-guess myself to death. What a fucker.
Okay, so maybe it’s still important to be nice to people who deserve it–the lady with the walker was super class-'A' excellent, and her husband too, but I think there’s ‘being nice,’ and ‘being a sucker.’ Maybe don’t be the latter. Here’s an example of unnecessary suckerdom: I’m at a club in Toronto to see a band, Snarky Puppy. The place is packed, and I’m seated at the end of a long table, so far away from the stage. There are, I think, at least three other people seated on my side of the table, between me and the other end. There might have been more. There is the same number of people seated on the opposite side of the table. The bar is to my back. To my right, so, just off of my end of the table, there are a few smaller tables with people sitting at them, then there’s a raised area with more tables, and all of the chairs are full. The serving staff is working to make sure everyone has the food and drinks that they order, and people are in a good mood, watching the band get ready. There is an older man sitting directly to my left, so I have to look past him if I’m going to watch the show. I’m sipping my beer, and I overhear him talking to his friend seated to his left. He mentions a high school. I recognize the name as the one my then recently ex-husband had gone to. Like an idiot, I ask the man about his relation to this school. He answers that he was a teacher there. I tell him that my ex used to go there, and as our conversation progresses, it turns out that this guy was my ex’s favourite teacher at that school, having coached him in football, and I don’t know what else. That should have been the end of the conversation. The band was starting, and the man should have stopped talking, but he didn’t. He went on to tell me about himself. We were on the subject of music, and he talked about how good he was at coming up with songs, and you can imagine how excited I was to hear such fascinating information at that very moment in that place. He said that he couldn’t read music, but he could hum things and have someone else write down the notes. Did I mention that the band had started? The band, Snarky Puppy, had started playing. The band was playing. Snarky Puppy was playing and this man continued to talk. What did I do? I listened. Like a sucker. Why? Because I didn’t want to be rude. But wait a minute here; I had paid for a ticket to hear this band, and this asshole was talking to me, telling me stories that I didn’t want to hear, about not only himself, but a man I was no longer married to. Who the hell was being rude? I know, I stupidly started things by asking about the name of the high school–but this guy! Finally, at one point, after responding to something he said, I turned to the area behind me and rolled my eyes at the same time. This wasn’t a subtle eye roll, but rather, a physical cue readable from space. It turned out that the people seated behind me had been watching the interaction between Mr. Blowhard and myself, so when I turned with the eye roll, they burst out laughing. I mean the whole back area lit up. I was surprised, and delighted to have such a glorious response. The great thing was that Blowhard left at the intermission, and Larnell Lewis, the drummer, sat and ate a salad beside me before the second half. So, yeah.
There was no need for me to tolerate the talking man. I could have politely drawn his attention to the fact that the band had begun, and that while I was sure that what he had to say was fascinating, right now, my intent was to listen to the music. “So, if you don’t mind,” or something like that. If that didn’t work, I could have poured his beer in his lap. Or my beer in his lap. Being nice got me nothing but frustration. The laugh was good though. I did like the laugh.