Dealing with being the cause of others’ anger

Even as a 21-year-old college student, I’m afraid of other people being mad at me

Even now, as a 21-year-old college student, I am afraid of other being people being mad at me. It may sound exaggerated, but I have grown so averse to it that even the slightest bit of an argument or the most insignificant of body gestures causes me to jump to the worst conclusions. I begin to analyze my actions from the past couple minutes, picking apart everything I’ve said, the tone I’ve said it in, the way I had been standing, where I was looking and my breathing pattern — you get the picture.

I was recently in a situation at my workplace where my actions upset people, and it definitely was not a fun experience.

I work weekends at a little café across from my apartment that serves brunch from morning until late afternoon. I’ve come to realize that a lazy Sunday brunch is like catnip for human beings — completely luxurious and irresistible.

On this particular Sunday, it was indeed very busy. I was running around seating guests, running out drinks and food and making sure every table had silverware when suddenly, the kitchen rang its little bell. Usually, the bell is only rung to signal servers that food is ready to be delivered to a particular table. Since I had just delivered the last plate not even a few seconds before, I knew this bell meant something else.

I poked my head into the kitchen and asked, “What’s up?” loudly over the old ‘80s pop playing amidst the various hissing, popping and sizzling noises of food cooking. One of the chefs snapped her head up and handed me a plate of cookies.

“Take those out and get them packed.” Her tone wasn’t rude, just abrupt. That was only understandable given the million other things she probably had to do with the café, reaching peak rush hour.

I gave a quick nod and briskly walked away with the plate of cookies in hand. I stopped to pick up supplies to wrap the cookies and set the plate down to do so. As soon as I had the needed materials tucked under my arm, I went to snatch the plate up off the table. Just like that, as if in slow motion, half of the cookies slid off the plate from the force with which I had whisked the plate away. They tumbled to the floor before I could do anything else. I was frozen for a full minute.

Then, without thinking, I jumped into action, picking the cookies off the floor and proceeding to dump them back on the plate with the other still-fresh cookies — another big mistake. Now that the dropped cookies had intermingled with the fresh ones, the entire batch was contaminated. All of the cookies would now have to be thrown out, and there was no way we could serve them to guests. I wanted to kick myself over and over for my stupidity.

I had a chilling realization that I had to go tell the kitchen that I had just ruined all of their freshly-baked goods. Imagine the looks on their faces when I would tell them. I knew I was in for many disgruntled looks and comments behind my back.

I went to the kitchen with my ears ringing and assumed a sheepish facial expression. My entire body was too busy sweating from nervousness. Shakily, I began to explain what had happened. Before I had even finished, the looks on the faces of the chefs was almost too painful to see. They simply looked at me with their eyes and mouths wide open in disbelief. I apologized profusely and walked away. Saying sorry would not bring back the cookies I had lost.

I spent the next 30 minutes quietly, avoiding the kitchen at all costs. Yet, inevitably I had to make a trip back to drop off dirty dishes. As soon as I walked in, I heard an angry voice grumbling.

“… baked 67 cookies today — 67! And she carelessly just dropped…” The chef had her back to me but then trailed off once she realized that I had been standing behind her. I felt horrible inside, but I brushed it off laughingly, saying I deserved the minor trash talk. I dumped the dishes in a bin and walked away quickly, keeping my eyes averted the entire time.

I spent another 30 minutes after that keeping away from the kitchen. The fact that someone was upset with me was so astounding to me that I could think of nothing else. I became quiet and just did my work methodically. The feeling of fear sitting in my stomach was making me more and more nauseous. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I went back into the kitchen to restate my apology in a more clear, affirmative manner.

I marched back in there, situated myself in the doorway and began the mini-speech I had mentally prepared.

“Hannah, I just wanted to say that I am very, very sorry about the cookies and I know that you work so hard everyd—“ Hannah cut me off before I could continue. To my surprise, she waved my apology away.

“Oh, pfffft don’t even worry about it, hun. It was a mistake!” She promptly handed me another plate of cookies. “Now take these out and go. Redeem yourself!” she chirped.

Slightly incredulous but mostly relieved, I carefully took the plate out of her hand and walked up to the front of the café. I didn’t drop even a single one.

“Momma I made it!” I yelled euphorically. The other servers around me snickered, as they walked past. The rest of the café had no idea what had just happened — they happily munched away at their food and chatted. I went back to work with my heart and stomach a little lighter than before. 

This incident was a good way to understand the fact that anger is an emotion and as most emotions, it dissipates over time. What is most important, however, is to admit to a mistake when I’ve made one and take responsibility for it. In addition, looking back with a humorous point of view is just another way to put the incident in the past and move on. 

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