I heard a phrase about someone not too long ago that I loved: “he wasn’t the devil, but he was on the payroll.“ What colorful verbiage. I loved it, and then I talked to a woman who was the epitome of it.
She called asking for information about our SAT program. Something felt a little off, but I didn’t want to judge her unfairly. We were talking about the SAT and various courses of study. When she asked about doing the class via zoom versus in person, I explained that we were only accepting students in person if they had been vaccinated against Covid.
In the movies, when the actor steps on a landmine, there are always a few seconds of silence before all hell breaks loose. Turns out, it’s very similar in real life.
After a couple of beats, she informed me that the vaccines do nothing to slow down Covid or protect people from catching it.
Trying to be diplomatic, I countered with “opinions differ;“ after more information from her I said, “I’m not going to argue with you.“ Then she told me that anyone who believes what I believe shows a lack of critical thinking. At that point I said “thank you for calling“ and I hung up before she could say another word. I wish I could say I remained calm after hanging up, but it was not to be.
I stewed and fumed for a few minutes; I may have texted a friend to get support for my righteous indignation. But then I thought about it. I’m glad I didn’t slam the phone down (in full transparency, it was only because it was cordless) and I’m glad I didn’t argue. Nothing I could have said would have changed her mind, and nothing she said changed mine.
After the how-dare-she portion of my emotions wore off, I ran across a couple of things, and I started thinking of that previous saying in reverse: they may not be angels but they’re on the payroll.
A friend of mine sent me a snippet from BuzzFeed the other day. It told the story of a man who was on the train bringing home a goldfish. The bag accidentally broke, and the fish flopped on the floor. A couple of people jumped in to save the day. One man chugged the remainder of his coffee, and they put the fish in the cup. The lady emptied the remainder of her water bottle on the fish. The monetary value of a goldfish is probably a couple of dollars at best, but that didn’t matter.
I also found a note I had jotted down about an incident I witnessed in Walmart. A little boy was in the cart as his mom pushed him along. I happened to be walking by when he spotted some firemen who were also shopping. He whispered something to his mom and pointed shyly. The firemen immediately left what they were shopping for and started talking to the little boy, telling him about their job and showing him their walkie-talkies and things like that. They absolutely made his day. When I wrote about the incident, at the bottom of that paper, I wrote “so many good people in the world.“
It’s easy to forget that when we run into the other variety of folks, and it’s easy to let one encounter ruin your day, but if we make the effort to see the good and remember it, our faith in humanity can be restored.