The aim of Anger Awareness Week is to identify anger as a disturbing social issue which needs to be brought out into the open and addressed effectively. Anger Awareness Week will help people befriend anger by using the right tools to calm themselves down and to deal effectively with this emotion, be it of their own or that of others.
In honor of National Anger Awareness Week, I will share the story of a very angry man I met during my time as a fuel clerk. This guy really needed to befriend his anger, but since I was a fuel clerk and not a psychologist, I concentrated on getting gas in his car’s tank so he could take his unhappy self as far away from my workplace as possible.
When I worked at the supermarket fuel center, customers sometimes had problems using credit and debit cards at the pump. Sometimes the problem was trying to use a credit card we didn’t accept, but other times the nature of the problem was mysterious.
I usually knew when someone was having a problem because my POS (point-of-sale) system began beeping. When I looked over, I saw a yellow exclamation point flashing near the credit card icon. If I touched the credit card icon, a new screen popped up. The new screen showed what pump was having trouble and what kind of trouble it was. Whenever I heard the beeping, I tried to see who was having the trouble so I’d know what to say when the customer showed up at the kiosk. On busy days customers with trouble often made it to the kiosk before I could check the POS system.
One day an older man stepped up to the window in front of me. He was tall,
and his grey hair was cut conservatively short. He wore shorts that hit just above his knees and a pink plaid shirt with a collar, short sleeves, and buttons. He was dressed the way I imagine rich people dress to play golf or go sailing. The guy obviously had money.
The guy was obviously angry too. I could tell he was upset by the look on his face and the way he carried himself. I did not look forward to hearing what he had to say.
Hi! I said brightly through the intercom. How can I help you today?
Pump 6 said to see the cashier, he sputtered. Yep. He was mad.
Were you trying to use [the card we didn’t accept]? I asked him.
No! he barked. I was trying to use this, he said and showed me a credit card we did accept.
I know I made a face before I said, That’s strange. I can run it in here for you, I told the already angry man. How much do you want to put on pump 6?
I want to fill it up! the angry man said as if I should have already known that.
I’m sorry, I told him. I can’t do an open ended transaction here.
I thought the old guy’s head was going to explode. Trying to avoid a meltdown, I said, I can come outside and help you if you like. He gave me a brief nod and stomped off. I took that as a yes.
When I got out to pump 6, I saw the white-haired man was accompanied by a middle age fellow—his son perhaps or his much younger lover. The middle age guy exercised his right to remain silent.
Let’s see if I can help! I said brightly.
The older man tried to jam his card into the reader, but I stopped him. We have to follow the steps on the screen or the computer will get all confused, I said to him. His head was definitely going to explode if he got any angrier.
Do you have a rewards card? I read from the screen.
No, he answered through gritted teeth.
Then we’ve got to push the “no” button on the PIN pad, I said, reaching over to push the “no” button.
The next screen came up saying it was time to insert his credit card. I told him to insert his card now. As he did so, I told him to push it all the way in, then pull it out fast. If looks could kill, I would have been so dead.
The next screen asked the customer to enter his zip code. The customer did
so. Much to my relief and pleasure, the next screen instructed him to lift the nozzle and choose the grade of gasoline he wanted. I was tickled pink. I had saved the day!
The angry man was even angrier it seemed, although he didn’t voice his rage. Again, I could tell by the look on his face and his body language. Apparently, he’d become so invested in his belief that his credit card wasn’t going to work (and I bet he thought it was all the fault of the company I worked for!) that he got even madder when I got the card to work. Of course, he couldn’t complain because his card had worked, so his anger seethed inside of him. I figured I’d better get out of there before his head exploded and splattered me with brain matter.
As I headed toward the kiosk, I saw that the angry man’s younger companion had already wandered that way. When I caught up with him, I smiled and said, I guess I have the magic touch. The younger man smiled back.
I was glad I’d thought of something nice to say instead of Your friend is really pissed off or I hope your friend doesn’t have a heart attack or Your friend sure is an asshat. Sometimes when I open my mouth, the right words do come out.
Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sailboat-sailing-on-water-near-island-1482193/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-explosion-on-the-beach-73909/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/car-refill-transportation-gas-9796/.