Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Find a bucket of cold water (more on that coming). Good advice for those times when the anger demon lurking in all of us decides to stretch its legs.
Believe me, Iím acquainted with that demon.
Case in point.
It had been a bad week. One of those where nothing at work went right. One of those where unexpected bills kept arriving from unexpected sources. One of those where some really tough family problems put in an appearance. One of those where, if it was bad, it happened.
Late in that week, I was out working in the yard. Monty, our dog, was with me and was busy guarding our property from birds, squirrels, cats, shadows, wind, random noises, and whatever else he could think of to chase.
While so engaged, he tripped me.
"Meltdown" would be a polite description for what happened next. Fortunately, Monty saw what was coming and headed for the hills before I launched into what was a truly remarkable performance of cussing, arm waving, and heaving whatever tool was at hand.
After a bit, the (somewhat) rational part of my brain fought through the anger and snapped me to attention by saying, "Whoa there, Lar. All of this because your dog tripped you? Get a grip, son. And, by the way, just where the heck did you learn that last phrase?"
Iíd calmed down a bit, but I knew that I was still pretty fired up so I did something a good friend once mentioned to me.
She works with individuals who spend too much time (as she puts it) "in orbit" and actually suggested doing this before an explosion, but I figured it might still help. The theory I was working under was "better late than never."
I saw that Montyís water bucket was full of water. Really cold water. So I went over and stuck my head into it until I needed to come up for air.
I donít know the science behind this, but it worked. It brought me back to nearly normal. Luckily, no one else was home at the time and this little incident wasnít as embarrassing as it could have been. I still, however, havenít explained the broken hedge trimmer to my wife.
All of which is my way of getting into what recently happened with Michael Richards Ė "Kramer" of "Seinfeld" fame.
Unless youíve been gathering rock samples on the dark side of the moon for the past week or so, youíre probably aware of the fact that Mr. Richards was doing a comedy routine in L.A. when several hecklers in the audience captured his undivided attention.
Unfortunately for the hecklers, Mr. Richards basically "lost it." Unfortunately for Mr. Richards, his racially explosive and expletive-filled tirade was caught Ė as they say Ė on film.
I watched the video of this episode on one of the cable channels. In confrontational situations, even public figures can - at times - get away with a flash of anger and some pretty harsh language. Most everyone understands the feelings involved, has had a similar experience, and will give you a pass.
What you canít do, however, is launch into a minutes-long tirade. Most especially, you canít launch such a tirade at a group of black men and liberally lace it with expletives and the "N-word." And thatís if youíre an anonymous individual in an out of the way encounter. If you do something like this in public and youíre a celebrity, your world is about to change Ė and not for the better.
Is Mr. Richards a racist? I donít know. I donít have a window into his soul and the only person who does has already let us know heís keeping score. Heís also mentioned that he plans a day of reckoning for us all. I think, therefore, that Iíll leave that call to him.
What I do know is that Mr. Richards, in the course of "losing it," lashed out with about absolutely the worst things he could possibly say. For that heíll, rightfully, pay a very high price.
As for any lessons to be learned, the best I can come up with is that there are times when our demons will get out. Unfortunately, this wonít always happen in places where the only lasting damage will be to a hedge trimmer.
Therefore, when you feel an explosion coming on, remember: Count to 10. Take a deep breath. And, if you have to, find a bucket of water and give it a try.