For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last week I climbed a mountain. That in itself is not remarkable as I often climb mountains. Actually, there was nothing remarkable about the day or the event. It is still early in spring, early enough that my companion and I anticipated snow near the top of our mountain climb and we were sufficiently prepared with spikes. As an aside, once microspikes are applied to our shoes, hiking in packed snow becomes an easy feat. In fact, I feel like Spiderman with spikes in snow, almost like I could walk up the side of a wall. I enjoy feeling like a superhero. We successfully navigated the trail, the snow and the ice, and arrived at the top, making our way to the chalet with wine in our eyes, our reward for a successful assent. Grouse is a great mountain to climb as there is a lodge, full of wine, and a gondola to take you back down. At 7 pm (the time becomes important as my story unfolds), my friend made her way to the Guest Services desk to buy her download ticket for the gondola. As an avid Grouse Grinder, I have a season pass for the gondola, so I did not accompany her to the desk. Instead, I went to the change rooms to clean up, so I would not be as much of a hot mess in the lounge sipping my wine.
We did notice that the lineup for the gondola was inside the lodge, which is unusual, but the reason became clear as they were not running the newer, faster, larger gondolas, of which there are two. They were undergoing seasonal maintenance. In exchange, they were running the older, slower, smaller gondola, singular. We also noticed that the lineup was quite long. My friend asked the friendly Guest Services guy how long the waits were and why they were running the smaller gondola. She was told the wait was 15-20 minutes and the reason for the older gondola.
We were really excited to sit down in the restaurant lounge and enjoy a glass of wine. It felt like the best reward after a cold, gruelling climb. And it was topped with 180 degree views and a spectacular sunset. The restaurant appeared quite busy and the service was slowed because of this, or at least that is what we told ourselves. After our drink, paying our bill and gathering our gear, we proceeded to get into line to wait for our gondola down. Promptly after getting into line, a Red Jacket employee asked us for our time chip. We looked at him blankly and then looked at each other. What was that? What’s a time chip? We were then informed that we should have been given a time chip that would indicate the time that we could start to lineup. What the fuck!?! Really!?!
At 8 pm we were again standing in front of the Guest Services guy asking him for a time chip for our time to start lining up. He handed over a time chip, the time said 9:30. What the!? As we looked at the time, my friend said to him, “so when I was standing here buying a download ticket and asking you about wait times…it didn’t occur to you to give me a time ticket?” We received a blank look and a half-hearted sorry.
My head exploded. I saw red. Small fireworks went off in my brain, fists clenched, mouth breathing, heart racing. Breathe deep, stay calm, breathe deep, stay calm, breathe deep….
My friend looked at me, perhaps she noticed the clenched fists and the mouth breathing, but she quickly pointed out that the cafeteria sold beer and poutine. That was a good way to kill 90 minutes. Sharing a beer and (cold) poutine and a lot of laughs to alleviate the stress, we successfully killed 60 minutes. As good Canadian kids, we waited until precisely 9:30 pm to make our way back to the lineup, as that was what our time chip stated. As we made our way back, we noticed that the lineup was three times as long now…what the?! How is this possible?! As we continued to the back of the line, Red Jacket was gone, replaced by Snowboarder Dude who did not seem to care, at all, about time chips.
My head exploded. Again. I no longer saw red, but rather I saw black. I’m not entirely sure what spewed from my mouth, but I’m sure it was not G-rated and likely went something like this… “this is complete bulls*#t! What the f#*k kind of operation are you running?! This is unfair…blah blah blah” My face was flushed bright red, which I assure you had nothing to do with the wine, beer or poutine. My mouth breathing was heavy and my heart pounded in my ears. Thank God for my friend, who proceeded to engage in angry selfie taking with me, which reduced me to giggles. At 10:30 we finally got a spot on the gondola and I was home by 11:15 pm.
It’s been a long time since I experienced anger in that manner, as I’m just not really an angry person…anymore. By the time I got to the bottom of the mountain and stepped off the gondola, I was no longer angry, I was irritated, but not angry. I also felt the rush of post-anger remorse, or shame, that often comes on after the moment has passed. I regretted saying what I said to Snowboarder Dude, who was likely getting paid minimum wage and did not have anything to do with us being hung out to dry by gondola maintenance. I’m not quick to anger, but when I do it’s always at the end of some perceived injustice. Some unfairness that I feel I have experienced. In this situation, it was unfair that we were not given a time chip as others were at the bottom, because we hiked up the mountain. The injustice of the Guest Services guy not thinking to give us one when we paid to leave the mountain.
Despite the fact that I don’t believe the world is fair, that there is actually no such thing as fair, and that unfairness is just a fact of existence, I still feel that uncomfortable rush of boiling blood. The rush that turns me from Spiderman into the Incredible Hulk and I want to spew out “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”. Potentially, the half-hearted apologies, the shrugging shoulders and the cold (nasty) poutine did not help alleviate my sense of injustice, however, I reacted and failed to respond to the situation. My post-angry outburst remorse and shame stems from making my friend feel uncomfortable, saying stupid shit and also yelling at some poor dude, who is likely only working there for the free ski pass, and doesn’t care about my plight of needing to get up early the next day and not wanting to be stranded for four hours on the top of the mountain. All rather unnecessary.
As I reflect, it serves as a good reminder to be kind, to respond not react and to draw on the Four Agreements: be impeccable with my word and not taking anything personally. No matter how monumental the injustice, of being stuck on a beautiful snow-covered mountain, with great company and cold beer, feels at the time.
You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger ~ Buddha