Everyone knows the first rule of Fight Club – you do not talk about Fight Club.
This is easy to keep to if you’re not much of a scrapper. Sure you might have the wayward fantasy of blasting someone with your lungs or your fists, but for the most part, at this stage, in this game, we keep it to ourselves.
After all, we have reputations to uphold, examples to make.
That is until you find yourself in a place where you can’t help but let it rip. And in recent weeks I have had not one but two Fight Club challenges that I couldn’t resist.
The first took place in the early morning at a Jamba Juice. I was rushing (as usual), and my daughter wanted to pick up a smoothie for a friend’s birthday. I jammed into a parking spot in front of the store, and my daughter and I hopped out with the intention of getting in and out quickly.
“You’re parked awfully close to me,” the guy in the spot next to me said. He was sitting in his truck, window opened as it waiting for someone… or maybe something.
“Sorry, I’ll be quick,” I said, and immediately noticed that he lowered his eyes. Gotcha.
“OK, did you want me to move it?” I added half-heartedly. I mean, I’d literally be in and out in five minutes — couldn’t he wait?
“You don’t have to,” he said in a dark, low tone that I should’ve paid attention to, but… you got it… I was rushing.
As I put my drink order in, the man came into the Jamba Juice, and glaring at my daughter and me said, “Your girl dinged my car when she opened her door. I told you were too close.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, in a not very apologetic tone.
And while I could’ve left it there, and maybe even hightailed it out of the store to move my car, I shot him a nasty look. I then managed to keep my mouth shut for about two minutes and finally couldn’t help but blurt out, “That’s a shitty way to talk to someone first thing in the morning, especially in front of a child. I offered to move my car, but you said I didn’t have to.”
The man stepped in closer toward me, like he might hit me or something.
My daughter, watching the situation unfold, piped up in a loud, nervous voice — “We’re sorry.” And then she leaned in to me and said quietly, “MOM.”
For her sake, I bit my lip and said nothing more, even though the man continued to glower at me until finally he walked out of the store. I watched him pull out of his parking spot and move perpendicular to the back of my car to block me in. Lucky for all of us, the smoothie making took longer than I’d originally thought, and maybe the man had something better to do than spend all morning intimidating people. Finally he gunned his engine and roared off.
And while the girls in the store and my daughter nervously chatted about what a freak, and what kind of man threatens a woman and her daughter, all I could think was I wished I had played that so different.
I could’ve killed the guy… with kindness. Could’ve easily diffused things by moving my car and making the situation right BEFORE it escalated.
But instead I let my anger get the best of me to a point where for weeks after the incident, my daughter wondered out loud if the man in the truck was following us.
In a way he was — I couldn’t take back putting her and myself into a potentially disastrous situation by allowing no distance between the match and the fuse. A pause, some patience, maybe a little humility… all could’ve lit the way out of the Fight Club.
Instead, I kept my proverbial shirt and shoes off, taking a stance that nobody messes with me. Fight Club has a bunch of other rules, including once you’re in it, you’re bound to find yourself back in the ring – battered, bloodied, and facing down demons.
I didn’t have to wait that long for my next bout. Another early morning (what IS it with early mornings? Maybe people need Xanax instead of sugar in their damn coffee!), and I’m walking my dogs. The mutts are especially prolific that day, and I have several bags of poop in my hand when I spy a black trash container on the street. I’m glad for this, as I hate to have to walk onto other people’s property to dispose of my dogs’ waste – which I do, and I often wonder if that’s an invasion of privacy or not. Dog poop etiquette is something I am certainly conscious of, if not anal about it. (Pun intended!)
As I open the can I hear a voice from across the street screaming, “NOOOOOOOOO!!! YOU DO NOT DO THAT!”
For a split second I look around – could this maniac possibly be yelling at me for picking up dog shit and dispensing of it? There are signs all over my neighborhood begging people to clean up after their mutts, and I’m one of those good citizens that does just that.
Meanwhile, I’ve found man-sized shits on my own lawn, and I never once have complained.
But the lady across the street is absolutely incensed. Let’s call her Tyler Dooden for the sake of the story now.
“I AM SICK AND TIRED OF YOU PEOPLE THINKING YOU OWN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. YOU TAKE YOUR OWN WASTE BACK TO YOUR OWN HOUSE AND DO NOT PUT YOUR SHIT IN OUR CANS!” yells Tyler Dooden.
“IS THIS YOUR CAN? BECAUSE I DON’T THINK IT IS,” I scream back. “AND BY THE WAY, I’M CLEANING UP AFTER MY DOGS, SO WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”
This Fight Club bout is insanely random. I’m just waiting for Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) to jump out of the bushes and tell me I’m being punked.
“WELL I THINK THIS IS A SHITTY WAY TO START A DAY,” I add to nobody in particular.
Tyler Dooden must’ve agreed, or she has a moment of clarity, or something, because she brings her tone down a notch and loudly states, “OK, I guess you were doing a good thing to pick up after your dogs.”
For a minute I soften. We might be reaching conciliation… I can calm down now.
Instead, I turn around and shoot her a nasty look and scream, “FUCK YOU!”
I don’t know what possessed me! Maybe too many blows to the head in Fight Club?
By the time I get home, I am feeling really bad. I didn’t have to get into it with Tyler Dooden — didn’t have to take off my virtual shirt and shoes to be a bad ass. I could’ve kept it all together and just said, “OK, I hear you,” and moved along.
I think more about Tyler Dooden realize she looked familiar to me. She lives a couple doors down from a BBF, and so I shoot my friend a text inquiring more about the Dood.
Of course she’s a good person gone a little crazed from having one too many people leaving stinky shit in her garbage cans that sit right below her kitchen window. And while I wasn’t using her waste receptacles, I was the symbol. Or something.
But honestly, Fight Club isn’t about other people’s struggles — it’s all about your own.
And so I decide that to write a little note to Tyler Dooden on a pretty card with flowers on it.
I’m ______’s good friend and the person you yelled at this morning for throwing my dogs’ poop in someone else’s waste bin. I heard you and I can imagine this is very frustrating to you. I don’t know your deal, but I know mine — I like to come from a place of kindness and respect, and I don’t like how I reacted earlier. Going forward, I’ll toss my dogs’ waste in my own cans. Also, sorry for saying ‘fuck you.’ I hope you have a better day.”
I sign my name and tape the note to her fence. I put happy faces on the envelope so she knows I come in peace.
Hours later, my phone rang and it’s Tyler Dooden on the other end of the line, calling to accept my apology and offer hers.
And so, instead of burning it all to the ground, we both rise like phoenixes from the ashes of a truly shitty morning.
So if you see me (re)claiming my humanity, just know that I — we — are not statistics. We don’t start fights necessarily, but we can end them. Because the real first rule of Fight Club is if you don’t like what life hands to you, you can always take a shot at redemption.
You have been warned.