She had been stuck behind the SUV for a few minutes now, and it seemed she had not moved much. Overtaking was impossible, given that the neighborhood roads were narrow, and she could feel frustrated.
The only solution she could think of was honking her horn, but she spotted something in the rear window before she did it. It was a life-changing moment for her.
When Rebecca Lane decided to take a different route to work that morning, she only wanted to reach the office in time. The day had already started badly for her, with one of her sons falling sick and having to visit the emergency room.
Since her husband was out of town that week, everything had fallen onto Rebecca’s lap. But with the experience of being a mom and a wife for more than a decade, Rebecca handled everything expertly. She had no clue how a car would seemingly ruin her morning.
A Caring Woman
Rebecca had always been a hard-working woman. She led a comfortable life with her family in a small town in Colorado, dividing her time between work, her family and friends, and hobbies.
As far as she was concerned, everything in her life was as it was supposed to be: Perfect. But a simple sign on a car window would change her perspective on everything.
One In A Million
This particular incident was a one in a million for Rebecca. Yet it cleared her eyes of cobwebs she didn’t think she had before.
People are usually raised in norms based on where they grew up. Rebecca’s community made her focus on her family and herself. As such, she gave her life to ensure she could care for those close to her. She never paid attention to the strangers in her life.
She’s Used To It
The morning of the incident was not a new one for Rebecca. She’d had her fair share of sick kids needing to go to the hospital in the morning and getting late for work because things at home weren’t running smoothly.
But although none of this was new to her, it didn’t mean it was easy, especially with her husband out of town. Rebecca would conquer it all before leaving for the office.
Rebecca’s first son, Jayden, had come down with a nasty rash, prompting Rebecca to put everything on hold and drive him to the emergency room.
Afterward, she drove him back home. After ensuring he had everything he needed to remain comfortable through the day, she drove her two other kids to school and left for work.
No Time To Waste
Time wasn’t on Rebecca’s side, although she was doing everything to ensure she wouldn’t be late for work. Morning traffic had already devoured the highway, and she knew she had to play smart or end up in her boss’s bad graces.
Looking to avoid a confrontation altogether, Rebecca took a different route to work. The road would be empty, although a bit longer than the highway. She had no idea what was waiting for her.
A Different Route
Rebecca took the intended route as fast as traffic rules allowed. But she wasn’t on the road for long when her eyes caught something ahead that made her heart stop.
She swallowed a curse, realizing what was happening. The same stagnant traffic she was trying to escape had seemingly beat her to this road. She was still trying to figure out what to do when she saw it.
There was no traffic before Rebecca but a lone SUV slowly lumbering up the road. Given how narrow the street was since it passed through a few neighborhoods, Rebecca had been driving behind it for minutes, her teeth grinding against each other as time counted.
She was about to honk her horn when her sight landed on the vehicle’s rear window. Her life was about to change forever.
Reading The Sign
Rebecca ignored the sign before because she worried about her son and reaching work late. But now, she studied it keenly, knowing it wouldn’t hurt to learn something new.
As clear as day, the sign read, “Learning stick, sorry for any delay.” Rebecca’s heart softened at once, and she found herself pondering matters she’d never actively thought about
Her Thoughts On The Matter
“Knowing this information, I was very patient with their slow shifting, and honestly, they were doing pretty well for still learning,” Rebecca shared on Facebook.
She remembered her first time learning to drive a manual car and the hell it had been. Suddenly, the anger that had been simmering within her dissipated, and she asked herself an important question.
A Clearer View
“Then I asked myself a tough question: Would I have been just as patient if the sign hadn’t been there? I can almost definitely say no.” This realization would hit her like a freight train, opening her eyes to several things she’d never considered before.
“We don’t know what someone is going through. We don’t wear signs that illustrate our struggles. You don’t see signs taped to people’s shirts that say, “Going through a divorce,” “Lost a child,” “Feeling depressed,” or “Diagnosed with cancer.”
Making A Call
But what could she do in such a situation where she needed to get to work and someone learning to drive was blocking the road before her?
Rebecca grabbed her phone and called her office. She explained she’d be running late because of a home emergency. Thankfully, her boss was a friend of her family and understood when Rebecca mentioned her son being sick. But Rebecca’s revelations would continue after the day was over.
“If we could read visually what those around us are going through, we would definitely be nicer,” she shared on Facebook. She recalled times when she should have been kinder to people around her.
How often had she passed by someone without thinking about how they were feeling? In her post, she urged those reading to open their minds to her revelation. Would they listen to her plea?
“We shouldn’t have to see signs and have reasons to treat strangers with kindness. We should do it anyway, whether we know what is going on. Whether they deserve it or not.”
She greeted the stranger in that SUV that morning before driving off to work, commending him for his skills on the road. “Let’s give everyone an extra dose of patience, kindness, and love. Have a good day!” she concluded in her post. But she never anticipated the responses she would get.
Before Rebecca knew it, her Facebook post was inundated with 10,000 messages and had accumulated 195,000 likes and 217,000 shares.
Rebecca had been publishing blog posts and advice columns on her personal blog page and sharing them on Facebook for five years, but her blogs had never attracted this kind of attention before. She had given people something to think about… and her message is more relevant now than ever.
“Well said. Heck I drive a standard and people get annoyed daily just because I cannot go from 0-50 in 5 secs! I do have to shift gears. Society is very much in a ‘me first’ mindset….blinders on. SAD!” one woman commented.
And the woman had a good point. A lot of people increasingly feel like society has gotten less conscientious of others over the last decade. And they might be right.
A Ruder World
If you have a sense that we are living in a more hostile world, you’re not alone. Acts of hostility are all over social media and the news lately.
And, according to workers in the service industry – especially servers and flight attendants – people’s sense of common decency seems to have gone out the window. And it seems to have gotten even worse after the pandemic.
A Deeper Trend
Of course, only the most extreme stories about entitled “Karens” losing their minds make the news. Everybody remembers the Connecticut mother who slapped an elementary school bus driver and the California woman who physically attacked a SouthWest airlines flight attendant.
What’s disturbing, though, is that psychiatrists say these stories seem to reflect a much deeper trend in America.
Year Of The Karen
Americans seem to have forgotten their niceties – especially when dealing with those whose job it is to assist them. Flight attendants who have seen it all are reporting that people on flights causing mayhem, restaurants say they are having to deal with ruder diners than ever.
One restaurant in Massachusetts even closed for a day in 2021 to give the staff a break from all the impolite and demanding guests. So, what’s going on?
Americans Forgot Niceties
According to psychologists, the rudeness that’s directed at the customer service industry is due to a power shift.
“People feel almost entitled to be rude to people who are not in a position of power,” says Hans Steiner, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. “Especially when they come at them, and remind them of the fact that they have to do their piece to get rid of this pandemic.”
No More Filters
Some researchers blame the internet and point to it as the “gateway rudeness” that people are experiencing now.
“We don’t filter ourselves as much as we used to,” says Bernard Golden, a psychologist. “On the internet, people feel like they can say anything. They no longer guard themselves. And I think they transfer that lack of filter into public life. I think from leadership that we’ve had in the last number of years, that’s only been more encouraged.”
A Startling Revelation
Alison Green, who has fielded workplace questions on her popular website Ask a Manager for more than ten years, has noticed a startling trend: workers in every sector claim that they have experienced a “dramatic increase in abusive behavior from the public.”
Alison’s inbox is a good gauge that rudeness from the general public has been on the rise for years, but it got even worse during the pandemic. Some of the emails she receives are shocking.
People Being Their Worst
“I’ve been in retail over 10 years and there has been behavior from people in the last few months I’ve never seen, even in pandemic times, where it seems the convergence of war, rising energy prices, ongoing pandemic, etc.,” one email reads.
“This has resulted in some of the crappiest behavior from the public en masse I’ve been subjected to yet. … People all over are really being their worst right now.
“I work as an EA in the largest health care system in my state, and employee safety has been a topic among executives and board members in the past six months,” another anonymous email read.
“Rude behavior and physical violence from patients, family members, and visitors is at an all-time high. We’ve had to beef up security measures in our facilities in order to help protect our nurses, doctors, clinicians, receptionists, and other employees who come into contact with the public.” But, interestingly, Alison has also received emails from the Karens themselves.
The Other Side Of The Coin
“I will sheepishly admit that over the past two years I was rude to a few service employees/call center agents over things that were either out of their control or because of minor mistakes that we ALL make at some point. I was never like that before,” one email read.
“Not an excuse, but the pandemic stress/isolation just got overwhelming and it manifested in me acting like a jerk a few times, unfortunately.”
Sign Of The Times
A lot of the “Karens” recognize their awful behavior and entitlement. But they say the times of uncertainty we live in are making being kind and understanding more difficult.
“I generally try to be as kind as possible—especially to those in IT or service jobs—but recently, I have noticed frustration coming out in my interactions with people, particularly when I’m anxious about other things. Climate change, the pandemic, war, collapsing trust in government and institutions—it is all so large and outside of our control,” one person explained.
A Manifestation Of Anxiety?
“So at the moment it feels not only ‘good,’ but that I’m entitled to feel and act with frustration. Obviously, this perception is untrue and harmful,” the person continued.
“But I have a sense that much of the aggression coming out in social interactions is an external manifestation of anxiety and feeling loss of control in our lives,” the email concluded. So, is this why people just seem to be ruder nowadays?
Back To Rebecca’s Post…
All of this insight makes Rebecca’s post explaining that we don’t know what other people are going through even more important – and people who read her story are trying to take the lesson to heart.
“Yes seriously, we all need to remember, if people act different…impatient, upset, sad, unfriendly, it doesn’t mean they’re bad. Sometimes there’s something going on in their lives, so the best way to handle it is to smile and be understanding! It works every time,” one commenter wrote.
Summing It Up
Another Facebook user who commented on Rebecca’s post summed it all up perfectly: “Everyone we meet is fighting some kind of battle… it’s not up to us to judge them just because we can’t see their inner turmoil. It is up to us to be kind, regardless of what we know/can see.”
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.