Monday Notes: “Where’s Waldo”

I call him “Where’s Waldo” because he wears a red and white striped shirt and blue pants. He’s an older man, who frequently walks around the neighborhood. During the summer months, he walks to the pool, strips down to his swimming trunks, and does several laps. I’ve watched him repeat this pattern several times from our community gym’s window.

Sometimes when it rains, and he cannot swim, he comes inside the gym. This is how we met.

“They should have another treadmill,” he once said, taking slow strides.

“I agree,” I replied, while using the elliptical. “I’ve told them that before.”

“I can only walk. And swim,” he added. “I have an injury, so I can only do those two things.”

“Maybe you can ride a bike?” I offered.

“I can only walk. And swim,” he repeated.

Before he left, he waved good-bye and bid me a good day. I did the same, and as is customary, I felt a little closer to him. I wished I would’ve asked him his name, so I could stop secretly calling him “Where’s Waldo.”


The next time I saw him was a few months later.

I drove to the fitness room, as usual. As usual, I sat my yoga mat next to the treadmill, wiped down the surface, and placed my phone, water bottle, and towel in each appropriate place. Then, I went back to my car to get my free weights.

That’s when I saw “Where’s Waldo.” He was either headed to the pool or headed to the gym.

“Good morning!” I said, happy to see him.

“Morning,” he mumbled.

Turns out, he was headed to the gym, because when I returned with my weights in hand, there he stood…on the treadmill.

“That’s my stuff,” I said, pointing to my belongings: the white towel, hanging on the equipment’s right arm, the water bottle in the cup holder, and my phone, sitting in front of him.

“Well, get it then,” he spat.

“Oh no,” I clarified. “I was about to use the treadmill. That’s why my stuff is here. I just had to get my other things.”

“Well, I’m here now,” he said.

For a moment, I thought he wasn’t for real. However, his wide-legged stance implied that not only was he not playing around, but he also wasn’t moving.

Though there were many thoughts rolling around in my head, they weren’t polite, and I’ve been working on being as kind in speech as possible.

“This is incredibly rude, you know.”

“So,” he replied.

I’m positive I resembled the wide-eyed emoji. I stood behind him…on the treadmill and retrieved my belongings, and I said, almost in his ear, “I hope you have a good day.”

“You, too,” he said, with a laugh.

Then, I practiced what I knew to do, so I wouldn’t let this man’s behavior dictate my morning:

Grounding: For those of us who ruminate, it can be quite easy to keep going over a situation, until it culminates into a bunch of “what-ifs” and “I should’ves.” That’s not helpful. For us, it’s important to ground ourselves in the present moment. So, I called my husband and told him the entire story. I didn’t need validation that I was right, but rather, I needed a way to release the narrative, so it wouldn’t fill my head. Talking to Dwight for five minutes helped.

Exercising: I was red with anger at this man’s behavior and my helplessness in the situation. I almost went home. But then I remembered, exercising helps move energy around and out of the body. I was actually in the perfect place to be angry. I stayed in the fitness room, and worked out in a different order. He left after 20 minutes, and I was able to use the treadmill at the end of my routine.

Ignoring: In the past, I would’ve placed my phone call to Dwight inside the gym, so the guy could hear the conversation. That’s called being passive-aggressive, and I’ve worked extremely hard to not embody this trait anymore. Long ago, I also would’ve stared the man down, which probably wouldn’t have ended well. Instead, I set up my equipment so that my back would be to him. I needed to work out, but I didn’t need to look at him. Our interaction had ended.

Like I’ve said before, we’re living in some weird times. You never know what folks are going through, and it’s important to reman level-headed. People seem to be on edge, which is understandable. But it’s important to remember that we can only control ourselves. I couldn’t make the man get off the treadmill, but I could control how I reacted in the situation, which prevented things from escalating.

Be safe out there. People are unstable, and sometimes peace relies on you.

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72 thoughts on “Monday Notes: “Where’s Waldo”

  1. What you’ve shared is very affirming of a very constructive way of dealing with the “Waldo’s” of the world. Good on you. Here’s an explanation of why such experiences can end up much worse (from a training session when I was an educator): the usual human response to such rudeness is fight or flight, the latter being experienced as insecurity. Both emerge immediately from our “reptile” brain, and in folks who were abused as children, the emotional reaction is sufficiently strong that it literally shuts down a person’s connection to the cortex, where rationale thought, including analysis of consequences to one’s actions. The physiology is where the expressions “count to ten” and “breathe” come from: doing either or both gives your brain enough time to reconnect with your cortex. You obviously, for whatever wonderful reason, were able to stay connected with your rational self from the get go. When I was a young man and in that situation the result would not have been pretty, but now, I count and breathe!😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I hear you, Jeff. My default is flight (mostly), which is why I almost went home. I’d also like to add that it took quite a bit of practice and healing for me to get to this point. In the past, things wouldn’t have gone like this at all. I say that to say that I think the majority of us (as you know) can change a bit, if we take the steps to do so. It seems now, more than ever, it’s integral for su to find new ways to function with one another.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruminating, I get that. I’m mostly over that and I find venting to be very helpful. Once I’ve shared the affront, I am able to move on. I had a woman and her children blocking the entrance to the dentist office the other day and they were spread out as if social distancing from each other which left me nowhere to walk past them. My hiking buddy said maybe they were inviting me to play ‘Dentist Office Red Rover’ and she went on to tell me a funny story about losing a tooth playing red rover as a kid in gym and wouldn’t it have been better played at the dentist office thereby turning my aggravation into something that made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kathy, I truly commend you for how you handled this situation. I would have been the passive-aggressor and fuming! But you’re right, you never know what people are dealing with or to that end, how far they are willing to make their point heard… so kudos to you for having that level-head.

    Also, I do the same thing when I don’t know someone’s name lol I give them a name I think suits them haha

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The situation reminds me of my hot-blooded temperament that captivated me in my younger years. I either exploded without regard for the consequences or went for a long walk. When I lock back I perceive myself as a pathetic ego that could not handle his insignificance in the scheme of things. Now that my existence is supported by a healthy dose of self-awareness, I have realised that ignorance is everywhere and on the increase. To react to every annoyance means fighting unwinnable battles.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. Bravo on your self-control and reframing powers! I don’t know if I’d have had the mental fortitude to keep all in check, especially *before* I’d had a chance to work out and clear my head… Thanks for the reminder today, and the example that being a good human is well within our capabilities! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so impressed with the way you handled this. I probably would have been a lot more petty myself. On the other hand, channeling your angry energy and letting it get your heart rate going probably helped you but more calories than that jerk of a man got out of his small routine at the gym. I’m so proud to know you! I’ll take what you did and remind myself of it later 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You handled that very well, and probably better than I would have. I love the way you immediately recognized that further interaction with him would have just made the situation worse, and also took care of yourself so this incident didn’t ruin your entire day. (I engaged with a jerk on the phone once and it did ruin my whole day.) Why knows why he was so very rude? Maybe he thought he was “in the right,” because it’s amazing how people can justify their actions, or maybe he just really is that self-centered. But as you say, you can only control your own words and actions, and you did a great job of that!

    Like

    1. It’s tough not allowing other people’s actions to ruin the day. It really takes a lot of intentional and conscious thinking on my part; otherwise, I’m like you with the jerk on the phone…talking about it to everyone who asks and being angry, in general.

      Ultimately, we’re the ones still mad about it. “Waldo” went on about his business and didn’t think of me at all lol

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, at first I thought he was going to turn out to be a friend! It’s crazy how people can so quickly display their mean side. Like you said, a lot of people are definitely more on edge these days. I’ll try to remember these 3 steps for the next time I’m in a similar situation, because otherwise I tend to be very passive aggressive which somehow only gets me more exhausted at the end. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me, too Denise! I was like awww I gotta gym buddy…WRONG 😦 I’ve seen him since then, and he doesn’t even know that now I’m in a race to beat him to the gym lol

      The passive-aggressiveness rarely gets you what you want 😉

      Thanks for reading and adding this comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am working a project with a Ukrainian woman from Bucha. I met her because her son is friends with my kid, and he’s really sweet, so I went to say hello and was surprised to find out 1) She speaks English, 2) She’s Ukrainian, and 3) Both she and her son are in a homeless shelter until she finds a more sustainable solution. She wants to help people understand their personal resilience because she found a lot of people were blocked when they should have left Bucha because they didn’t think they could, and so she lost a lot of friends and sometimes she starts crying while we are working on her grant proposals and then just takes a break to cry a bit before coming back to work. She really impressed me when we met a Russian lady who told her that what is happening in Ukraine, in Bucha, is just made up by media that wants to make Russia look bad. This Ukrainian refugee listened to the woman, told her politely that she wished it were true but her experience told her differently, and then told me that this is why she wants to apply for grants in psychology – to help people deal with blockages that we all have for complex reasons. You’re not alone in your approach. You and this Ukrainian psychologist would fit well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I apologize for not responding to this sooner! I actually read it when you sent it, and I appreciated this perspective so much that I was going to wait until I could say something thoughtful, and then I forgot.

      So, thank you for sharing this. This is what I’m saying. The Ukrainian refugee could have done so many other things or had so many other reactions to what seems like a very inconsiderate form of rhetoric, especially compared to someone’s actual lived experience.

      Like

  10. I guess, I was just raised to recognize when something is somewhere, I don’t use that object.. Obviously it’s in use or about to be in use by someone else.

    I’m glad you exercised intelligence (see what I did there) in this situation, because he doesn’t sound like he’s running on all cylinders. *Shrugs*

    Liked by 2 people

  11. He probably assumed you were one of those people that put there stuff at one place than work in rotation with another machine. He probably thought screw you lady, not this time…today this mine and ONLY mine. kudos to you for being level headed. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Man. The whole thing was unbelievable! You know how things happen in a split second in your mind? That’s how it was. I had all these thoughts all at once, including…is this really happening???

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I applaud your restraint and think you handled this scenario well. I can’t help but wonder tho if Waldo has some sort of mental disability. Little things you mentioned like repeating ‘I can only walk. And swim.’ to differently worded questions by yourself. The same clothing worn – perhaps clean, but always the same. That wide-legged stance is a frequent pose with persons with mental challenges who feel an extra dose of stubbornness in whatever situation is a seeming threat to whatever.
    All that to say, add the unstability of the times with a person with perhaps an understandable mental disability and escalation can indeed occur. In many ways, your situation did escalate and you nipped it in the bud. Brava!
    Hang in there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually suggested that when I was talking to my husband, But hubby said we shouldn’t give him a pass; he may just be an a-hole :-/

      Seriously, I do wonder the same thing, mainly because his response was so abnormal and outside of what I think “regular” etiquette would be.

      Thanks for this comment. I think you may have hit the nail on the head.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, that’s maddening. It’s so additionally frustrating when people don’t play by the rules – and flaunt it. But I love your process and suggestions for reclaiming your peace. Beautiful and inspirational!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. There’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from your post, Katherin. Right off the bat, I went to how you zeroed in on avoiding rumination. I get that! It’s not so much the interaction, but how much energy we put toward thinking about it afterwards. You handled things well – it wasn’t worth making a scene. And that probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
    A few weeks ago, I didn’t like a remark that a Facebook acquaintance made. I blocked her after that. Even though that felt empowering, I ruminated about it. I liked your idea of releasing your frustration by speaking to Dwight. So often, when I share with someone else – I feel like I’m complaining, so that just adds to my angst. But now, I realize that venting can definitely be helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this, Judy! I think if we’re ALWAYS venting, then that may be a burden to some, but if it’s an usual situation, like this one (or your FB one), then we gotta have go-to people to hear us out…or we can journal 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  15. People can be so rude! I was visiting my mom in Seattle. She just got moved from assisted living to skilled nursing. There were no visitor spots open, so I parked in what I thought was an empty non resident spot. After a very emotional day, in tears, I walked back to my car and saw that someone had parked behind me and blocked me in. I had parked in a resident parking space. And although there were five empty spots in that row, the man whose spot I took, felt the right to block my car.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. EA, I think we’re literally watching people go insane. Everyone’s so on edge about a myriad of things, and we just end up taking it out on one another. I would’ve been livid if someone blocked me in like that, even if there were no spots.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. LOL, unofficial gym rules are the law of the jungle! If you step away from a machine, especially if there is only one and it is in demand, don’t expect it to be available when you get back. Kind of how the laundromat works… if you aren’t there to guard your stuff, expect someone to bogart your machine!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Girl lol The unwritten gym etiquette is definitely to say, “is this your stuff?” or something similar, not to just hop on the treadmill lol

      Anywho, I’m convinced something else is up with him that more than likely has nothing to do with me or society’s rules 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL! I hear you, one would think that would be the way. I’ve obviously been to different gyms than you because I have encountered this before. Doesn’t make it right or pleasing, but some individuals are just wired that way and see nothing wrong with it. I always just try to be the smart piggy, and keep a step ahead of folks like that! He is who he is, don’t take it personally, and don’t even waste your energy getting upset with him, it’s not worth you losing your peace of mind over it all. There are some angry, obnoxious people out there. Just keep being you!

        Liked by 1 person

  17. You handled it well. I doubt I could’ve been as level headed. We are going through strange times. People are rude and unrestrained in their behavior. Could it be social media? People are more likely to be offensive when they’re anonymous and behind their keyboards. Perhaps it’s seeping out IRL. That would be a disaster.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People are legit, unhinged, Rob! It may be. Social media has taught us we can say whatever online, and then we get in person and act like a donkey to one another (sometimes).

      Like

  18. Proud of you is an understatement. Pretty cool to see someone living out their skills and being transparent while doing it. I hope others too learn what they need and what works best for them to strive to be the best version of themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. My apologies Kathy, I couldn’t help giggling as I envisioned the scenario. Not only picturing your expression but also thankful that I’m finally in a place where I’ve learned not to react and that some people simply need E G R, extra grace required, lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. No apologies necessary, TW! I know we’re cut from a similar cloth. We got that pop-off in us that has to be constantly prayed/meditated away lol

      I was totally floored that this was actually happening.

      Like

  20. Interesting blog Kegarland. This sounded like a story telling but that Waldo dude seems weird to me but I am glad you have figured it out that the man is just strange and he can steal your peace because yes there are unstable men out there, stay safe🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Wow…well handled not sure I would have done the same but would like to think I would as you say we don’t know why some act like they do but it’s better to diffuse a situation than to inflame it…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. lol this is one of those situations where you never know what you’ll do til you’re in it. If someone would’ve told me this story, I probably would’ve concocted a whole nother response, but in it? I was floored lol

      Liked by 1 person

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