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It's Not About You

My roommate got so mad at me for not answering the phone that she moved out. Turns out, there was more below the surface I didn't see.

Did I ever tell you about the time my roommate got so mad at me for not answering the phone that she moved out?

Recalling my Valentine’s Day story for you this past weekend got me thinking about all the other “fun” stuff that happened that year!

I was living with (let’s call them) Angel and Grace (as in fallen from), who had been roommates freshman year.

Angel was working, Grace ran out for a quick errand, and I was on the phone with my mom.

I heard the call waiting signal, but my mom was on a roll telling a story. Like verbal double-dutch, I carefully focused on figuring out when to jump in, but by the time that opportunity came, it was too late to ask her to hold on a sec, and I missed the call.

I assumed that whoever it was would just call back, and if and when that happened, I’d bulldoze the conversation if I had to and make sure I didn’t miss the call again.

A few minutes later, I felt something brewing. Grace stormed into the room and called me the B word – a bitch. That may not sound so terrible now, but “bitch” was considered a cringe-worthy curse then and hadn’t yet morphed into the term of endearment it’s often used as today!

Grace paced around frantically, calling me that cruel name and saying how rude and inconsiderate I was. I was taken aback and confused.

Oh, and I was still on the phone, so in the state of shock, I interrupted my mom (too bad I didn’t do that earlier!) and told her I’d call her back.

When I hung up, Grace unleashed on me for not clicking over to answer her call. (So I finally knew what I had done!)

Silly me, I tried to use logic with someone who was not in touch with reason at that moment.

I’m so, so sorry. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard to interrupt, and I didn’t want to be rude to my mom. And you know, it may ring 12 times, but the call waiting only beeps twice on my end. I didn’t purposely ignore the call. I really was trying to find the right time to click over. I figured if it was an emergency, the person would call back…”

Turns out, Grace was so worried she might not be home in time to watch “Beverly Hills 90210” from the start that she stopped at a pay phone to ask me to put a tape in the VCR and record it.

It was just a few minutes past 8:00pm by the time she got home, so all wasn’t entirely lost, but because she decided to lay into me (and then blindside poor Angel when she got home from work), she wound up missing “Melrose Place” too! (Expressing this logic was not appreciated.)

The next day, Grace was on the phone with her parents, making arrangements to move out. And in no time at all, she left us - and Weasel, our illegal dorm room kitty, which she bought - never to be heard from again.

We may have never heard from her again, but we did see her. The funny (now) and awkward (then) side note was that the three of us had booked a cruise for spring break, and when Angel and I showed up, we realized Grace didn’t cancel. That was certainly a trip!

So what’s the point of this story? Well, a couple things.

First, I learned that while people sure can suck, it’s usually not about you.

I had been having a grand old time flogging myself for being THE WORST and causing all this drama. But, I learned that it had nothing to do with me.

My not clicking over to answer her call was simply the straw that broke the camel's back. Apparently, Grace wasn't doing well in school, not happy with her career/major direction, and having an issue with her boyfriend.

And, the icing on the cake (and she hated this flavor) was that Angel and I got along swimmingly. Grace wanted me to be a third wheel. In fact, she wanted me to be that spare tire you throw in the trunk and forget about! My friendship with Angel was not part of her plan…

I also learned the importance of communication in real time. What if Grace had just talked about some of the things that were bothering her instead of bottling up her emotions so much that one small infraction on my part led to a huge explosion on hers?

Ever notice that sometimes the size of someone’s reaction doesn’t match the size of their problem? It’s usually because there’s more below the surface that you can’t see – like an iceberg – that has built up and is ready to cause some irreparable damage.

Do you have any stories of psycho roommates, or how hurt people hurt people? How did you rise above and not get sucked into the drama? Or, how did you sink down with them, and what did you learn from it? I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to “bee”ing above it all and communicating your feelings in a calm and rational way!

Bee Buzzing,
Amy, The Queen Bee NYC

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