I was out walking late last Saturday evening around the San Diego bay the night before a very early airport departure. About a month ago, I had taken a break from my nightly walks when I noticed they weren’t really keeping me in shape. But Friday, while I was in a car wash up in Seal Beach right before a client onsite, I heard a woman on a radio talk show who was saying that to stay healthy, you really only had to walk some every day. She indicated that being in shape was a different matter, but in terms of overall health, walking was pretty much enough and other exercise didn’t add much more health benefit. She was citing studies, had a PhD, and was a health reporter for the New York Times or some such reputable news source.
So it was my first night back walking. As I was passing a small public park, which was mainly a children’s park, I passed a group of six twenty-somethings who were rather drunk. They were talking loudly and kept mentioning to each other that they were going to go to the other side of the bay on the boat and party over there. The second time they mentioned the boat, I was almost sure they meant the nightly paddle boat cruise that went across the bay. The paddle boat cruise did not land anywhere near the children’s park. I kept walking, but before I got too far, I turned around and walked back to where they were. I asked them if they were waiting for the party boat, and pointed to one of the lit boats that was far away in the bay. They said they were. I told them the boat landed about a mile from there, over by the Catamaran Hotel, and pointed to the landing dock. The group talked back and forth, “What? Not here? Why did the taxi guy drop us here? Did you tip him?” Then they asked me if I was sure. I asked them if they saw a dock anywhere near, because a boat that big does not land except at a dock. I told them again where the boat landed, and then went back to my walk, which was in the direction of the Catamaran Hotel. One of the women fell on her knees while stepping down from the grass of the park to the cement of the bayside walk. They walked behind me at a comfortable distance. After a couple of minutes, one of the guys started to heckle me. He said loudly to his friends, “Could she have been more grumpy? Do you see a dock? Do you see a dock here? No. The boat lands over there.”
This struck me as incredibly funny because I was clearly acting like an unhealthy One. The caricature was very humorous. The big guy continued to heckle me every few minutes on the mile walk to the boat landing. I was amused and pretty grateful for his parody. It wasn’t anything personal; he was just being my Enneagram gage, pointing out what I didn’t notice about my energy while I was talking to them back at the children’s park. Between the big guy’s parodies of me, off and on, I reminded myself not to correct other people too much, and to notice that I was doing it sometimes when I didn’t even realize I was, like had just happened.
The next morning, I left for the airport. Soon I boarded the plane and sat down in an aisle seat. The man across the aisle from me looked very Type Three. He had on new sneakers – grey with snazzy bright orange accenting. He was wearing khaki pants and an orange polo that complimented his sneakers. His hair was newscaster perfect. He had a great tan. He definitely looked the part.
While I was eating my steel-cut granola from Jamba Juice (my San Diego airport heroes), he was eating a banana. The next thing I knew, his banana peel was lying on the airplane floor underneath his nice sneakers. The banana peel was yellow-side up, and every once and awhile, he moved his sneakers back and forth and unintentionally mashed the inside of the banana peel into the airplane carpet. How gross! Eew. I tried to ignore his correct people of late. I work as a healthcare quality auditor, and I travel around the country a few months out of the year doing audits. It really feeds my drive to reform
people outside of work when I get in the mode, which a few continuous months of work travel almost always does for me. After about twenty minutes, I got up to purchase some peanut M&Ms at the back of the plane. Before the steel-cut oatmeal, when I ordered my two-ounce wheat grass, they juiced too much and offered me almost four ounces. Wheat grass can make people feel sick to their stomach if they aren’t used to it. I’d been drinking it before a lot of flights that month, but the four ounces was over my limit with how little sleep I’d been getting. I was not feeling well and needed some calorie ballast in my stomach. When I got back to my seat with the peanut M&Ms, the Three had put a magazine insert card over the banana peel and had pushed the banana peel back under his seat as far as he could.
The intentionality of the banana peel dumping was really bothering me. It was not only that the man did it, but also that he thought he had the right to make us all sit there next to his oozing, unsightly trash for a six-hour flight. The man had his eyes closed as I sat back down. I really wanted to see his face while he wasn’t napping, because I couldn’t understand how a Type Three could ever do something so disgusting in public. The orange color on his sneakers and polo shirt was definitely Sevenish, come to think of it. I decided he was probably a Seven and I just hadn’t seen his morning enthusiasm because we boarded the flight so early. I still really wished I could see his face while it was animated to be sure of his type.
While the litterer napped, I administered talk therapy to myself, in my continuing attempt to stop myself from correcting the man about the banana peel. I told myself that I often get messy via my Nine wing. Case in point: back at home, there were three half-unpacked suitcases on my kitchen floor. I also had multiple packs of melted gummy bears in that same kitchen. Apparently, gummy bears melt into one solid mass at the following travel destinations if left in the trunk of the car all day during spring: Albuquerque, Gainesville, Austin, and Roanoke. (I have now stopped travelling with gummy bears.)
I told myself over and over that I was sure I’d made worse messes. But the thing of it was, I would never grind a banana peel into any carpet intentionally, even if I wasn’t in public. That was just taking things too far. I sat in my seat coaching myself to let my impulse to correct the man about the banana peel dissolve rather than to act on it. I told myself not to let my Type One own me. One of my old teachers, Cheri Huber, says that addictions can be broken just by watching and studying them and not reacting to the addiction’s impulses. I told myself to just notice my impulses but not to act on them by correcting the litterer.
unsightly banana peel. I was really wanting to tell him he dropped it, but I remembered that I was primed to
Then I told myself to concentrate on something else. So much of plane travel is knowing how to focus your attention. I actually fly more hours during my travel season that I spend at client sites. I can spend eight hours flying each way, and just six hours onsite. My main solution for spending my time well while flying is to read in a foreign language. I have two Kindles. I load Spanish versions of books onto one of them and English versions onto the other. I consult the English version of the book whenever I can’t decipher the Spanish. The system works best with translations where the translation is word-for-word, and not loose. Reading in a foreign language really slows you down when you aren’t bilingual, so it works very well for hours of entertainment.
Much more interesting than the banana peel across the aisle from me was Alice in Wonderland in Spanish on my Kindle (Alicia en el País de las Maravillas.) But every time the beverage cart would come around or an overhead announcement would cause me to look up from reading, there was that guy’s banana peel again. I knew I was noticing the banana peel more than I would on a good day because I was getting road weary and losing my stamina. His banana peel was becoming my Enneagram banana peel. I kept telling myself to not take on the man and his banana peel, despite itching to correct him.
But eventually, I did it anyway. Grumpy, critical, whatever – I stuck with my Enneagram type and picked up the banana peel, but I didn’t correct the Seven about having dropped it on purpose. As the flight was concluding and we were asked to dispose of any remaining items, I got out of my seat and started to pick up his banana peel. I was going to throw it away myself at the back of the plane (to be as low key as possible about cleaning up the other passenger’s mess) but a flight attendant got to where I was quite quickly and was blocking the aisle pathway. The flight attendant remained there, one row away, because I was also blocking the aisle for him, since I was bending down picking up the banana peel. I found myself standing up tall, like a rigid statue, holding the banana peel up in the air away from me, with a grimace on my face. I said, “This banana peel definitely needs thrown away.” I didn’t really say this directly to the flight attendant, because I meant it to the man who dropped it, but I was facing the flight attendant as I made my statement. The flight attendant was holding a stack of folded, read newspapers. He outstretched the pile to me to place the banana peel on. I lowered the banana peel onto his stack of newspapers and thanked him before sitting back down.
I guess it depends on your system of thought whether I should have left the banana peel where it was lying or not. I suppose this is my system of thought on the matter: if you want to fit the Type Seven litterer inside the global Enneagram machine, I’m like one of his hands. He dropped the banana peel with his Seven hand and I picked it up his other One hand. I guess that’s a Type Nine view of what the Enneagram means. Playing the scenario out within this belief system, you could also say that I dropped, or the Enneagram dropped, the banana peel with my Seven hand initially, before I picked it back up with my One hand. Whichever hand dropped it, the One hand is always going to pick it back up (if a Six doesn’t get to it first, perhaps.) That’s just the Tao of it, as far as I can tell.
Katharine Rawls is an Enneagram writer and Accredited IEA teacher since 2009. She would love to hear from you at [email protected]