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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Column: Dirty laundry

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

I usually can’t take Plato’s famous quote seriously. Every time I read it in a school agenda or book of inspirational quotations, I can’t help but ask, “Really? Are our lives that complex and dramatic?” It almost feels as if we use our “hard battles” as excuses for our words and actions.

How’s it possible that we could all have that much going on in our lives? Even if we did, it doesn’t mean people have to be kind to us. In one form or another, everyone has challenges in his or her life.

Every once in a while, a rough version of Plato’s quote will pop in my head. This usually happens when I sense that someone is annoyed or frustrated or whatever else on the spectrum of negative emotions. I try to remind myself that maybe there’s something going on that I just don’t know about, however minor or major. Then, I typically just ignore what I sense and try to act normal.

But “ignoring” was probably the opposite of what I did on Sunday afternoon in the laundry room. A girl came walking into the room and gave me that annoying death glare. Apparently she was furious at me (and possibly the girl next to me) for taking her laundry out of the washing machine.

I realize the act of moving someone else’s laundry isn’t nice, but there are exceptions. To me, it’s only wrong if one, the laundry hasn’t even finished being washed; two, the laundry has barely sat in the machine; and three, there are other machines available.

None of these applied to this incident. The laundry was sitting at the bottom of the machine for at least the past 40 minutes in a room with no available machines.

The girl turned a fiery red and chastised me, saying how “unprofessional” I was. Her rant was abundant with incoherently jumbled and condescending sentences.

Normally, I would probably just say sorry and explain my reasoning. But her yelling annoyed me to the point of me wanting to yell back at her. I wasn’t happy and I refused to fully listen and talk calmly to her because she was doing the exact opposite that.

It was as if she had all her anger bottled up and just couldn’t wait to unleash it. She could’ve calmly explained her situation and thoughts, but instead she chose to go on a one-woman strike.

Immediately after, I was almost identical to her – with anger bottled up – sick and tired of outcries over petty instances. Then again, maybe it wasn’t so “minor,” because at that spur of the moment it affected me so much. Basically, we burst each other’s bubbles.

Sometimes we’re living in our own little thoughts and within them are the “hard battles” that tend to create grudges and frustrations. When you personally feel grumpy, there’s a tendency to assume other people feel the same way.

When people refuse to escape from their own viewpoints and instead unleash their anger and assumption on others – no matter how tiny or big the situation may be – others want to retaliate and along the way, become just as annoyed.

Of course it’s always hard to fully understand someone else’s situation, but that doesn’t mean you stay within your own comforts and assume that everyone else is experiencing the same thing as you are – because they’re not. The act of taking someone else’s laundry out of a washing machine may appear horrible at first, but it isn’t inherently bad. There are always multiple factors to consider.

So when Plato says, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” I take it as meaning to try to empathize with others, but don’t assume others will understand you. Don’t assume that people will put up with your behavior just because you’re experiencing something that they’re not.

TIFFANY LEW will never do laundry again on a Sunday afternoon after Picnic Day. Extra dirty laundry causes tantrums. E-mail her at tjlew@ucdavis.edu.


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