The importance of not being important


Sometimes it seems we live in a world full of arseholes. In fact, we saw this tweet yesterday that seems to confirm this view:

Tamsin Howse recently encountered one herself:

Do not mess with T!!

Yesterday I was running late. I’d nipped in to the shops to quickly buy a dress I’d seen a few days before so I could wear it to the wedding I’d planned. I gave myself an hour to go 5 minutes down the road, park, go into the store, buy the dress, and come home. Ample time, says I.


I got in, bought the dress, and went to leave. Traffic jam. At this point I was already running late, but when it took 20 minutes to get to the bottom of a ramp and around the corner, I was pretty stressed. So when I saw two cars coming from my left out of parking spots, looking like they had just cut through from the row behind them, I thought to myself “No way, you can wait”. There wasn’t much room anyway.

So we all inched forward and the largest car on my left inched forward too. Then again. Then so far forward they almost hit the front of my car.

Next thing I know the woman driving the SUV is out of her car. She’s storming over to me. She screams “I AM COMING OUT OF MY PARKING SPOT!! THERE ARE BABIES IN MY CAR!!” hits my door, puffed up like a rugby player. She storms back to her car, gets back in, and pulls forward.

I have two choices – I can reverse or I can be hit.

In retrospect I should have just been hit. It would have been her fault, there were witnesses and I was stationary. But I didn’t, I reversed. Did I yell back, get out of my car or threaten her back? No. I actually justified myself by saying “I’m late for a wedding!” (to which she screamed “I DON’T CARE!” and accelerated).

I could have pulled out my phone and filmed her. I could have gotten out of my car and punched her. I could have told her off for setting a bad example for the ‘babies in her car’. I did none of that. I reversed. Then I cried, went home, and yelled at my husband for asking what had taken so long.

A shopping centre car park is not a usual place to have to encounter your own survival instincts, well, not outside of the holiday period. But I did. And in a world of fight or flight, I chose flight.

John James writes:

A very important JJ...

I used to be a very important young man. I used to have to have everything go my way, because I was a very important young man. I needed to be served first in a shop, first on the bus, first off the train…FIRST FIRST FIRST. I must have been such an arsehole. A very important arsehole.

You see people like this everywhere. Some of them wear suits, some don’t. Some of them push prams with very important toddlers wailing away inside. Some of them are stunningly hot women in high heels. Some of them are old ladies pushing a trolley, or old men with walking sticks. They can be people in cars, people on bikes, people crossing against the lights.

But one day I had an epiphany! I realised that I wasn’t the most important person in the world. When you realise this, you suddenly become a much happier person. I still like to get in the bus first, but if someone else wants that honour, I am happy for them to go first…because they are more important than me.  And good for them!

What are you looking at!!

Anger is dangerous. It’s contagious. And in a world where we can no longer go around punching each other, unproportional outbursts of anger seem to have become more common.

What about you? Have you ever experienced a moment of inaction? Ever wished you had been able to stand up for yourself? When presented with fight or flight, which do you choose? Or are you just too important?

Photo by Lara604 via Wikimedia Commons

  • clansi

    people are crazy.

    I’m not justifying or excusing the suv driver, Tamsin, but explaining maybe why she went nuts. Hearing your babies cry does something very strange to your emotions/reactions. it is one of the world’s most stressful sounds. it wasn’t her fault that you were running late, just like it wasn’t your fault there was a traffic jam etc. etc.

    rage is such an unhelpful emotion, good on you for staying cool and not ramming any cars yourself!!

    • Tamsin Howse

      And of course by “staying cool” you mean having a cry 😉

      • clansi

        cooler than other options :)

  • Rose Russo

    Oh I see so much of myself in this post! I used to always be FIRST FIRST FIRST too until one day I woke and realised, “Gee, I’m not the centre of the universe” – who knew?

    You did the right thing T! It’s so easy to get angry these days. Just last week, Dad and I were driving home after he picked me up from work and we missed the red light turning green by, I don’t know, two seconds! The bus driver behind us honked his horn so loud and I put my hands out of the car.

    Dad: Did you stick your finger up at him?

    Me: No I gave him the thumbs up (and stuck my head out the window smiling)

    Sometimes the opposite approach is actually better! Sticking my finger up would’ve made me even angrier which is no good for anyone!

    Great post.

    • Tamsin Howse

      Good reaction! I never think of these things fast enough. I just kind of gaped in horror.

  • Jess Lawless

    Agree totally. I’m a flight-er as well, mostly because I can’t be bothered. I just sit back, feeling incredulous that people can be so unpleasant and then quietly victorious when my lane of traffic overtakes a serial weaver or something :-) I feel more sorry for them than anything, it can’t be a nice way to live, always in an aggressive hurry. All those unnecessary stress hormones!
    I find it a bit harder to cope with when I’m on my bike. Cars rushing in front then turning left, so I nearly slam into them.. ducking out of parks when I’m way too close. God forbid they could have to wait another second for the cyclist to pass! Grr.

    • Tamsin Howse

      Oh my God, cyclists scare me!! I always give them SUCH a wide birth because I’m terrified I’ll accidentally hit them! So then cars behind me get angry because I’ll slow down instead of overtaking.

      • Jess Lawless

        That’s what I used to do as well!
        But, what I’ve learnt since becoming a cyclist, is not to worry. No one’s ever driven past me close enough to scare me, let alone hit me.

  • MrsGinger

    T – that is my worst nightmare. I have been the victim of road rage and honestly, it took me about a year to get over it and even now thinking about it sends my heart racing.

    Clansi hit the nail on the head though, when you have a crying baby there is a natural stress response reaction from the mother, it’s instinctive. I spent the first year of my daughter’s life irrationally responding to even the smallest thing. That woman’s response to you was not at all appropriate or a good example to her ‘babies’. We should all be mindful that we can’t make assumptions about the next person. She shouldn’ve have assumed that because you didn’t have babies in your car that you were less deserving of a) your place in the queue or b) basic respect. Imagine if she’d walked calmly to your window, and said sweetly, “Hi, I’m really sorry but do you mind if I can pull out in front of you? I have a diabetic child in the back and we came unprepared. I’m so sorry to impose on you like this.” I’m sure your response would’ve still been to reverse, but you might’ve been less stressed. One thing about being a parent is being aware of how non-parents see us. It forces you to engage people and apologise – a lot – many a time we’ve done the whole “I’m so sorry, my pram is just a little wide, do you mind just moving a smidge so we can get through?” Nothing works better than a smile or a sorry to get what you need!

    • John James

      Yeah – the attitude you project is so important…you behave relaxed and calm, most people will be the same back…but so many of us seem to have our “arsehole” modes permanently switched to “on” nowadays instead of the opposite…

    • Tamsin Howse

      Asking politely gets you everywhere.

      • Kel

        Absolutely! My husband is the best at this – it takes a lot to ruffle his feathers. I used to get really angry at other drivers but have tried really hard to take a leaf out of his book and relax a bit more. The only person that is affected by my anger is me.

  • Kel

    Really good post. You’ve given me lots to think about x

  • Alyssa Robinson

    Gah, self-important arseholes on the road really push all my wrong buttons. Few things aggravate me as much. A couple of weeks ago I switched from the left to the right lane on the Pacific Highway, near where I had to turn right onto the freeway. Although there had been a massive gap for me to move into, the guy who I’d pulled in front of immediately slammed on the accelerator and insisted on driving almost right up my boot. He tried to overtake me when he got the slightest chance, but then ended up stuck in the left lane – the one that would have to merge upon entry to the freeway, which he was also joining. So I decided to teach him a lesson and refused to let him merge in front of me… or at least I WOULD have, had he not done what this woman was doing to Tamsin and threatened to ram my car if I didn’t let him in. It was ridiculous! As soon as he shoved his way in front of me, he wound down his window and gave me the finger. I was so angry that I was still shaking when I got home!