It happened on a red eye flight. Heading east, into the sunrise.
I was waiting in line for the bathroom, reading the pages of a guy’s Langston Hughes book over his shoulder.
The bathroom door lock made its snapping noise as it opened and a bald, middle-aged man walked out. He avoided eye contact and walked quickly back to his seat.
I stepped into the cramped airplane bathroom and saw the gift he’d left behind: a toilet bowl full of urine. I mean, FULL.
First, I mentally called him about a dozen nasty names. Then, I felt pity for his family and the dirty habits they must endure at home. Then, I questioned whether he got some sick satisfaction out of leaving his excrement for strangers to discover – was he getting his rocks off, thinking about me and my contorted face?
It wasn’t until I looked around for the flush button, that I understood.
Underneath the sink, hidden behind the hanging roll of toilet paper was the flush button.
When someone was seated on the toilet, the button was impossible to miss. But like most dudes, he remained standing to pee, so the flush button was totally out of view for him. Poor design. From where he was, he simply could not see it.
That person who didn’t show up for you when you needed them most…
That person who repeatedly puts their priorities before yours…
That person who didn’t say “Thank you” or “I’m sorry”…
Like the pee-abandoner on that flight, they are acting based on what they see. They are speaking from the vantage point they have. Their choices are a result of where they are and the well-formed ridges of their emotional brain.
Unless they’re a sociopath or one of those spiteful mean-girl types, generally speaking, most people don’t intend for their words and actions to hurt you. They didn’t wake up that day and excitedly plan out how they’d insult you, or otherwise make life difficult for you.
People act from the perspectives available to them.
The courteous gesture, the emotionally thoughtful phone call, the opportunities for kindness and care that seem blatantly obvious to you are not always so apparent for others. It’s not that they’re assholes (unless they are). Usually, it’s a matter of vision. They don’t see what you see.
(Sidenote: Sometimes we are the ones not seeing stuff. It goes both ways.)
Knowing this doesn’t take away the sting of their actions, or diminish the impact of their words. And this does NOT mean that you give them carte blanche approval to keep hurting you.
But it might bring you some ease to consider that they weren’t acting from malice. It might help you relax the high moral standard you’ve been holding them to. It might bring in a light mist of compassion, or a tsunami of deeper sleep for you.
He didn’t flush because he couldn’t see the button.
Maybe it’s time to ease up on your expectations and get what you’re craving elsewhere. Some people just don’t see the button.