This past week was our annual trek to the Northwoods in Wisconsin, and we were blessed with beautiful weather and genuine opportunities to relax and enjoy life unfolding rather than life devouring.
One bit of fun my husband and I discovered was paddleboat fishing. We’d bring our poles and gear along and paddle our way to a spot and drop a line. The only wrinkle in our plan was that we would just float and constantly need to re-paddle to our chosen spot. (We learned too late that the paddleboats have anchors…we just needed to ask. Oops.) While it was a great blend of relaxation and exercise, one afternoon when we were out, I had what I thought was a great idea. We paddled a few docks away from ours and I suggested that we toss a rope over the corner piling so that we could stay put.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea…” my husband Mike warned.
“Oh, we’re not harming anything,” I reasoned. “Who could possibly have a problem with it?” (Can’t you just feel the foreshadowing?)
And so we tossed the rope and proceeded to fish. Maybe ten minutes later, a woman walked down the dock toward us. She had big curlers in her hair and a harsh look on her face. “Do I KNOW you??” she asked. For a blink of a moment I thought she was legitimately asking us, and I answered “no.”
“Well, then—what the HELL are you doing on MY DOCK??”
Mike and I were both taken aback, and I replied, “We’re sorry. We didn’t know it would be a problem. We’ll move right away.”
We started to paddle toward the piling and lifted the rope off as fast as we could, but that was not good enough. Her rant continued, and it was ugly. It was the kind of confrontation that makes me feel like I’ve fallen back on my heels because I can’t believe what is coming my way. We had clearly tripped a whack wire.
I continued to apologize, and she continued to bitch at us. Her hands were on her hips so righteously that I thought she might pop her torso off. I eventually told her that she was being nasty and had no cause to be—we had made an honest mistake and were doing what she wanted as fast as we could.
As the words continued to spew out of her mouth, Mike told her that he was pretty sure that we were free to fish anywhere on the lake, to which she shouted, “Well, if you know THAT, then you know that what you’re doing is wrong!” I again said no we didn’t, and that we were doing what she wanted so…enough.
“Where are you from?” she screeched.
I don’t like confrontations and ones like these are rare, for sure, but there comes a point when I feel a “click” inside of me that stops trying to diffuse the situation and starts wanting to speak the equivalent of a throat punch.
This was that moment for me.
I am happy to report, however, that I took a beat, kept my cool, and very calmly answered her question and even told her our names. “Now what more do you want?” I said evenly as I glared back.
She had no new thoughts, only more incensed prattling, and we paddled away from the dock. She stood there and scowled at us until she finally walked away.
I will admit that, no longer tethered to her dock, we made it a point not to float far away and continued to cast into the area that she called her own. Perhaps we even made sure she could see us out her window…and…we caught our biggest fish of the day there, so…take that angry roller-headed human volcano.
After that, Mike and I named the area Bitch Bay.
When my son was only days old, I remember saying that if I had to choose only one word to describe him as he grew as a person, I wanted that word to be “kind.” Now that he is a preteen, I find myself speaking with him about his tone when he talks. “If your tone changed and you said the exact same words, you would get the same result but it would be so much kinder” I tell him.
I needed to tell the woman the same—though it wasn’t just her tone that was mean—she had plenty of words to strike the blows at us she wanted.
Why? What was going on inside of her that she couldn’t come out and say, “Hey—this is a private dock—you guys need to move along”? She would have gotten the same result—our departure—but without contaminating the environment with her vitriol.
I’d have liked to ask her what she really wanted. Did she want to stop people from using her private dock or did she want to lash out at someone because she could? The answer certainly seemed to be the latter.
I am proud of myself for not adding to the scene with a flare of my own temper. It would have been so easy to level her sorry self, but I resisted.
I want to live in Kindness Cove—not Bitch Bay. I know I visit Bitch Bay on occasion, for sure, but I strive to have those visits be few and far between.
Words matter, and kindness goes a long way toward making the “ruthless furnace of this world” a little more temperate.
Even if we do visit Bitch Bay once in a while, let’s all seek out permanent residence in Kindness Cove. The cost of living is low, the neighbors are wonderful, and the air is so much fresher and cleaner. Everything about it is abundantly healthier.
Plus…I hear the fishing is great.