It’s funny how some memories stick.
Although this exchange happened almost a year go, I still remember it quite vividly. At the time I was part of a Bollywood dance group in San Francisco, and we were gearing up for our final performance.
After months of dedicated practice, we would be dancing on stage. Back in college, I was the choreographer for a Bollywood dance group, and I had wanted to pick up dancing again for a number of years.
Life got in the way until I decided that it shouldn’t.
Our dress rehearsal was scheduled on a weekday evening, and the venue was in a different city. Many SF residents opt to not have a car because both parking and driving can be such a nuisance. In this case, however, public transportation would have been a nightmare to navigate.
So, I rented a car for that evening. As requests for rides began to pour in the dance group’s Whatsapp, I let people know how many seats were available in the rental car. My only ask was that people meet me at my apartment in Nob Hill, which is a central location. This way, the car could stay parked in the rare parking space, and we could take off right after work.
One of the women in my group who asked to hitch a ride was someone I had never even exchanged a sentence with. When I let her know my address, she sent me another message asking me if I would instead pick her up at her apartment in downtown San Francisco.
She wanted me to drive into the nightmare that is rush hour traffic, and she didn’t even know me.
I should have expected as much.
Obligatory politeness is considered a virtue in South Asian communities. Saying “no” is frowned upon. It makes a person look selfish. Our relationships are often built upon communal codependence.
This behavior is deeply unhealthy and disrespectful of others’ time and resources. No one should feel that their social standing depends on giving limitlessly.
I was livid. I had offered what I could do: drive a few members of the group there and back. It was in no way appropriate for a stranger to ask me to waste my time so she could avoid the easy trek from downtown to Nob Hill.
San Francisco is not a large city. In fact, it is notably small, and walking or hopping on a bus are often much easier ways to get around than driving. Especially during the time frame when everyone is trying to commute back home.
I believe she knew this. I also believe she didn’t really care.
Often, it is in these relatively small events that we learn to exercise our boundaries.
Thoughtlessness is my pet peeve.
When we returned to San Francisco at night, I would have insisted that we drop her off at her apartment for safety reasons. That level of care and concern makes perfects sense to me.
We were leaving during broad daylight.
This “asking for too much” behavior in my community is something I have dealt with my whole life. Around that time, I had hit the topmost limit of my patience with this kind of behavior.
After writing drafts of exactly what I wanted to say to her, I decided to keep it short and to the point. I said no, and I let her know that her ask was disrespectful of my time.
When she responded, she didn’t apologize for the ridiculous request she made to a stranger. She did not come from any place of understanding. Instead, she said a lighthearted, “Oh, it’s alright. I’ll figure something else out.”
I lost the basic level of respect I had for this person. It had become quickly apparent that she had some user tendencies.
Emotionally rich experiences have a lot to teach us.
This isn’t just true for events that make us feel uplifted and positive. My biggest takeaway from this exchange was that it is especially important for a helper to know and enforce their boundaries.
During our rehearsal, the woman tried to start more drama with me. It took a great deal of self-control for me to walk away from the situation without escalating it.
Her behavior made me even more glad that I didn’t go out of my way for her, and the lesson she taught me will absolutely help me navigate future relationships.
Often, it is in these relatively small events that we learn to exercise our boundaries. These everyday experiences can teach us a lot about human behavior.
What we have to do is pay attention.
Users will continue to deplete you of your time, financial resources, social resources, and whatever else they can get their hands on.
They are not grateful. They do not care.
In fact, they might even demean you because they feel you have inconvenienced them by not giving them what they wanted. It’s up to you to make sure you don’t let people take advantage of your kindness.
To do that, learning how to say a firm “no” is a must.