Gimme Some Sugar: Echoes of a Bitter Barista

How many times have you had an overblown reaction to something and wondered why your emotions got so out of control?

Usually, if not every time, it’s because of something called the 90/10 rule. 90% of the upset is responding to unresolved issues from the past. 10% is fueled by the moment. Parts of ourselves that have been rejected or neglected act out, seeking visibility, aching to be seen and heard. Squelched feelings show up and take charge of the moment.


This truth can easily be forgotten, then blame gets projected outward.

That’s when unfortunate behavior ripples out from you and affects others. Or visa-versa. Someone hits you with a wave of disdain, and you wonder what the hell happened, get triggered, and strike back.

You can thwart this cycle.

Often, people aren’t aware of the effect they have on others, both in positive and negative ways. 

When I find myself overreacting to people and events, I check out the source of my reaction – look inside myself – am I being triggered by past needs that haven’t been met and projecting them into the present? 

I find it vital to be aware of what I’m putting out, what I’m getting back and what I accept as okay, especially if I want my life and relationships to be different.

A ripple is a sound, feeling, or small wave that moves outward from its source and touches everything in its path.

Early one morning, I went to my preferred coffee shop to get a cup of delicious and a bag of coffee to take home. The bin for my favorite beans was empty, so I asked the clerk if they had any more. She was in a horrible mood and treated me as if I stole and tortured her first-born child. She was surly, rude, and had no business being the first person anyone had to interact with on a beautiful morning or any morning for that matter. 

Apparently, I was putting her out by asking her for information about the coffee beans the coffee store she was working in sold. And she didn’t know the answer. Instead of being kind about it, as she rang up my cup of coffee and the inferior to my tastebuds beans I succumbed to, she grumbled something under her breath. 


You might think I’m about to say that I didn’t let her behavior bother me, and neither should you. Nope. Truthfully, the way she treated me put me in a bad mood. I started grumbling to myself about how the only thing a person who works in a coffee shop needs to know is how to make coffee, the prices of the products, and when the beans will be in. They don’t have to be pollyanna sweet, but at least don’t spew vile bitterness.

I’m confident I’m not the only one whose day was affected by her misery. She was the first interaction of many people’s day. Her demeanor rippled out from her to everyone she encountered. I’m sure some were more affected than others, but most people walked away shaking their heads, feeling a little more deflated than when they arrived. 

It’s a minor event, but it demonstrates something – ripples. Her misery moved outward through the waters of the coffee shop. Everyone she met, including customers and co-workers, felt it. Even if they didn’t take it personally, they had to shake it off. And some folks could have spread it by treating others poorly. Echoes. 

An echo is the reverberation of a sound after the original sound has stopped.

This young lady’s sour disposition didn’t impact me for long. Not a big deal; I shook it off and went about my day. What it did do is set a tone. It can be subtle. Maybe, the next time I want a cup of Joe, I’ll seek out a different coffee shop for no reason apparent to me. I wouldn’t attribute it to this interaction; just might want to try something new.

Looking back from today I recognize that I got triggered. Back then I’m certain I blamed her for being shitty and turning my good mood sour. But, in a world of infinite possibilities, there are many ways to respond.

As I mentioned, this is a minor event. But it’s years later, and I remember it. Not because of the young lady and her sour disposition. I remember it because it got me thinking about how human beings impact each other, about the repercussions of each of us, every day. About how the way we behave creates ripples in the present and echoes into the future. And about how to do better as a culture.

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