Skip to main content

Empathy Ends at the Airport

The other day my mom, Caroline and I went for ice cream at a local mom and pop near our house. While we ordered, Caroline wiggled her way out of my arms and marched by the diners, who of course, smiled as she waddled by them. The place was packed with locals, young families and elderly couples. Faces I see around every day, faces I have grown accustomed to as I've made this place my home.

When we left, my mom chuckled and mentioned an older man with a really bad toupee. It was bad, like a kitten was curled up sleeping on his head. It was pretty funny but I didn't laugh when it was indeed laugh-worthy. I didn't laugh because lately I've had a case of overactive empathy.

The man with the toupee, the late night airport shuttle driver with his lunch packed in a travel cooler, the woman working the toll booth at midnight. I know my life is easier than many others. I don't feel sorry for these people or think I'm better than they are. I've just started noticing the little things in life and really realizing it's all about the little things. People are amazing just for being themselves. Sometimes we are too busy with ourselves to notice how simply and beautifully the rest of the world is living around us.

I'm a cry baby, too. I always have been but I think a side effect of my overactive empathy is Hallmark sentimentality. I cried recently when I saw a kitchen counter top commercial where the voice over describes a husband and wife starting their lives and filling their home with memories. The camera pans to a beautiful kitchen (this is where the tears start rolling) and then to a mom handing her toddler a sippy cup.

You would have thought Tim Russert was my uncle with the tears I shed while watching the Today Show and Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Every time they showed the photo of his son touching his Meet the Press chair or played a Bruce Springstein song I began to openly bawl. I never even really watched Meet the Press.

I'm not sure if motherhood has made me a softy because I used to have an edge. I used to laugh at people's simplicity and had no problem swearing at other drivers on the road or pushing a few people out of the way to rush from a subway car.

Sometimes the anger comes back to me and I like the edge. For example yesterday, when I had 10 minutes between the plane landing and catching my connecting flight. I needed to keep my bag as close to me as possible so I could run off of the plane. When I tried to rearrange a grandma's quilted bag in the bin above to accommodate my carry-on, grandma stood up panicked and declared there was no way she would move her bag. I would have to move my bag elsewhere so as not to crush the "fragile" items in hers. I hurled my bag in the overhead behind me and let me eyes bore into the back of my seat, hoping lazer beams would fly from my irises and drill painful holes into the back of grandma's head. Little grandma almost got drop kicked when she apologized as I was anxiously awaited the door to open. "I'm sorry, I just didn't want my grandson's snacks to get crushed." At that moment, I would have only felt the warm fuzzies if I had been able to lift my carry-on over my head and repeatedly smash it into grandma's tote, turning little Billy's crackers into minute granules. I also pushed someone out of the way as I ran up the ramp. If she'd had a toupee, I would have knocked it off as I ran.


Popular posts from this blog

I Love Otsego but I Love Andy More

Growing up, my big brother was your typical older brother. He loved to torture me and his favorite hobby was making me mad or making me cry. He took my own stuff and made me buy it back from him at a yard sale. He put dog crap in my socks and sneakers. He threw spit balls at me, pinched me and never let me win at any games. Despite his daily doses of teasing and displeasing me, I did notice that he wasn't particularly interested in other people making me mad or making me cry. I'm not saying he was ready to fight on my behalf, or ride up on a white horse to protect me, but he was pretty firm in his position as the number one bane of my existence. Despite the fact that he no longer tortures me quite like he used to, our relationship has left a lasting impression on me, long into adulthood. As a self proclaimed arm chair therapist, I take note that I have been trying to work through that relationship for years-with Andy. Poor Andy had no idea that, when we started dating, I'…

Holiday Letters- in Two Versions!

I don’t know about you but I love a good holiday letter. Nothing sends me into a tailspin of self doubt and depression like reading the carefully crafted story of the highs and accomplishments of those in my life. As the letters flow in, alongside the photos of the beautiful smiling faces of my loved ones, I curl up under a warm blanket, look out at the bleak, gray winter skies and think: what the fu#k is wrong with me?We are so fortunate, due to modern technological advances, to be able to experience this self doubt an average of 20-50 times per day as we addictively scroll a variety of social media channels. Yet nothing truly confirms our own personal inadequacies like a yearly summary of others’ successes and happiness neatly packed in an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of paper, folded in thirds and slipped into an envelope alongside a card collage of beach shots, matching sweaters and smiling, happy faces. I, too, have sent along such letters to accompany our smiling happy faces, providing thos…

An Open "PM" to Polly

Hey Polly, it’s me- Melissa. Can I call you Polly? Because I feel like I know you. Do I know you? We’ve been in the same social media circles for many months now.I see from your profile that you went to Cornell. I have a lot of friends that graduated from there. It’s an awesome school. What year did you graduate? I also see that you’re self-employed. I really respect entrepreneurs, particularly female entrepreneurs. What’s your business? Are you a photographer because your Facebook profile picture of Doubleday Field is fantastic.I see that you don’t have any Facebook friends, Polly. I understand that. Are you lonely? It can be really lonely around here. Listen Polly, this election got really nasty but at the end of the day are all neighbors right? Do you want to meet, do you want to talk about it? Haven’t seen you on social media since the election. I totally get where you’re coming from, Polly. It’s been hard for me, too. When you put yourself out there with really strong opinions pe…