Mea Culpa, North Dakota

by Roo on February 5, 2014

in storytelling, thinky face

Uhhhhhhhhh I messed up.

So, like many people who know how to use a computer, we set up our monthly bills to withdraw from a credit card, and then we pay off the credit card bill every month, instead of making a bunch of smaller payments over the course of the month. NBD. Well last year, our credit card company royally screwed up. The longer story isn’t worth the time, but they jacked up our account number and our insurance company ended up dropping us. Do you know what happens when you have a lapse in insurance? Bad, bad, costly things. I could buy 1,200 burritos with the amount of money it cost us.

Said credit card company admitted fault, but it’s been an ongoing battle. No one likes email, so I have to send all of my paperwork over via certified mail, tons of red tape, hours on the phone, etc, etc.

I will preface the rest of the story by saying that I totally know how to keep my cool. In times of emergency, I’m the chill one. In public confrontations, I keep my voice steady and polite. I don’t fly off the handle. I think carefully before responding to an angry email. I’m a fantastic hugger.

We finally get to the end of this credit card battle, and I’m on the phone with the assistant to the executive of this credit card company. We’ve never met. We’ve talked on the phone several times, and I’ve politely expressed my frustrations in getting a resolution. She gave me a result that I found unacceptable. I told her so. She said something. I said something. She said something.

And that’s when I hulked out.

In the driver’s seat, parked in front of my daughter’s preschool, on the phone with a woman I’ve never met.

Mea Culpa, North Dakota

original photo credit

Like, ripping off my clothes, making pterodactyl noises into a phone and listening to the assistant to the executive make pterodactyl noises back at me. SHE WAS WRONG. I WAS RIGHT. I mean, I was really right. So right. Extra right, and personally I think it’s BS that they didn’t go “omgggg we’re so sorry, let’s get this fixed ASAP and not let this issue languish on our to-do list for nearly a year.” So I let her know that. I used words like “appalling” and “wildly irresponsible” and I was setting preschool front yard trees on fire with my retinas. Junk was crazy.

And the call ended, and I started driving, and then I said to myself…

“You did not pass that character test.”

I love my pastor’s wife. If you’re entrenched in church culture, you may picture a woman with a lot of Mary Kay makeup that wears pastel pantsuits, but she is this super chill, super smart, loving-for-real person, and I go to her often for life advice. Last year, I was lamenting to her about an instance where I felt I was treated unfairly, and someone had been unkind to me, and circumstances were such that I could not simply remove myself from that scenario. Her words were good. “You’re not responsible for how anyone else acts or what anyone else says. Don’t worry about justice and don’t get caught up in it. Think of it as a character test, and your only job is to pass it.”

This is how I try to live. When an unpleasant circumstance arises, I remind myself that I just need to pass the character test. It’s so helpful because I’m only responsible for one element of any rough situation – and that element is simply my reaction to it.

I called the assistant to the executive back. She answered. I identified myself. She sounded immediately displeased. HEY SO SORRY I WAS A DICK CAN YOU FORGIVE ME AND NO LONGER HAVE FEELINGS OF WANTING TO PUNCH A STRANGER IN THE FACE? except a million times nicer and cooler than that, and then she was like “Nooooo I’m sorry” and I was like “Nooooooo I’M sorry” and I had a little kumbaya sesh with this girl in North Dakota and I almost had tears in my eyes because 1) I feel emotions and I’m not always a robot and a good commercial can put me into the fetal position and 2) it’s amazing to see how many barriers fall after I am willing to accept the blame for my poor, poor, Hulky actions.

Burritos aren’t even that great, anyway. (LYING.)

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 February 5, 2014 at 11:16 am

Oh, this. So much of this. I feel you.

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Roo February 5, 2014 at 11:17 am

::kissy-face Emoji right here::

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Cassandra February 5, 2014 at 11:21 am

I love you Roo. What an amazing way to look at things, as a character test. And way to be awesome enough to not only recognize your mistake, but to be big enough to call back and apologize.
Thanks for this today. I’m 36 weeks along with my 2nd baby and feeling pretty lousy, and justified in feeling (and acting) that way. This was a much needed reminder that I need to step up and grow my character, even/especially when things are hard.

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Lexi February 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

How long did it take to un-hulk and call back? If I de-hulk too fast, I swing wildly the other direction- tears.

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Roo February 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

Hahaha I was actually curious so I checked my phone. 8 minutes. :)

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Lexi February 5, 2014 at 11:26 am

…also; De-hulk or Un-hulk?

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Britiney February 5, 2014 at 11:39 am

Wow, Roo. Just wow. The cojones it took to call back and apologize. I. just. wow. *slow clap, head shake*
Thanks for this today. God, help me be the person who can pass the character test. Cuz usually I’m not.

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Anne February 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

You’ve probably seen that meme that goes around every now and again that says, “I don’t need anger management. You just need to stop making me angry.” (Except they use an ugly phrase instead of “making me angry.”) That’s me… I was raised by a father who had severe anger management issues and, in turn, I find myself parenting like that, despite my efforts to NOT. I love the eloquent word of your pastor’s wife about calling each situation a character test and “…your only job is to pass it.” I am sad to say I have failed that test and I fail it on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis. Kudos to you for passing this test daily. And for what it’s worth, calling the gal back takes guts and CHARACTER. You rock. Give yourself one of your fantastic hugs, k? Thanks for sharing this today.

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Brandi February 5, 2014 at 11:46 am

Girrrlll… Yesterday, my boss was mean. Not just kinda mean, but “he hit his head in a car accident and I’m pretty sure he has a concussion so he’s lost his marbles (for real)” mean. So mean that I may have called my cop husband and asked him to find a reason to take him to prison, because county jail just wouldn’t cut it…which he declined (of course). But it felt good to just ask.

I can’t tell you how much I needed the “character test” quote. Since I didn’t go to jail myself, I’m pretty sure I passed.

It is frustrating when you’re dealing with someone 6 million trillion miles away that has no feeling of the repercussions with which you’re facing, because they get to go home and not have to deal with it. Empathy is tough to find in those situations. I’m glad you guys found some common ground.

PS- Today the boss is super nice and like the complete polar opposite of yesterday. So, today, instead of a character test, I’m facing a “grace” test. Deep breath! :)

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Roo February 24, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Hi, I’m super late responding. I like the concept of grace tests, too. Hope your boss magically turns super nice all the time, Brandi. :) xoxo

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Danielle February 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Wow! I love this post! For real! So inspiring! I find myself often dealing with very high stress situations where I am mostly right, but often getting the other party to come to terms with that is tough, and sometimes I lose my patience. Always some travel dilemma or something like that, and so many times the airline company will make it seem like it’s my fault they lost my luggage, or my fault they didn’t have a crew to fly the plane….and so many more examples. In those moments, I often try to start respectfully, but at a point I just lose my cool. My hulkness is exposed. Nothing gets resolved any better, but now I just feel more worked up and at the end like a complete idiot. I’m truly going to try to live by your Pastors wife saying. Seriously. Writing it down, hanging it in my office as a daily reminder. When phased with situations I’m going to remind myself, “I just have to pass my character test” and after it is resolved I’m going to evaluate whether I did or not.

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carrie loves (@carrieloves) February 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I love how you handled this and the advice the pastor’s wife gave you – I’m going to remember that and use it – and I don’t even go to church ;)

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Michelle February 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm

yesssss….. i need constant reminders like this.
i actually have a few different little sayings and scriptures posted around my office to help me keep calm in situations where I can loose my cool and to help keep my character in check. i just printed this one and hung it up too!
i think little reminders like this are great b/c we aren’t always cognizant of how we appear to other people and what their opinions might be of us in our moments of weakness.

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Sara Beth February 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

This is so great. You should talk about your feelings and character more often ;)

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Roo February 24, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Hahaha, I’ll think about it.

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Rachel P. February 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Your pastor’s wife sounds really smart in a way that I would simultaneously love and hater her for. I actually think it’s kind of brave that you called back and apologized. I’ve definitely had those moments where I’ve been shitty to someone, but usually I just wallow in it and make myself feel worse for awhile, haha.

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Roo February 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Responding to this super late, but YES, you’re totally right about that. “Oh.. this thing you said? Yeah I guess you’re right. UGHHHHHHH.” Hahahaha.

And thanks for saying that; honestly I probably just needed a little peace of mind, because I was a jerrrrrrrrk. ;P

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Julie February 5, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Perhaps I’m getting hung up on the wrong detail, but wasn’t the credit card company in the wrong? Using words like “appalling” and “irresponsible” aren’t inappropriate or hurtful, given the situation. I feel like making your displeasure known, especially in light of the fact that their mistake cost you money, is completely justified.

Now I also give you props for recognizing that you were unhappy with your own behavior and having the cojones to call back and apologize. That’s very tough to do and, I think, requires more character and grace than remaining calm in the first place.

All that being said, your pastor’s wife gives wise advice. I’m pregnant and more irritable right now than I’d like to be. I will try to remember her words the next time I’m feeling the Cranky Monster coming on.

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Meagan February 5, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I was thinking the same thing! I recently went through a situation where through no fault of our own the gas company came and turned off our gas. On christmas eve eve. In 20 degree weather. and I have two small kiddos and am very pregnant. uh, no. And they wouldn’t have anyone available to come turn it back on until the 26th. nope, try again were my exact words. I didn’t cuss or slander the person i was talking to, but i made sure they understood this was not our fault and that they needed to fix their mistake asap. I hope i wasn’t out of line and it didn’t even cross my mind to apologize. Ill certainly think twice from now on. When its not your fault and you have to suffer because of their mistake it is so hard not to fly off the handle.

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Julie February 5, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Yikes, Meagan! Hopefully they made things right quickly for you!

I’m non-confrontational (sometimes to a fault), but if I’m erroneously wronged, it becomes a matter of principle and I work to make things right. Respect is still important — like you, I won’t swear at anyone and I recognize that, sometimes, the person I’m talking to is not directly at fault and is doing their job — but it’s still ok to express your disappointment in a non-denigrating way.

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Lisa February 5, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Thumbs up, Julie. I was in a situation similar to this recently, and felt no shame in telling the person who was helping me, “I recognize this is not your fault but I am *very* unhappy right now.” I then politely asked to speak with someone above him, which was no issue. It’s all about respect.

That beig said, if I’m being polite and respectful and you opt to act otherwise…watch yo back. Um, does that make me fail the test?

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Roo February 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm

No, they were totally wrong. In the end, it was fixed (mostly), but for me… I expect a brand to go above and beyond when they make an error, not barely fix things. We lost a little money in the long run, but I just wanted to stop making those awful phone calls, so… woop, there it is. Boooo.

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Jen February 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I love this post, that is all. :)

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Nicole February 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm

You’re a wise soul, Roo. I love these posts because they remind me to act with integrity, and set the example for my child.

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Erica February 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Thanks so much for your vulnerability! I think we all need reminders like this one. I’ve had to do the exact same thing as you- call a customer service representative back to apologize for my rude words- and it’s SO humbling. But so necessary. Isn’t there a quote that says, “It’s better to be kind than right”? I need to remind myself of that often. Thank you again for your honest post!

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Nina February 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm

This is awesome! I’m an assistant to an executive at a web development company and I have dealt with quite a few phone calls with various superhero villians. It’s super stressful and though I try to stay as cool-headed as possible during these calls I am normally pretty shaky after I get off the phone. If one of them ever called me back to apologize I would probably cry, hopefully after we hung up. People so rarely remember that I’m a real person when they’re yelling at me.

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Allison February 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Wow. You have no idea how much I needed this post. We currently have no water at our house and haven’t for the past five days. We’ve had numerous people from the city come to our house to try and create temporary solutions until the city can fix the issue (which involves digging under the road and such), but it’s so cold nothing is working (coldest winter in ten bajillion years). Anyways, today I am at the end of my patience and want to tell someone off so badly. Thank you for reminding me that this is not a solution and honestly, nobody wants to help out an angry lady. But I feel like sobbing today, so yeah, thank you.

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Roo February 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Allison, I’m responding super late, but I’m hoping that three weeks later, everything is better in your home. Here are some belated hugs anyway! \(._.)/

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Amanda February 5, 2014 at 8:25 pm

What great advice! I really need to keep this in mind. Thank you so much for being brave enough to apologize and share this story :)

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Wanda Giggles :o) February 6, 2014 at 12:20 am

SUPERsuperCool story. I think those of us who Really try hard to be better as human beings all have That Moment. & it takes a good measure of humility to come back and say, “I’m sorry” and nothing more. Not “I’m sorry, but…” or “This is why I behaved badly”. Just “I’m sorry” with no justification. It means so much! There are SO many factors in an argument, especially between strangers, that to try to sort through the lot would be Insane :/ therapeutic but seriously time-consuming. Ain’t nobody got time for that >.< But humility promotes kindness and kindness is contagious and we ALL like happy, kind people so… thanks for spreading the love :D

FYI: you'd LOVE North Dakotans if you dealt with most of the natives on a personal level. They're the kind of nice that makes you scratch your head. Like Little House on the Prairie/"Come on in, Stranger!!!" nice. It's… really something O_o

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Katie February 6, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I needed the character test last night. I had a melt down-high stress-come apart on my boss. I screamed at him for an all around lack of communication and I was on the defensive because he was already mad. So on my way home last night I thought about the amazing NF blog I had read. So I text him apologizing, it was too late to call. The only thing I couldn’t apologize for was saying “everyone just needs to put their big girl panties on & do their jobs!” I meant every word of that, twice. It was a bad day.

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Roo February 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Hahahaha! Big Girl Panties, Activate!

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Christine February 6, 2014 at 1:59 pm

I’m in a similar situation that you described, the one where you spoke to your Pastor’s Wife about. You have no idea how much I needed to hear those words “Don’t worry about justice and don’t get caught up in it. Think of it as a character test, and your only job is to pass it.” All I ever want to see to people who are just SO wrong to me (like your credit card lady), is for them to be set right. Usually I just sit there and take it, and move on, as it’s not worth my time and energy and I know I’m usually not the one who will right them, sometimes I’m not meant to be. My current situation is one where my job (more importantly my sanity and well being, already starting to take a dive) depends on me stepping up and saying something (out of respect, and not going straight to HR), and I am TERRIFIED. Please thank your Pastor’s wife for me, and you for writing this post, because those words are helping me to slowly drum up some confidence.

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Shannonnon February 10, 2014 at 11:32 pm

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!!! I am from and living in NOOOOOOO DAKOTA!!!!!!!!! Whooop whoop! Now it’s not just American Idol mentioning Fargo, ND but it’s Roo on Neon Fresh talking to a crazy credit card lady in ND!!! Stop it! I don’t know this lady that you spoke to, well….maybe I do??? but I’m so happy you were both telling each other you were sorry. I totally GET this! We recently got into a slight battle with our awesome builder of our home and we knew justice was needing to happen and the people we were working with were ohhhh sooo awesome and were just handing down what the bosses wanted…and I tried TRIED so hard to stay nice and sane and keep the positive relationship…and I think in the end it worked but it wasn’t easy and I’m sure I messed up slightly here or there but overall, we got what we were supposed to have in the FIRST stinkin place and I think things are good with us! Ummm, so wow. I LOVE your blog! Will you call me and teach me how to blog better, Roo? Haha. I’m half joking, cuz you are busy and i’m half like puuuuuuuuuuulease, call me! I have all these spaces in my wordpress under my blog body that I don’t know what they even mean. I love writing and being funny and YOU TOTALLY inspire me and I just don’t even know what all those open spots mean. Ok, I’ll stop. You are on vacay. Someday, thought, let’s do this schtuff!

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