Monthly Archives: March 2015

Dipper and the Bucket Theory

your-shoesI think all of us can be a bit myopic in our world view. We all see things through our own lens and often with our ego in the way of the viewfinder. I used to think my “taking the world personally” was a youngest child thing. Just suspecting this due to some unsolicited family comments over the years that alluded to, but didn’t come right out and say, I could have been a little spoiled or overindulged attention-wise as the family “baby.”

That said, I think many of us think that negative encounters with others in our daily life most often have something to do with us or something we did.

For instance, I was checking into a doctor’s office the other day and the woman at the desk seemed immediately exasperated at my answers to her questions. Our interaction involved much back and forth exchange of information which we all know can drive you crazy when dealing with health insurance period much less group numbers, insurer’s middle name, birthdate, etc.  Well actually, the birthdate I kind of liked that she didn’t hear me on that one. I think I might have whispered it.

Anyway, as I turned to leave the check-in desk, she swiveled in her chair and facing her co-worker, burst into tears.  Needless to say, I was horrified.  Was I unkind?  Was there tension in my voice? Did I slide the health card across the counter too fast? The co-worker whisked her to the backroom and I sat in my waiting room chair feeling like a terrible person, sure that I had done something to upset her.  I later found out that her husband was very ill but until then, it was all me.  All bad.

I used to do this regularly.  If the check out person at the drug store was curt, I took it as an affront.  If the waiter was impatient, I was too demanding. If a driver turned into my right of way and did that middle finger thing while honking, I somehow knew I had not seen the correct stop sign.

But slowly, call it perhaps maturity, it dawned on me that 99.9% of the time, these things people say or do have nothing to do with me. And for years of my life I thought everything had something to do with me. Ok, maybe I was a little spoiled.

Now I have a new perspective in stranger interactions. I’ve realized most often a short-or-rude-for-no-reason person has no problem with me, it’s them.  If someone shoves my cart out of the way and cuts line in Target, it’s because their kids are starving or they left their car or the dog running in the parking lot. If the lady in the post office sighs deeply and folds the stamp sample book firmly on my fingers, it’s not because I am a slow decision maker but because her horrible husband beats her or they cut her hours that week. Maybe just maybe, I could have chosen songbirds more quickly. But stay with me here.

These thoughts brought back something I used to teach high school students in Communication 101. It’s called The Dipper and the Bucket Theory.

Theory goes that each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful.

Likewise, we all have an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets, by saying or doing things to make them feel better, we not only help them but also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others’ buckets, by saying or doing things that make them feel smaller, it’s because we are feeling low.

A full bucket gives us a positive outlook and renewed energy. But an empty bucket clouds our outlook, saps our energy and allows our dipper hand to go wild in other people’s buckets.

So if someone you don’t know from Adam comes dipping, it most often has nothing to do with you. He or she is just running on empty and you seemed like a good place to fill up.

Up, Up and Away

airplanes 2So I am on a flight from Chicago to LAX to visit my youngest and I am biding my time tapping away in a relaxed fashion pretending I like to fly. Let me make it perfectly clear. I don’t dislike flying, I loathe it. The whole process is against every cell of my being. I’m not sure if it is a congenital defect. My father was more of a flying loather than I.  So much so that, well, he didn’t fly. Period.

I, on the other hand, do not have that option as I live in a different generation and world than he did. Trains and Greyhounds and the family car are not as popular a mode of travel as they once were and more to the point, the rest of my family flies so my options are fly or stay home alone. Unless our destination is within a ten-hour driving range and then, at all costs, I have fabulous excuses that I should drive and meet them. I’ll bring all the baby paraphernalia; I’ll bootleg the wine across state borders. I have to do my daughterly duty at the old folks home on the way and on and on. Some decent enough excuses but they are just that.

Mostly excuses.

I’ve given lots of thought to the basis of my fear of dangling at 34,000 feet in a tube of metal that I have absolutely no control over. It’s not really claustrophobia, as I do not adore elevators either, but more the whole gig.

First you are in an incubator of germs that is cycled and recycled throughout the flight. If you think there is a fresh air vent someplace, think again. And duly note that NEVER, I mean NEVER, flush the toilet with the lid up. That suction sound has a back wind you don’t want to know the contents of.

But germophobe aside, planes are cramped, too hot or too frigid, often feel like roller coasters off the track and then there are the seats. Can we talk about the seats? Woe the traveler who gets to sit in a seat after a newborn was changed there 10 times or a 400 pound man who should have bought three across has squished into it.

The real thing about me and flying is simply it encapsulates, literally, my raw fear of death. And not just death, but death by fireball accompanied by much rolling and plunging. Throw in some screaming, praying and crying (and that’s only the pilots) and that pretty much wraps up my thoughts on take off, leveling off and landing.

The weirdest, or maybe predictable, aspect of this flying phobia is I counteract my fears by learning everything I can about the sights, sounds, machinery, seating arrangements and people involved with flying. So much so that I am often mistaken for a flight attendant. Perhaps it’s because, unlike many passengers these days, I don’t wear pajama bottoms and a torn tank top and actually put a brush through my hair before boarding. Maybe it is because I travel in black and usually a scarf. Could be because I’m up and down the aisle often for nervous bathroom vists.

Once a man actually asked me for coffee as I passed his seat so I told the flight attendant 32C needed a beverage before I slipped into the “aft” bathroom. She laughed and said she, too, had wondered if I flew for the friendly skies.

On today’s flight though, we have hardly seen the flight attendants’ faces. United’s new trick, to cover the useless safety information they pretend can save you in an emergency, is a fantasy video rather than a uniformed person standing in the aisle draped in a yellow life vest while snapping seat belt buckles. What made it particularly amusing was the whole spiel was shown in peaceful serene settings. Airplane seats were lined up on a beach with girls in bikinis strapping on seatbelts and tucking trays of coconuts under the seat in front of them. My favorite part was someone relaxing in a hot tub hugging a seat cushion as a floatation device.

The day that I take off with warm sand between my toes and land in a hot tub for an emergency water landing, I’m all in.

In addition to being the only person on the plane actually watching the safety information, I do other things to increase my comfort level. I use, a great resource for the pros and cons of every single seat on every type of plane for every destination and every airline. It tells which ones don’t have windows, where to get the best legroom without added fees. I pretend seat numbers make a difference. Choosing right or left side can, of course, save your life. You will never catch me in row thirteen obviously.

I won’t even start on packing for weight and size limits. The trunk of my car has no such rules. I toss and go and have everything I might possibly forget, want or need when I arrive.

I just heard the thud of wheels down for our approach into my LA. I love that sound for many reasons, the least of which is the only belly landing I can possibly imagine is a botched dive into a swimming pool.

But I’m hell on wheels on a road trip. I have the false sense of security that I am in control and my own pilot. No highway hazard statistics can convince me otherwise.

And as my dad would say, “If God had intended us to fly he would have given us wings.”