Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Julia's HUGS Method (Humor Ultimately Gives Strength)--HUGS to you!

I am a hugger. I hug everyone. Without exception. A mauling, Jim aptly calls it. When someone extends a hand, I brush past it and go in for the embrace. Usually, people are surprised but grateful for the gesture. I believe a hug removes barriers and creates an aura of warmth.

I’ve been warned about hugging certain people who may find it inappropriate or who might not be receptive. Once, while doing a presentation at a hospital’s annual executive meeting. I was cautioned about hugging the CEO. He just isn’t the hugger type, I was told. Why, I thought, would I change who I am because of another’s insecurities?

Recently, my husband and I went out to dinner at a new trendy restaurant located in an office park. Trolling for a parking space (the place was mobbed), we noticed a car parked in a handicapped space without a placard; a woman stood at the driver side door talking to a person within.

“Excuse me, do you have a handicap placard?” Jim asked politely. Expecting to hear, “Yes, thanks for asking. I’ll post it,” we were greeted instead with a stream of obscenities.

“You f#*&ING B@#$TARD. Mind your own f*#@ing business.” The fusillade continued as the woman assisted her husband into the restaurant. The effect was jarring
“Wow, Jim, I think she may start a riot in the restaurant. Hope they’re seated by the time we get in there,” I said. But of course there they were, standing just inside the door as we entered and walked past them to the hostess desk.

As I was checking on our reservation, Jim approached the woman and said, “Hey, I didn’t mean to offend you. I am sorry you took it that way. We are on the same side of the issue.” She responded with the same venomous verbal assault we were subjected to outside, with no regard for those within earshot.

“You f#$*ing a@#$hole. How dare you question me? I’ve been dealing with people like you for 35 years. I am sick of this f*&(ing sh#t every time I go out.” I approached as she continued to spew, noticing that her husband stood away, facing the wall, obviously embarrassed by, but used to, his wife’s outburst. I felt bad for him.

“I am sorry that you are so angry with us, but surely you have had experiences where people abuse handicap parking. I find that people tend to treat it as a 10-minute-only waiting area. If you had posted your placard, we wouldn’t have had occasion to ask.” The woman couldn’t hear what I was saying because of her relentless ranting.

Without really thinking, I got very close to her and said, “You need a hug.” I enveloped her in my arms and gave her a signature mauling. Her whole body bristled and stiffened. I whispered in her ear, “I am so sorry for the pain you are feeling. I have been through some hard times too. I understand. Although you are angry and hurt by what life has dealt you, there are good things in life too. It is a choice whether you make an effort to see and experience them.”

With that, we were called for our table. As I released my bear hug, her rigid body softened, and she sheepishly said, “Have a nice dinner.” I replied, “You too, enjoy your evening.”

As we were being seated, Jim said, “I thought for sure she was going to repel your hug with a slug. I can’t believe you did that.”

“Me either. I didn’t give it any thought. It was just automatic; I certainly didn’t know how she would respond. Sure glad it turned out OK.”

Joining us shortly thereafter, our dining companions recounted their conversation as they approached the restaurant. My girlfriend said to her husband. “Do you think Jim and Julia are here yet?” Her husband replied, “If you see a commotion, you’ll know they’re here.”