I don’t care where it comes from – people tasked with administrivia who get in my way, the TSA, insurance hucksters, someone in retail who just screwed up and I pointed it out, anybody at all who has just done something to give me a reason NOT to be calm, telling me to ‘calm down’ is going to have precisely the opposite effect. You have been warned.
Particularly because those two fatal words usually come at a point at which I am well beyond hot anger and into cold fury – and they just add a layer of freeze on the ice. I am usually – situation normal – in a state of calm – but if I am riled by circumstances into something that has disturbed my serenity then people telling me from on high to ‘calm down’ are really REALLY making me mad.
Here’s a couple of situations.
One – a shipment of books arrives at a place where I have to pick them up. The person in charge of all this appears to be half asleep and the other half not interested. My books are nowhere to be found. The person in charge of all this responds with a shrug. I have driven an hour to pick up these books (don’t ask – TL;DR – special circumstances applied). I try even tones, I try persuasion, I repeat all the details four times, I have the freaking paperwork, I am getting nowhere fast, and I raise my voice. “Calm down”, the idiot tells me. He’s lucky he wasn’t lifted onto a high warehouse shelf with a forklift and left there until someone came to get him back down.
Two – a real-estate agent office dealing with the dues payable for the condo my mother lives in fucks something up on the computer. I saw him do it. There had been a special assessment a while back, one which we had paid up front and in full, and I was here now to pay the regular monthly dues and he is looking at the computer and telling me I owe him $80 extra for the “Assessment”. I say no, I don’t. He stares at the computer, confused. I explain about the assessment. His superior comes drifting over, and my doofus points at the computer and starts explaining about how he can see that I owe eighty more dollars… and I raise my voice. “There is no need to be unpleasant,” the supervisor says snottily. “Calm down.”
Three – TSA check point – this is on a RETURN trip from somewhere, so please understand that the handbag of which I now speak has already passed TSA inspection once, in the forward direction, without any drama. But now, on the return trip, I put it through the X ray machine. There is some whispered confabulation. It gets smartly picked up at the other end and put through again. More confabulation. I am told, ma’am, we need to go through your bag. Is there anything dangerous in here? There isn’t, and I tell them so, and I point out the obvious – about the previous trip. I am ignored. The bag gets taken away to a different table. I see them paw through it thoroughly, taking out absolutely everything. They finally find the issue: a pen stuck inside my wallet, which has lived there forever, and which has caused nobody any problems before, ever. I am given back my bag, with everything inside upended and upside down, and I point out that I could have told them I had a pen in there if they were so concerned. “Calm down, Ma’am” I am told. Gggaaah.
Four – I’m asked to speak out on an issue I feel strongly about – and that shows. My voice shakes a little. I’m clutching at the podium. “You need to calm down,” someone says. If I were calm… I would not be here because the issue I am here to speak about would not have affected me and therefore I would not be so emotionally engaged. In other words, the very reason I am here and talking is because something IMPORTANT has driven me to do so. Don’t tell me to ‘calm down’ unless you intend to solve that problem immediately in my sight and hearing. If you don’t, I’m entitled to my uncalm state. Thank you.
I get instantly uncalm if I am met with a flat “we can’t do that” in response to a situation where yes, they CAN do “that”, they just don’t want to. Or if someone literally does something wrong, in front of your face, and you’re somehow supposed to just smile and ignore it… and is it just me, ladies, or is that PARTICULARLY aimed at those of us of the female persuasion? Because, you know, if you anger a man or infuriate him then it’s a righteous wrath and he is entitled to it. But anger a woman… and unless she “keeps calm” she’s instantly a witch, a bitch, a shrew, a harridan, a harpy, because, you know, a lady would just calm right the hell down.
I keep on remembering that iconic instant when Sulu told Uhura, “I will save you, fair maiden!” and she snapped “Sorry, neither,” and saved herself.
Well, sorry. I may be ‘fair’ – I can’t help that, not with my current silver hair – but I haven’t been a ‘maiden’ for some time.
And DON’T tell me to calm down.