Don’t Go Toxic On Me


Last Thursday I was the recipient of some toxic energy. It wasn’t fun.

I’d gone to the grocery store early before heading to the office. The place was a ghost town; I was one of the few customers there. Apparently the lack of shoppers caused the staff to feel relaxed and free to be themselves.

While I was in the check-out line, the person ringing up my order decided to kvetch to the person bagging my order. A co-worker of theirs was out of earshot apparently completing a task that had been assigned to her…a task her co-workers didn’t feel she should be doing. They complained and complained…in my presence. When the store manager approached them I felt relief because I was sure the complaining would stop. I was wrong. The manager joined the fray. So there I was pretending not to notice three people treating me like I was invisible and throwing a co-worker under the bus. I debated whether or not to say anything. My mind was full of my least favorite word, should, and its cousin, shouldn’t. As in, “you shouldn’t talk about your coworker in front of a customer.” As in, “you should be mindful of what you say in front of customers.” I ended up not saying anything because in the moment I couldn’t think of what to say that didn’t contain shoulds or shouldn’ts. But the next time this happens, and there will be a next time, I’m ready. Here’s my planned response:

I’d rather not hear you talk about your coworker. Thank you.

So simple. So clean.

Once the two employees and the manager finished bagging my groceries (I helped them in order to speed up the process) they made eye contact with me for the first time during the transaction. They wiped the scowls off their faces, flashed shiny smiles and said, almost in unison…

wait for it…

“Have a nice day!”

As I walked out the store I felt a little heavy and sad. I passed the co-worker they’d been talking about. She’s always so nice to me. I knew that in order to have the “nice day” they’d ordered me to have, I needed to perform a mental exercise. I imagined myself dusting toxic waste off my arms and shoulders. Believe it or not, that helped and I went on to have not only a nice day, but a great day.

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