The seat belt sign has been illuminated and I’m buckled in to my aisle seat. The mild turbulence is not so mild, and the flight attendant just poured me a styrofoam cup of coffee. The sugar goes in fine. Now I’m holding the little plastic creamer container over the cup, as the lady sitting 12 inches to my right looks on nervously. We both know from experience these little babies can explode at this altitude.
“You’re brave,” she said.
What she really meant to say is “Don’t point that loaded thing at me!”
My fingers found the tiny little piece of foil on the edge, and I grabbed just enough of it to pull. I aimed it in the general direction of the cup… like a bi-plane pilot finding a target in a dogfight. If I could pull slowly enough to let a tiny bit of air in, it would ease the pressure and I could open it without a mess.
Just as I was about to tear it, the plane lurched and the flight attendant backed her butt into my left elbow. The foil tears open and the creamer sprays across my grey plastic tray, completely missing the coffee cup. Luckily it missed the blue velour jogging suit on my fellow passenger as well. She offered her napkin for clean-up and I laughed at my awkwardness.
Have you ever tried to artfully resolve a pressurized conflict with another person, and still ended up with a big mess? Like that little creamer package, sometimes the pressure of an argument is too great to just leak out. Or you wait too long and some outside force initiates the explosion whether you want it to or not.
All you can really control is aiming your resolution in the right direction, which means making sure you are addressing the issue and not the person. Sometimes you’re going to get a splat, and sometimes you’re going to get the coffee you wanted. Either way, the pressure will be relieved.