I received some bad news from a friend right before I got on the subway this past Thursday night: they had gotten laid off at their job, a company that hadn’t made any mention of impending layoffs until, well, they said pack your things and here’s your severance package.
I was angry, I was upset, I was frustrated that someone with talent and promise could be cut down so suddenly. No notice, no warning, no “just a heads up, you may want to start looking for jobs elsewhere”. I was figuratively seething, but I’m almost positive that if I looked in a mirror, you could see the steam coming out of my ears.
Almost blind with anger, I walked a few extra blocks to catch the express instead of the local. Walking it off didn’t really help, so I sat down on the subway and just stared into space. I was torn between feeling thankful it wasn’t me, and then feeling bad that it had to be anyone at all.
The young couple across from me was having a grand old time playing a game together on one of their phones. It was cute, something D and I would probably do, but I found it so grating. How on Earth could they be so nonchalant? How were they so blase about this terrible news? Of course they didn’t know, of course they had no way of knowing, but that didn’t make a difference: I wanted everyone to be upset along with me.
I’m sure I glared. They didn’t look up, and I was thankful for that: I’m not that kind of person. I don’t let my emotions show easily (in public, anyway), and I’m not one to force my emotions on others. But for some reason, that night, I just wanted everyone to be sad along with me, and watching others being actively cheerful was frustrating.
And then I thought about how layoffs happen every single goshdarn day, and I’ve been lucky not to know anyone personally that’s had to go through one. And then I thought about how often people get on the subway upset, or annoyed, or angry, and I never notice. How I sit there, smiling at a good book or laughing at a comment from a friend, and these strangers are going through their own unfriendly emotions.
So by the time my train had made its way to the Manhattan Bridge, I had reconciled (in my head) with the couple across from me. Because maybe they’d both had horrible days earlier in the week and they were glad to have a light-hearted train ride. And because they weren’t deserving of my wrath anyway.