It's one of the worst feelings in the world. Right up there with an unrealized sneeze. The feeling of when you're angry and want to blame whoever caused your problem, only to find out you're the one who caused it.
You know the feeling: You're righteously indignant over some trifling problem that really isn't important, but you've had a terrible week, and that problem is now the cherry on the BS sundae you've suffered all week.
Nothing has gone right. Your car broke down two days after you got it fixed. The cable went out right in the middle of the big game. You made a cup of coffee and discovered you were out of half-and-half. And your boss yelled at you about something your coworker did.
And now, here's that one tiny thing to cap it off. Your phone died while you were playing a game. Your dog crapped on the floor. Or you broke your 200-day Wordle streak.
And you rant. You rave. You bluster. You're so angry that even the Hulk says, "Hey, big guy. Sun's getting real low."
Except it wasn't them. It was you. You did this. You made this happen.
And now you're left feeling deflated and foolish, like you professed your undying love to your number one crush, and they said, "That's nice."
It happened to me last week. I was having trouble logging into a website for a background check by a new company before I started working for them.
I created a password, but the site didn't work. An error message said I hadn't filled in the form correctly. Except I had! Everything was fine!
The password combination used that stupid random character trick: each password has to be between eight and 12 characters, with one capital letter, a lowercase letter, a number, and a special character, like ^ or $.
Except nothing worked. "What idiot designed this site?" I shouted at my computer.
I tried two different web browsers and had the same problem, so the problem was clearly with them, not me. I emailed my company saying I couldn't get the site to work and included a screenshot of the offending website.
Someone from the company wrote back and said they were not the administrators of the site, but I could call tech support and tell them about the problem.
I can? I can? Listen, Chuck, I'm not getting paid for this, but I'm supposed to call tech support about your website's problem? Fine, I'll do your job for you.
From Hell's heart, I stabbed at the numbers on my mobile phone and was forced to listen to the worst-ever 30-second rhumba song repeat for ten minutes. It sounded like it was written by someone who had read about how to write rhumba music but forgot half of what they read.
A representative finally came on, and I described my problem. I was still polite, but I hoped my frosty tone conveyed how her employer had the world's worst website and no one would care if their servers fell into the ocean.
As I talked to the representative — who was very polite and nice — I got an email from my company.
"You're missing a special character in your password," it said.
Turns out I only needed to add a # or &, and the website would work.
It was like every molecule of my anger had been blown into a giant party balloon, and then someone let it go. I could only watch it go fart-flying around the room before it landed on my desk, limp and exhausted.
"Do you want your ticket number for this issue, sir?"
"No, that's fine," I mumbled. "I figured it out."
She gave me the number anyway, and I wrote it down out of a sense of guilt.
I stared at my computer for several minutes after that, unsure what to feel. This problem had plagued me for two days. I was positive it was the fault of the idiot web designers and a lazy employee couldn't be bothered to do their job.
But it wasn't. It was me. I was the lazy idiot who couldn't type a simple % or @.
All my righteous anger just flopped there on my desk, deflated and tattered, looking rather pathetic. My only consolation was that I hadn't actually come uncorked at anyone.
These are the hard lessons you learn as you get older: that the thing you're angry about is certainly not the fault of the person you're yelling at. It's something that's out of everyone's control. And when you look at the root cause, it's probably something you did or didn't do that caused it all in the first place.
So take a deep breath and relax. Otherwise, you're going to blow up at someone when it's really all your #&%@ing fault.
Photo credit: Raul Lieberwirth(Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)
My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available from 4 Horsemen Publications. You can get the ebook and print versions here.