Next Time I'll Say Something

It was just another too-early Monday morning. At least, that's what I would tell myself right after it happened. But in the pit of my stomach I knew there was really no excuses for what happened to me one morning in a school elevator.

The elevator doors slid open and I sleepily rolled in and pressed the number "2." I parked in the rear right corner, just as I usually did on so many other mornings. For the duration of that 12 second elevator ride I rested my head against the wall, yawning away while trying to ease my brain into productive-work mode. There were already two other people inside the elevator by the time I was inside. I assumed that they were students from the notebooks and backpacks that they were carrying. In my non-awake state I barely paid any attention to them, that is until one of the students next to me reached out and patted me on the head.
Immediately I picked my head up off the wall and looked up at him. In my head I raced through the names and faces of the students I had been working with, was he one of them? Why can't I just learn to love coffee like everyone else in the world? Why can't I be more awake right now to remember?! As I smiled blankly at him, hoping that he wasn't actually a student whose name I was supposed to have remembered - the other student in the elevator looked at me then at him. That student must have picked up on my blank smile.

"Dude do you know her?" The student asked the guy who had patted me on the head.
"Umm no, but I see her around all the time." He responded.
I was not only fully awake now but also trying to think of something to say that would stave off any potential awkwardness. Needless to say I didn't think of anything in time before the other student said,
"Don't touch people you don't know, man. Don't pat her on the head like that. You shouldn't have done that."
As if on cue, the elevator doors slid open right at that moment and I zipped out.

This certainly wasn't the first time where I was patted on the head, like some shivering puppy in the rain. And this wasn't the first time where I didn't say something when I should have in a situation. Of course I am thankful that the other student was there, that he said something for me, but really it should have been me. What I should have realized at that moment was that regardless of whether or not that was a student I knew, he should not have been patting me on the head. I was worried that it was a student that I knew, and in my concern for that -  I realized it's so much harder to tell someone you know to stop condescending behavior vs a total stranger.
Maybe it's because, for me, telling a total stranger "that's offensive, cut it out" is much easier to do than telling a friend, a relative, a teacher, or even a co-worker. But from that incident I learned that offensive behavior is just that - no matter the people involved. It's always rude, always needless, always hurtful. So that's what I have learned for next time, because next time there might not be someone else to say it for me, next time I know I shouldn't smile blankly back, next time I won't be making any excuses.

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