Maybe even kind.
I read an article recently that talked about how they’re not necessarily the same.
“Don’t be nice at your job. Be kind.”
They said that nice people have a tendency to be nice because they want something in return or, at the very least, they want people to be nice to them as well. Once they feel as though they’re not receiving what they want, they stop being nice. They feel like they’re not getting enough return on investment.
Kind people, they say, are just kind because they’re kind. They want to help because that’s what good people do. They’re kind even when it’s hard to be. They invest when the return is zero.
I like to think I’m nice. Or kind. Or both.
I’m not omitting any moments that I can think of. I don’t have a “well, there was that time in Boise with the butcher knife and waiter,” story but I know that it’s easy to talk in extremes and that’s why so many people are so unkind. So…unnice.
It doesn’t sound like a real word, but not in that way that words like “bullet” and “gum” start to sound weird when you say them too many times on repeat. It makes me think about the word “fiction” and how there’s no core word that means the opposite. We have “non-fiction” but I feel certain that non-fiction happened first in the stream of consciousness that is life and fiction was what people created from a world of non-fiction. But fiction is the word that gets an identity and reality is given a word to mean “well, it’s not that other thing”.
On the way into the doctor’s office, I was stuck at a four-way stop where people were distributed with little, plastic coffee containers and little, laminated strips of paper. All of them taking advantage of the small moment where people are stopped so that they can knock on a window and ask for a donation.
Some people just kept their windows up and shook their heads. I know they weren’t bad people. They didn’t have a problem with charity or with people trying to raise money and I want to believe that they weren’t being needlessly negative because the person who was collecting money wasn’t the right version of human. But people find it hard to trust anyone when they can read a story about how a man named Rupert Daniels stopped to offer a homeless man a ride to a shelter in a torrential downpour in thirty-five-degree weather and the cops found Rupert Daniels dead and sitting by the homeless man who was already dead.
They found his car two weeks later in another state. It was stolen by two guys that we’d all like to call kids because their age would indicate that they certainly were even though their actions would say otherwise.
When they asked Robbie Keller and Steven Copeland why they did what they did, Robbie said he did it because “It was a nice car, I always wanted a car like that.”
Steven said, “I didn’t want to make Robbie mad. What kind of friend does that?”
They weren’t nice or kind.
I remember thinking Rupert Daniels was British because to me it seems like it must be. He wasn’t, by the way. I still feel bad about that. One shouldn’t make such assumptions.
It isn’t nice and it’s never kind.
While I’m trying to figure out if “unnice” is a real word or enough people like me have gone looking it up that now you’d think it’s a word because words are the things we all create in collaboration and so it’s as real as any of us can agree upon, the door begins to open and I put my phone away like I was a teenager smoking pot and my parents had just opened the door.
Doctor Sherman is looking over my files and I know he’s a busy man.
Doctors are among some of the most prone to commit suicide. It’s a high-stress job. People live and die based on their decisions and life and death happen all day. You can’t tell the world that you’re only allowed to be sick or dying during standard business hours.
I imagine it’s just as bad for the nurses, but I don’t know if it is and I try to tell myself to remember to look that up because it would be rather unbecoming to not be mindful of their plight or see it diminished just because news articles weren’t alerting us to the rising number of dying nurses. I want to take my phone out and set an alarm or set a reminder or type it out on notepad but I know Doctor Sherman is a busy man and I tell myself I can remember something as simple as caring about how hard nurses have it because if I can’t then what kind of person am I anyway?
Conversations with doctors are always a bit weird. A little silly.
A lot of it ends up being a diagnosis through conversation which means I need to understand myself fairly well so that Doctor Sherman can understand me well enough to tell me what will make me more well.
I tell myself to look that up, but not right now while Doctor Sherman is saying, “Your blood pressure is still elevated.”
I tell him I know while my brain says, “Nurses death. Weller. Nurses death. Weller.”
He suggests taking pills for it but I tell him that if I can avoid it, I’d rather try to just do better at treating it myself.
He asks me what my diet looks like and I stop myself from saying, “Delicious,” because now is not the time for jokes and so I tell him what I eat and how much and I haven’t had a hamburger in ages and I don’t eat a lot of sugar and I could probably do better about vegetables and I don’t eat pork but I don’t tell him why because he doesn’t need to know that someone told me that pigs have the mentality of a three-year-old child and that’s something I can’t unhear and so bacon is a food I can’t easily enjoy anymore.
He asks me if I’ve been taking my anxiety meds and I tell him I have and he gives me a look that doesn’t say anything overly reassuring.
I double down on that and recite it back to him, “Two pills with food as needed. Never more than two pills in six hours.”
I’m telling him the truth and it bothers me that the truth has upset him and it bothers me more that he’s upset because he knows I’m telling the truth but the problem is that not trying to treat a condition effectively can be just as bad as trying to treat it too aggressively.
He turns it into a small parallel about vitamins and recommended dosages and how not enough is just the same kind of problem, but it’s just slower and it’s easier to ignore until you can’t ignore it anymore and by then the problem is probably bigger than it needed to be and all you needed to do was to make sure you were taking your vitamins.
Every time I think of vitamins, my brain inserts a strange flavor that I don’t really taste. I tell myself the taste is that of those little Flintstones vitamins that I took when I was younger, but I can’t remember if I actually took them when I was younger or I just remember taking them and even though it doesn’t matter, I tell myself I should ask my mother and I haven’t talked to her in a while and I know she gets lonely.
My brain is saying, “Nurses death. Weller. Vitamins. Mom. Nurses death. Weller. Vitamins. Mom.” and Doctor Sherman is saying that if I think I need to take more than one dose a day, I can. I really can. It’s fine. It’s really fine.
When I’m at the pharmacy later, Samuel is working. I don’t know Samuel in any kind of a deep way but I know him like you know someone you see at the same place with enough frequency that they might as well be a fractional friend. He recognizes me and I recognize him and I know things have been hard for him recently because his girlfriend Hannah has been giving him the feeling that things are taking a turn for the worst even though she won’t just say it and he won’t ask because if he asks, she’ll answer and then he’ll know and he doesn’t want to know – but he also needs to.
I listen to Samuel while he handles my meds and when he walks away for a moment I feel awkward because there are people behind me and I’m that guy that’s making life take too long and all they want to do is get their pills and get home and here I am talking to a man whose life isn’t going so great at the moment and so I’m trying to be nice. I’m trying to be kind but being kind doesn’t help everyone at the same time and I tell myself to look up strategies for dealing with a relationship when things aren’t going so well but I don’t take my phone out because if I do and Samuel comes back then I’m just making it all take longer.
When I turn to leave, the man behind me shoulders me and I’m pretty sure it’s intentional and he’s conveying how annoyed he is that I was trying to be nice. I don’t know the man and I don’t know that he fought in whatever war was in the past just far enough that you can look his age but not so far in the past that he couldn’t be alive but I tell myself he has that look and a man like that has done plenty for our country and so I apologize for running into him and all he gives me back is a little scoffing sound.
I tell myself to look up recent wars to see what war a man his age might’ve been in. It seems a disservice to far too many that I don’t know that kind of information. People died in that war and here I am barely able to figure out if it even happened.
When I get home, I can hear Mrs. Harrison across the hall because she watches Jeopardy at this hour and she doesn’t hear so well so she turns the volume up pretty loud. I can still hear it when I close my door, but I don’t tell her she needs to be quiet. Mrs. Harrison lost her husband and two sons before I’d ever even met her. That’s what Jeff from down the hall says, at least. I’ve never really talked to Mrs. Harrison. She’s never really said that much except to stop blocking the stairs that one time when I was blocking the stairs because I was trying to go up and she was trying to come down and even though I was near the top of the second floor and she was just descending I know she’s had a hard life and so I turned around and walked back down so she could use the stairs without me being in her way.
I try to remember what I was supposed to look up and I can’t remember everything because the time between thinking and writing things down is apparently forever. I didn’t want to use my phone while driving, after all, that’s how accidents happen. I don’t want to be that guy walking around the pharmacy with my face in his phone and running into people who are there to get what they need and leave.
Forgetting what I was supposed to remember makes me nervous and I wonder why I’m like this and I ask myself how hard it is to just remember the things you’re supposed to care about and it’s not that difficult and it’s the kind of thing that makes people think I don’t care and that people who don’t care aren’t very nice.
They certainly aren’t kind.
I tell myself I need to take my medications because I’m starting to get that feeling I get when I get that feeling I get. Part of me is hesitant because then I’ll need more pills and I’ll just be that guy holding up the line but if I don’t then I’m the guy telling Doctor Sherman that I’m trying to manage this – I really am – but I don’t want to tell him he just doesn’t understand because I don’t know that he doesn’t understand. That would be presumptuous.
Thinking about managing my anxiety feels like it’s just causing me anxiety and so after I sit there and stare at my pills like it’s an episode of fear factor for reasons that would make other people give me a look of, “Is this really happening? Is this really a thing you do? Are you really like this?” and I finally take them with a glass of water and I wonder if I’m drinking enough water and how much water other people don’t have and how wrong that really is and I should look at donating to a charity that helps people who don’t have enough water.
I tell myself that earlier in the day I donated to whatever that other charity was but I don’t remember what it was anymore. I know they said it was “something or other ministries” and I didn’t want to tell the man I’m not religious because being religious doesn’t mean I don’t care and so I gave him the seven dollars I had because like so many people I rarely carry cash and I said I would’ve given more if I had it but I don’t often carry cash and I felt like I could have done more and I was sorry that I didn’t.
I try not to carry too much of this with me when I’m at work and, if I’m being honest, sometimes I like that work lets me focus on something with enough intensity that I can stop myself from worrying about what I should be worrying about.
I try to make sure other people don’t worry about me too much, of course. I don’t like to make people worry. I don’t like to make them afraid of me, let alone for me.
Three days ago Darren noticed I was looking a little pale because I was thinking about going to lunch but I told Michele I would have my report filed before lunch but the report got delayed and so it wasn’t done and even though she was already at lunch and she wouldn’t know any better I knew I was behind schedule and so I started getting nervous and then I started feeling that feeling I get when I get that feeling I get and I took out my pills and I thought about how I forgot to look up how to deal with relationship issues for Samuel and that’s not the kind of a thing a good friend does and Samuel seems like a good guy and he could probably use a good friend even if I’m not really his friend and Doctor Sherman would be upset with me if I didn’t take my pills when I started feeling this way and so I was sitting there and when he asked if I was okay I just said that it was just low blood sugar and I was fine.
I tell Patrick I can stay late because Amber is out and he says they just need someone to handle a few extra hours and I know that Amber is young and has a life that’s more exciting than mine and Patrick has a wife at home and two kids and they don’t need to be trapped in the office when they have lives to live and I tell myself to check the news tomorrow to make sure Amber isn’t hurt or in the hospital because even though I don’t want to say she lives a life that could put her there I sometimes get the feeling she lives that kind of life and I worry about her because if no one is worrying about her then how long until she’s another Rupert Daniels or worse.
I forgot to charge my phone the night before because I was up late reading about charities that donate to places without enough water and I remember I meant to look up something about Flintstones vitamins and I need to call my mom but my phone is dead and so I write it on a sticky note and it says “Flintstones. Mom.” and I put it at my desk.
I don’t have a cable at my desk because I always forget to take one to work or when I take it to work I forget to take it home and I always tell myself to buy a new one but I never do even though they’re right there by the register but there are people behind me and I don’t want to be that guy who goes, “and also this” because every item takes a little more time and they have places to go and lives to live and here I am being in their way thinking about cables while their children get to live in a world where they don’t see their parents enough because they’re stuck behind me buying things I don’t really need.
In the next cube, Amy has a charging cable and I know she barely remembers if she actually has it because she tends to not really pay attention and I sometimes wonder if that’s a sign of something and so I stop and go back to my desk and write “Neurological?” on the same sticky note that says “Flintstones. Mom.” and then I plug my phone into Amy’s charger but I leave it at her desk because I’m not a thief and her cable isn’t my cable and I don’t want her to come into work and think someone took her things even if she doesn’t usually notice where her things are.
I go back to my desk to get another sticky note even though Amy has some as well, but those are hers and I’m already stealing some of the life from her cable even though I know that’s not how cables work but I want to leave a note that says, “Forgot my charger. Sorry!” and so I leave that note and I think about how that looks before I throw the note away and I try to figure out how to say it better.
I sign my name on one and I wonder if that seems presumptuous but without that she wouldn’t really know it’s my phone and then I remember that I’m not leaving it here all night, I’m just charging it and I’m only writing the note in case she happens to come in at midnight which she never does but if she does and sees my phone I don’t want her to think more ill of me than she might already.
I end up settling on a note that says, “Forgot my charger. Sorry!” even though I’ve mostly written that same thing eight different times now and I’m feeling a bit strange like I do when I feel the way I feel sometimes and I notice how it feels different and I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing because I’ve been trying to take my meds more frequently but not too frequently but just frequently enough so that maybe I won’t disrupt the pharmacy too much and I won’t make Doctor Sherman mad and I was going to look up the word “weller” but I never did and I wonder now if that’s a word for someone who digs wells and if it isn’t what are they called?
I feel like I should know things like that and I wonder how many people die in wells every year and I imagine it can’t be a lot of people but that doesn’t mean the deaths are meaningless just because there aren’t enough of them and I tell myself to remember to look that up and I write “Weller.” on the same sticky note that says “Flinstones. Mom. Neurological?”
When I get home I realize I forgot my phone at work but I try not to worry about it because I left the note but I worry about it because my note doesn’t have my name and I start to worry about that and it’s only just late enough for me to take more of my pills and I know I shouldn’t take them and I know I need to anyway.
I notice again that the pills don’t look the way they used to look and I know that Samuel probably just made a mistake because he’s got a lot on his mind and his life isn’t going so well at the moment and things like that can get a man fired and so I take the pills anyway because I don’t want to cause him any more problems than he already has because that’s not what nice people do.
It certainly wouldn’t be kind.
I feel strange in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before and I’m not sure why and I wonder if this is what getting better feels like but it doesn’t feel like I’m getting better but I don’t know how to explain what I’m feeling but it’s not pleasant.
I reach for my phone even though it’s not there and I remember I need to call my mom but I don’t have my phone and so I take a sticky note from a stack that I didn’t steal from the office because I’m not a thief and I write “Call mom.” on it and I stick it to my monitor and I tell myself that even if I had my phone, it’s late and she goes to bed early these days I don’t want to disrupt her sleep because life doesn’t get any easier the older you get and I know I was always a difficult child and so the least I can do is be a less difficult adult which is why I try to take her to nice restaurants on her birthday because it’s what I can give her and she should have nice things even if I can’t give them too her with any great frequency.
My chest hurts and I remember that Mother’s Day is coming up and I should figure out where I’m taking my mother because I want to make sure she knows I care because it’s easy to feel like no one does when they only talk to you when the calendar says you’re supposed to and I tell myself I should be doing better than that and I write another note to remind myself to put something on my calendar to remind me to talk to her more and that makes me feel odd that I’m just doing the same thing I’m already doing but I’m just doing it in a different way and even though my mom isn’t there I say I’m sorry to her anyway for not being better.
I can hear the sound of Jeopardy playing through my door and I don’t want to bother Mrs. Harrison because she lost a husband and two sons already and she doesn’t need me complicating her life with medical issues and I don’t think she’d likely be able to tell me what’s happening to me any more than I do.
When the human body dies, it releases everything it’s holding inside and I know I don’t have the energy to crawl to the bathroom and disrobe and get into the tub so that the paramedics don’t have to deal with clothing left in such a state and I wonder if that’s really any better anyway because then I’d be naked in a tub and there’s urine and feces and I wonder which is worse and tell myself that I should write a note to remind myself to look that up.
It’s the kind of thing I should know.
People in the medical field have stressful jobs and I might be dying but that doesn’t mean I need to be insensitive.
I’m having a hard time breathing and my vision is getting blurry and dark in equal amounts and I tell myself that hopefully Amy won’t be mad that I used her charger without her permission and I hope that Amber gets home safe and I hope Patrick got to see his kids and I hope Mrs. Harrison finds some joy while watching Jeopardy and I hope my mom is okay and I hope Samuel and Hannah can work things out and I never did look up anything about relationship problems and I tell myself I should leave myself a note to do that if I get a chance because Samuel seems like a good guy and sometimes people just need a friend and they need someone to be there and to say they care because there’s not a lot of that in the world sometimes and I don’t want to be one of those people that doesn’t care because those kind of people aren’t nice.
They certainly aren’t kind.