Sunday, 21 February 2016

Red Mist

When I was little, my mother used to say that this poem reminded her of me:

There once was a girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

(That poem doesn't work in American, as 'forehead' has to be pronounced 'forrid'!)

I'm still like that. Most of the time, I'm a pretty good person. Then, from time to time, I metamorphosize into someone really horrible.

Like the Incredible Hulk, my trigger is anger.

I don't often get angry, but when I do you have to STAND BACK.

One of the reasons I knew I had to quit drinking was because I was getting angry more often.

Alcohol is rocket fuel for anger. When we drink we become tunnel visioned - unable to see anyone else's perspective. And we lose our inhibitions - we just don't see the STOP signs any more.

Drinking heavily makes us angry even when we're NOT drunk. When you're addicted to alcohol, you spend a lot of the time in low level withdrawal, which makes you tetchy and edgy - a bit like PMT. You're way more likely to lose control given the slightest provocation.

There are often stories in the press about celebrities going ballistic after a few drinks.

Jeremy Clarkson famously decked a producer over a row about a plate of cold meats (see my post: Alcohol Induced Rage).

Kate Moss and Gerard Depardieu have both been escorted off aeroplanes after drinking too much and going tonto (see my post: Drinking and Sexism).

Mr SM is still scarred by the time when I lost it with the dentist receptionist (it was a Saturday morning and I was hungover), and she threated to remove the whole family from the list.

Once I'd calmed down, I was mortified. It's just not fair to lose your rag with people who are only trying to do their job.

So, yesterday I had a classic red mist episode.

We have a large (and getting larger) crack on the car windscreen from where we were bombed by a small stone on a motorway in early December. We were thrilled when the insurance people said we were covered, and gave us the number of a 'mobile windscreen repair service' who would come to our house and fix it. Yay!

(They are called Auto Windscreens. Never use them).

But FOUR TIMES we've fixed an appointment, and FOUR TIMES we've been cancelled. And they don't even bother to tell you in advance. You wait in all morning, eventually calling up to discover that the 'technician' is ill/running late/hampered by rain/forgotten about you.

The first time this happened I was zen. I'm sober. I've got through cancer. These little things don't bother me any more.

The second time I was a bit miffed. Another morning wasted. But, ho hum, things could be worse.

The third time I was CROSS but polite. The fourth time I yelled a bit, and they promised someone from 'Customer Services' would call me straight back. They never did.

Then, yesterday, a Saturday, we got an e-mail confirming that the technician was definitely coming. Between 2.15pm and 4.15pm. Result.

At 4.30 I called them. I was put on hold and played tinny music for twenty minutes.

Eventually the phone was answered by a poor, unsuspecting chap called Kevin. He confirmed that, due to rain and the dark (both of which are fairly predictable in February) the technician would not be coming after all. I went ballistic. I said something like this (all the smalls were listening in, and sniggering, in a slightly scared way):


But then, I paused. I saw the STOP signal. I thought about it from Kevin's perspective.

I remembered that Kevin is just doing his job. On a Saturday. He's just the poor bloke who happened to answer the 'phone (after twenty minutes on hold). So I took a deep breath, and said:

"I'm so sorry, Kevin. I know this is NOT your fault. You sound like a really nice bloke, and you're just doing your job. But your company really is seriously shite, and you should go and work for somebody more efficient. Then you wouldn't have to put up with horrible people like me yelling at you on a Saturday when you have better things to do."

And, you know what? Kevin laughed. We parted as friends. A technician is, apparently, coming next Saturday (ha ha).

The children looked at me, astonished. #1 said "Mummy, I can't believe you started giving him career counselling!"

Well, still not nice. Still a bit horrid. But less horrid than I was. Baby steps....

Love SM x

P.S. If you are from Auto Windscreens, or their PR/marketing company, and you have found this post by Googling 'Auto Windscreens angry customers' then please give Kevin a promotion and pay rise - if he hasn't taken my advice and resigned already. Thank you.

P.P.S. I thought about deleting this post when one of my readers commented that I sound like a patronising 'dry drunk'. I had intended to be kind and empathetic, and am horrified at the idea that I might have just been patronising. I'm obviously still a work in progress....


  1. I love your posts.You never fail to make me laugh. :)

  2. Fabulous. Poor old Kevin, well at least you gave him a good story for his pals 😂

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This is a great post. Yes alcohol brings out the monster in most of us.

  5. Lol thank you for the good chuckle this morning!! (Day 5:)

  6. Alcohol reduces/eliminates our ability to be empathetic - glad you stayed human and saw the world from Kevin's sad perspective - nicely done. Eeyore

    P.S. Call the insurance company and tell them that Auto Windscreens is unacceptable - they have a contract with them - go to the source and the money and you might get better results - you can also refuse to work with them. Then complain higher if your insurance company doesn't solve the problem. It's always about the money!

  7. I so can relate...big smile on my face! I hope you get the issued resolved soon and Eeyore's advice is dead on. As for Kevin, you gave him a lot to think about!

  8. Most of the comment section is your readers tell you about how you make them laugh and what an inspiration you are.

    You are.

    But this post makes you sound like a dry drunk.

    Yes, I said it. Dry drunk.

    No in betweens.

    You go from typical uber pissed offed-ness, to oh, I'm recovered an expansive and proceed to lecture this poor bloke. He's probably used to ornry customers and was mild amused by your 'central London' accent and tuned out as soon as you leaned in. You are as recognizable a type to him as he was to you.

    Just saying.....

  9. In short, you sound patronizing

    1. I'm sure you're right, Clio. As I said, I can be horrid. Nobody's perfect.

    2. P.s. What on earth does a dry drunk sound like?

  10. Who isn't? My indelible imperfection is a biting tongue. I've spent most of my sober time biting it ;) and I only posted here because the scenario you posted was all too familiar .

    I have a cracked windshield too. It's been a a year now. There's no rush ;)

  11. A dry drunk sounds drunk completely sober. Over the top

  12. Hi SM. Great post again. It's amazing how offensive we can be when drunk. Like you, I'm so glad I'm not that rude to people when I'm sober. I'm happy to be a better AF person now. Good luck with the windscreen. Love SPB xxx

  13. Me again. Just seen your PPS. Please please please don't delete your post because one person interpreted it as being patronising. I re-read it a few times after seeing that comment in case I'd missed something. I can't see it personally, but each to their own. We don't all interpret things the same way, but there are plenty of others who have found it rings true for them as the comments above show. It reminded me of the situation I had this morning with bad service at the bowling alley when I couldn't buy a drink of water from the cafe, bar or vending machine. The staff really weren't bothered and certainly didn't help or even apologise. I didn't get angry either… I was upset but I didn't get cross with the guy like I would have done in the old days with a Sunday hangover in a loud bowling alley full of kids' parties! Hurrah for Becks Blue! Love SPB xxx

    1. I agree it's not patronising it was a funny story! Bring on the zen..... And I don't think you sound drunk.....

  14. I don't know what a "dry drunk" is. Surely its just somebody who is sober. My work requires me to exhibit a degree of forcefulness at times. I don't often mix work and drink so my focussed attitude at work is just me (similar traits in my colleagues). I don't see patronising, just a refreshing desire not to get shafted by a company that is actually being paid to deliver a service. If "Kev" can't take it then his bosses need to ensure that the customer doesn't get screwed around . Your post is good. I have no problem with pointing out the deficiencies of banks, fitters of garage doors (a current problem here), morons who work in Toyota service departments and the fucking idiots who run First Great Western - or whatever their called this week. So, no, not patronising just righteous frustration with crap service that needs to be stuffed down the throats of people who wear the company uniform. Your post made me laugh anyway.


  15. If you never got mad it would be concerning.
    I do think the 12 steps have some good insight into anger and personal accountability.
    But you caught your anger and didn't blame others for things that are beyond your control.
    That's when anger is really a problem, when it's a refusal to ever be wrong.

    You weren't wrong. You don't pretty stable!

  16. Ha, I can sooo relate! I too still get angry (fly off the handle at times) but also trying to use my stop, ccc (cool, calm, collected) approach, more often now sober and is a wip and im happy that it is. Thanks for a funny read x.

  17. I think you would have made Kevin's day and cracks do get worse if not mended in a timely fashion. X

  18. Ha ha ha, nothing wrong with being angry with crap service. I had a similar loongg problem with BT which involved cut off business phones and multiple date screw ups. I have shouted at people on two continents and many and varied departments and told them to put a picture of me on the call centre wall with "shouty customer" underneath. Always done sober. If that makes a dry drunk then so be it.

  19. We are all entitled to our opinions....however, I agree with the majority of my fellow commenters. Your anger WAS appropriate (and I share the impulse to go ballistic), and you also did the appropriate thing in catching yourself up on Kevin's behalf. I've had similar experiences. I also once reamed out a company manager so thoroughly (for the unconscionable pricing policies of the company he represented) - and left him sputtering so uselessly that, when I hung up, I turned to my husband and said, 'I bet that poor jerk goes home and gives his wife a sock!' (I know, completely inappropriate in terms of actual domestic violence situations).

    And the suggestion to go back to the insurance co is certainly spot-on.

  20. I LOVE your blog... I read it every morning!
    You are NOT a “dry drunk!” You are a fabulous sober human being with real emotions. To simply be frustrated with repeated poor customer service, certainly should not create the unnecessary personality traits of being dysfunctional or “not a happy person” by definition of a dry drunk. To apologize and add some humor to customer service is also not patronizing, but rather quite down to earth.
    Everyone gets sad, happy, hurt, excited, and yes even angry. There is a purpose to our emotions.
    Isn't it one of the main things we are doing by being sober, to really FEEL each emotion and learn to enjoy it or handle and cope with it?
    To think that all of us on the sober journey have to be calm and cool in every situation life offers us…Well, that sounds a bit unrealistic.
    So, please….Continue writing and sharing REAL stories, thoughts and inspirations. I really enjoy them ALL!

  21. My grandmother used to recite that poem to me when I was little too!!!!! And I have a nasty temper also.

    Since I have stopped drinking I have noticed that I am so much more empathetic than I used to be. Case in point: A few weeks ago somebody stole my yoga mat at my gym while I was taking a shower. How mean I thought (and I was quite annoyed) to steal from your fellow yogi?? That's so un zen-like!

    Yesterday in class, I noticed a girl using my mat (I know it's mine because my geriatric dog chewed on it at one end and I had to cut it off in a bit of a wobbly line). When I was drinking, I would have ripped her a new one, and I have to say, initially that's where my mind went: I was wishing she would fall over in every pose... but half way through our class I started just feeling sad for her. And I let it go. So much easier for me.

    Anyway re the whole dry drunk thing. I have sadly had up close and personal on that one. My dad was a fantastic father for many years, until his 'once every few weeks' blow out binge with the boys developed into full-blown raging alcoholism (six DUIs anyone?). He was forced to stop drinking at age 70 when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and chemo made him too sick to drink anymore. He became so angry and abusive to his family that his words still hurt today... He then ran off with a woman the same age as me. And then cut he me out of his life because I didn't send her a Christmas present. I never saw him again and when he died I could not attend his funeral. He cut us all out of his will citing a bunch of mad things we supposedly did to him. A dry drunk is the kind of person you actually wish would start drinking again..... If you truly understand it, it's a pretty harsh thing to say to someone. Much love xxxx

  22. I've opened a can of worms here and I am sorry. I should have better drawn the distinction between what I mean of as 'dry drunk' and what I thought sounded patronizing .

    One has to do with the intention, the other has to do with the result.

    People in recovery tend to over talk; it can be a positive or negative thing, but it is still over talking to the person having to listen to it.

    This phenomenon is well discussed in the AA community ( which I'm not apart of) but have been on the receiving end of it.

    SM, I'm sorry I even brought it up . Im very intense as well and know the poem well ( in America we say 'rotten' instead of horrid;) I'm that too. Again, apologies

  23. Dear SM,

    Another fabulous post. I think that the angry shouting was what turned me in the end. I couldn’t stand being the person who yelled and was snakey about trivial things. I so clearly remember your post about your daughter’s instrument practice and recital and how it would have gone if you were drinking!

    I would like to raise something. Here goes nothing.
    It’s called gender.

    If you were a man dear SM and you said those things to ‘poor Kevin’ (hereafter known as PK) I don’t think anyone would blink. Indeed, I think people would be shocked by your compassion.
    Look at what you said. It’s not sweary, it’s not abusive, it makes sense. You empathise about his situation and you apologise for your behavior.

    Gold star soldier!

    Yet you feel bad about complaining about something that was bad.
    Now, I’m not saying that berating someone in an aggressive style (ooh there’s a name for it but I can’t find it in my brain…) is a good thing. I’m just exploring why women feel uneasy about getting angry. Any why the wine witch switches that angry lever every time.
    Anyway, you’re doing ok, you’re not horrid, just keep channeling your inner Om.
    Good luck with the windscreen!