Never Give a Small Person a Little Power


That headline is one of my sayings. I created it to get me through the times when I have to deal with the people it describes. I was reminded of it today when I got a call from my husband about an encounter he had with a parking officer.

We live in a part of town now where parking tickets are no longer a way of life. It is bliss. Which means, we no longer have parking ticket envelopes lying around, stuffed in our glove compartments, etc., and I happen to need one as a prop for a film I’m shooting tonight.

Since my husband had a meeting near our old neighborhood this morning, and today is a street-sweeping day there (folks in LA and Berkeley know what I’m talking about…), he knew he would have plenty of chances to get an envelope for me. We both agreed that taking one off someone’s car would just be wrong, and getting a ticket was sub-optimal, so he should ask someone for one.

Pretty quickly, he spotted an enforcement officer, and in the nicest possible way, asked her if he could have an envelope to mail in his payment. Told her he had the ticket, just needed the envelope. She refused. He asked why, and in the nastiest possible way, she told him to get his own envelope and mail his own payment and it wasn’t her problem.

You can imagine his mood when he called me. I felt bad that I put him in that situation, but reminded him not to let her bad energy infect his day, because not all people are like her, she is simply a small person with a little power. While we were on the phone, he spotted another parking officer (they are ubiquitous on big-money days), trotted over, asked for an envelope, and through the phone I heard her say, “Sure. Just one?” Mission accomplished. Huzzah!

We can tell ourselves that the first woman he met was just having a bad day, but something tells me she has a lot of bad days. She tells herself it’s the job, or the horrible people she meets, or the city, or the traffic, or whatever else, but the truth is, she has mostly bad days and the second woman, in the same job, in the same city, in the same traffic, meeting the same people, probably has mostly good days.

More importantly, if the first woman was having a truly bad day, she could have turned it around for herself by doing something nice for someone who was being nice to her. Instead, she chose to flex her small amount of power and tell him to get lost. Who knows, maybe doing that made her day better, but I doubt it. Certainly not in the long run.

Hope you don’t have any encounters like that today. If you do, just remind yourself that life is not happy for a small person with a little power.


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4 thoughts on “Never Give a Small Person a Little Power

  • jadereyner

    Well said – and I am completely intrigued as to why you need the parking ticket envelope! In the UK we call people like that a “jobsworth” which basically means that they are flexing their power and stating that to do what you have asked them to do is more than their job is worth. Sometimes you come across them all of the time and although you recognise that it is them with the problem, it doesn’t half get you down sometimes!

    • speakhappiness

      Had to film a short bit with a girl getting a parking ticket. The envelopes here are so distinctive, it requires no further explanation once you see it. Came out really cute, so hopefully you’ll get to see it soon.

  • David Erickson

    You can’t live without running into people like that. I see it mostly in management. There will always be people who want to appear as if the have more power than they have and being mean to someone asking for something small makes them feel bigger. Sad that.

    I see you found your typo. In the email it says log run. Got a chuckle out of that.

    • speakhappiness

      Yeah, that typo broke my heart because sooooo many people only see these posts in email form, and once that goes out, it’s carved in stone. That leads to one of my other little sayings (that I use all the time, but often fail to remember in the moment):
      “Never rush when you’re in a hurry.”