I’ve experienced several recently. The first I would say has been in the customer service arena. Being a tattooer we see things that majority of people don’t. We are conscious and aware of the trends that be. Visiting a shop with high traffic gives way to seeing those trends at an exponential rate. An example is the ever meaningless tribal tattoos; jagged, pointy, black designs that America has grown very fond of starting in the 80’s. These designs stem from places like Hawaii, and many of the islands in Polynesia; hence the Polynesian style of tattooing that is popular from time to time. The western twists on these tattoos don’t really mean anything at all, nothing like the history of the Polynesians. The Polynesians didn’t have a form of writing so they used art. Their tattoos represented hierarchy, family lineage, sexuality, and overall rank within the tribe. Each symbol and image represented something else. As most western society habits go, we watered the ideas down.
The tribal tattoo designs we see as Americans see today aren’t anything. They have no language and no meaning. Ninety-nine times out of hundred we get, “How much for a tribal? I want it on my shoulder coming down my arm, and I want it to possibly go towards my back, and down my side. How much would something like that cost?” There are those who ask for Polynesian, and majority of those people despite craving design, have no idea what the symbols mean. The pointy, black design our country has come to love so much became popular in the 80’s, and became even more popular in the 90’s. Tribal arm bands plagued the minds of tattooers everywhere. This is when the hate grew for the tribal trend. Now, you might ask, “Adam, you weren’t tattooing in the 80’s or 90’s, why do you hate the tribal tattoo?” I don’t hate the tribal tattoo; I hold contempt for the lack of imagination, creativity, origination, and meaning.
A couple walks into the shop and first the gentleman shows me a tribal design that he wants, and then say, “Hey, 1995 called, they want their tattoo back!” The man, his wife, the counter girl, and I all have a laugh. I then say, “No, seriously, I’m just kidding. Where do you want this tattoo?” He says the back of his shoulder and he wants some symbols in it for something he did that he felt accomplished for. I express excitement for the idea, and even congratulate him on his achievement. He smiled, said thank you, and I told him that I would normally do it for $150, but if he wanted to get done right away I would do for $100. He shook his head and said awesome. Then his wife showed me a similar design and I laughed and said, “Oh no, not you too! Hahaha! I kid, I kid.” We discussed her tattoo and I gave her the same quote. They seemed pleased and we shook hands and they said they would come back for the deposits.
Little did I know that I had actually offended them a little; they went to another shop to discuss the tattoos. Word got back to me that this couple wasn’t happy with the way they were treated. This births many scenarios. One scenario being the biggest; clients are thoroughly upset with my joking and they were super offended. Went to the other shop, through a huge fit and demanded that their tattoos be compensated for such damage, thus coming back on me as a total, complete, rude, disrespectful piece of shit. Another scenario being; that they were mildly offended, mentioned our conversation in regular conversation, and the tattooer handling them expressed concern to the appropriate parties. One other scenario being this; client wasn’t upset, and used me to try get a better deal on the tattoo by acting hurt and offended, and the tattooer blew it way out of proportion to make me look bad out of personal reasons. Any of these scenarios could’ve happened in any arrangement, and you know what the biggest kicker to all these different scenarios is? None of it could’ve happened if I wasn’t being a jokester. Sure my intent was to cause laughter, and express how the tribal tattoo is played out in America, but nonetheless, the client was attached to feelings that are attached to the design. Did they design the tattoos themselves? No, they were found on the internet. Despite me be detached from the designs, the potential client was not. Their laughter was fake, they smiles were fake, the handshakes and words were all fake. I was hurtful, and they were liars, which later rolled back on top of me.
I learned to not joke around with clients in a way that may be hurtful to them. That’s Buddhism 101 right there. I also learned that other shops are not to be trusted, but if I’m not doing anything to fuck up my job, then there’s nothing to roll back on me. The game starts with me. Other shops are not to be trusted, clients are not to be trusted, so best be on your best behavior for anyone involved, and may be potentially involved. I wasn’t living kindness that evening, and I will do better in the future.
That was a small spike to the brain that riled me up pretty bad for a few days, and will probably linger in my brain popping its pointy little head out from time to time. This other tale is much more tragic, and offensive.
I am driving down the road, mid-afternoon, it was around 80 some odd degrees, and the interstate was bustling like it normally does. I used to be an offensive driver. Not offensive as in causing unpleasant feelings, but as in the opposite of defensive. I normally drive in the passing lane, express physically that I need the person in front of me that they need to move so I can get by, and when they don’t I would get frustrated. Since acquiring a street styled motorcycle, I have tried to switch over my techniques. You can’t be an aggressive driver on a motorcycle. You drive like an asshole on a motorcycle, you’ll get yourself killed. Now trying to be conscious, I brought my motorcycle driving techniques over to the car side of driving. I maintain at least a car, preferably two car’s length between me and the vehicle in front of me, and attempt to use my cruise control at all possible. If I keep some distance between me and the car in front of me, with cruise control on, then I allow myself enough response time to react, and give the leading car some adjustment room if need be without worrying if I’m going to rape his rear end.
My “road frustration” has decreased considerably since I’ve been using these techniques on a regular basis. On this sunny day, a car decided to challenge my Zen like nature. I had synced up with the car in front of me some 30 yards apart. I figure, there’s no point in rushing to get behind this guy, so I dialed in my cruise control where I was. We were doing just less than 80 miles an hour, when the speed limit is 75. A silver Jeep begins to squeeze the gap on my car. For miles this car kept getting close, falling back, getting close, and falling back. I made the joke to my girlfriend that the person behind me must have a crush on me, and she asked why. I said that they keep trying to get closer and closer to me. After some time, a good ten plus minutes had gone by, and a very large gap to my right had opened up and the girl passed us giving us the biggest mean mug face I think I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe it. She speeded off like her grandma was dying in the next 30 seconds and she had to get there. I laughed, and I supposed I felt attacked. I sped up and caught up to her and got behind her. I rode her close for a bit just to say, “Hey, I bet you don’t appreciate it either do you?” And then I backed off. When she had changed lanes, I sped up, she brake checked the shit out of me and when I came next to her she flipped me off, screamed, and we waved and smiled at her, at which point she made some ugly faces to mock us in return.
I was more or less entertained by the whole thing, but as time passed I felt really bad. I had let this person’s behavior alter my own. I haven’t had a ticket in many, many years, trying to drive more safely, with a Zen attitude, and here I go acting a fool. I lowered myself to her level, and let her itch under my skin. I supposed I got a little irritated; otherwise I wouldn’t have been trying to show what it feels like. I should’ve changed lanes, let her be the fool and pass, and then been on my way. I guess I’m normally the guy squeezing people’s butts so I didn’t know what to do. It really bums me out that I let someone get to me like that and affect my behavior. The road at 80 miles an hour is no place to be rude, and especially no place to teach someone else how to be respectful of others.
With a Buddhist perspective, I should’ve let her pass, not provoke her karma and understand it’s her karmic fruits she’ll have to eat. When someone is acting a fool, that’s bad karma, and the negative effects are her karmic fruits. If I was to remove myself from that scenario with kindness, then my fruits would’ve tasted much sweeter. Instead, my mind is haunted by my actions, and my fruits are bitter. Both the situation with the tribal clients, and the silver Jeep lady, even though they were varying degrees of hurtfulness, the fruits are bitter, and rotten. Unkindness is unkindness, no matter how you slice it.
We all should be living a life of loving-kindness. Having the consciousness, and being aware of our fellow man. As a person who practices the Middle Way, I must be aware that despite my understanding of attachment, un-attachment, and detachment, the majority does not. The clients had felt some love and attachment towards the meanings of their design, despite it being nothing but a Google image, and who knows, maybe the lady in the Jeep’s grandmother was dying and needed to get by, I don’t know. Practicing a Zen mind means, people will behave the way they need to behave, have acceptance, compassion, empathy, and understanding of other’s feelings, and if it means doing a tattoo that means nothing to you, or getting the fuck out the way of the aggressive driver, then do so with loving-kindness, and appreciation. We must all work together to bring each other where we need to be.
Thank you for reading this if you have. I hope that my stories may help you along in your own journeys. I will do my best to try to post every week, or every other week with stories, insights, nonsense, art, and other stuff that you may enjoy. Much love, and peace,