Times when, against all odds, you realized that you were the Bad Guy

It’s a commonplace that most “bad guys” - from Adolf Hitler on down to the asshole in the next cubicle - believe that they are right are in their behavior. That they are, in fact, the good guys.

When’s a time that you have gone from being totally sure that you were acting a-okay in a situation to the sudden realization that, “Crap - I’m the bad guy!”? What was the situation and what sparked the realization?

Just few weeks ago.

Showed up at my corporate workplace at my typical early time. I’m usually the guy who turns the lights on for our floor (6th floor of a 7 story office building. To get in our door form the elevator lobby, you have to swipe a security badge. So, imagine my surprise when I got glimpse of a person going around a corner at the far end of the hallway INSIDE the secured area. This was about a 2 second look at someone about 40 feet away in a hallway where the fluorescent lights were just coming on. The immediate impression I had was of a tallish African-American woman in a medium long coat.

About an hour later, I (and another co-worker) observed someone acting suspiciously in the same general area. This person had moved a chair into a somewhat hidden alcove/corner and seemed to be making an effort to hide themselves. From where we were it appeared to be an African-American woman in a medium long coat. We both agreed that her BEHAVIOR was suspicious, and given a string of recent laptop thefts in our office, we called security to investigate.

Turns out the woman I saw when I turned on the lights was a member of our security staff making her rounds. She is an African-American woman, and was wearing a coat. The person semi-hiding nearby was a different African-American woman who is an employee in another department, which is located on another floor. She says she was seeking a quiet place to relax for a few minutes before reporting officially for work.

I, and my co-worker, instantly seemed like the stereotypical white guys who could not differentiate between two women with some similarities. You know, “they all look the same to you, right?” Not at all the case, but that was the impression that was left.


Now that I’m a parent, this kind of thing happens regularly. The basic problem is me forgetting that each day my kid is more mature than he was the day before. Things I know he can’t do, suddenly he can, and I look like a jerk for the assumption. Correction: Am a jerk.

Case in point, I got mad at him because he forgot his homework. He swore that he didn’t have any, but I had the feeling he was covering and I went with it, saying how there would have to start being consequences bla bla bla. He calmly says “dad, wait, just let me show you my planner” and sure enough: There in nice clear handwriting, “NO HOMEWORK”.

He didn’t even get mad at me.

Every time I lose my temper. (Sigh… Too often…)

(“But everyone else does it too…”)

Didn’t Robert McNamara, an architect of the Viet Nam War, later change his mind and denounce the war (long after the fact), including his own role in it?

I think you have to differentiate between “being the Bad Guy” and making an honest mistake. Nobody’s omniscient, and to expect yourself to be, is itself wrong.

I’ve got too many examples to list, but honestly I feel like I’m unintentionally the Bad Guy (or Bad Girl) quite a lot as a stepmom / second wife.

There are just so many delicate lines that it’s easy to cross, or that I don’t realize are there until I step over them. Okay, one example: I take Stepdaughter #2, along with one of my daughters (blended fam of 5) to the mall the day after Christmas a few years ago. Stepdaughter #2 has a Jan. 11 birthday and keeps finding fabulous stuff on sale. I suggested to her - without texting her dad first - that we could buy her some of those items for her birthday. She was absolutely delighted, and I did just that.

When I got home with both daughters and future birthday presents, and explained same to my husband, he blew his stack: “You’ve bought her her birthday presents? Now I can’t! Now you’ve taken that away from me!” I honestly had absolutely no intention of depriving him of anything, usurping parental rights, etc. To me, it was a practical way to get Stepdaughter #2 some great stuff she wanted on sale for her birthday. But I absolutely did cross a line that I didn’t even realize was there. :frowning: Oh, and for the record, I felt absolutely awful afterward.

I am not a parent nor am I part of a blended family, but I don’t understand what you did wrong Grrlbrarian. I can see how disciplining a step child could cross a line, but why would you buying her presents have prevented her father from doing so as well?

I am a step-mom and that reaction is nuts.

That sounds like a good life lesson about record-keeping. You don’t just keep records for their own sake – you keep records because they help you. In the absence of the note in the planner, the kid might still not have homework, but he would still have an argument.

    I don't think you were wrong. I was a step dad myself and my wife was ticklled when she saw me buy a present or take my stepdaughter out to breakfast. It took stress off her to see us building a relationship. My stepdaugher is almost 50 now and we are still very close.

2 weeks ago, Costco parking lot. I am waiting behind a car who is waiting for someone else to back out so she can park. By waiting I am buying some time hoping someone further down shows up in the meantime. I am at the far end of the begaining of the parking row.

    A car goes past me and someone shows up to move their car at the same time. He gets the parking spot and I explode, this is my first road rage incident and I am 65. One the confrntation got well under way I realized that their were two people moving their cars ahead and that I really was stalling blocking the lane. He actually took the further down of the two and left me the closer one. 

   As I started cooling down he started becomming a little more verbaly aggressive nothing really too bad maybe more assertive woul d be a better word. I could see it was on the verge of quickly escallating and decided I was really in the wrong and would be happy just to let him lip off a bit and then walk away. This is what I did. I think my girlfriend thinks I chickened out so it made me look double bad. I decided just to feel a little humilated for a few days and take my lesson.

I left a classical music board a couple of days ago when I realized that I had posted a message that was basically an ad hominem attack of another member.

Now, this guy, let’s call him A, is difficult. He admits that he doesn’t know anything about music theory. He’s basically an amateur enthusiast. There’s absloutely nothing wrong with that, of course. A lot of other members are like him. The problem however, is that he’s extremely judgmental about almost everything. He is on records as describing some well-established genres as “deplorable” and “minor”. According to him, contemporary classical music as a whole is bullshit. He has described the music of some major composers as “flat” and “uninteresting”. Classical traditions from other parts of the world (Chinese, Arabic, Indian)? He has no interest in any of that. Non-classical Western music? Brainwashing for feeble-minded, manipulated people. That includes jazz, rock, rap, folk. John Coltrane = Miley Cyrus. He’s also admiited that he started litening to classical music because that was what intelligent people listened to.

When asked to elaborate, he says that he doesn’t need to, because these are “established facts” and “it’s been proven”. When asked whether he has ever listened to any of that he answers that he soldiered through a couple of extracts on youtube and that that’s enough for him to have a definitive opinion. He never has the time to listen to some suggested pieces (how convenient…).

Well, let’s say that his exchanges with many other members, including me, have been very tense.

A couple a years ago, I was on the verge of calling him “racist” regarding some comments he had made about non-Western music traditions. I didn’t say the word but my thinking was clear enough for other members to defend him. I had indeed crossed a line: he hadn’t said anything that was racist, I interpreted his reasoning as racist.

After that incident, I decided to ignore him as best as I could. It worked for some time. I was still annoyed by some of his silly judgments but I refrained from commenting or took great care to contradict him in a constructive manner. Until last Friday. He was at it again, expressing shock at B’s tastes (a brilliant young man who graduated from CNSMDP, France’s elite college of music and who also happens to be the board’s founder) because B had ranked some works by Ligeti above that of composers that he liked (including some pretty minor ones). There was quite a bit of discussion between them with B giving reasonable musical arguments for his opinion and A basically saying that Ligeti’s works were entirely devoid of artistic merit. They were “nothing”.

And that’s where I made a mistake. I said something like: "Look B. Just repeat what A says and you’ll end up believing it. He’s always right. He knows everything there is to know about music. " Then I made a list of some composers that A likes, with very disparaging comments. I then listed some of the outrageous things he’d said over the years. I ended with an very sarcastic “A is a real connoisseur.”

Less than 5 minutes later, I got a private message from B saying that I was not contributing anything constructive and that what I had done was, quite simply, a personal attack on A and an attempt to ridicule him in public.

When I cooled off, I realize that what B had said was right. In spite of all the stupid things that A says all the time, he has never mocked another member’s tastes. I have. Since I don’t want to be caught up in another incident like this, I’ve decided to “ban myself”.

I honestly felt that a clerk has short-changed me, and I confronted him, full of righteous indignation and demanded the additional $5 he owed me, and confused, he handed me the money, and I and my wife left.

On the way home, my wife, said, “I would never have thought you capable of doing such a thing”, and I questioned her, and she explained, showing me the register tape, where I was wrong.

I was appalled for two reasons, both that I had done something wrong, and my wife had evidenced shame at my action, and I apologized to her, explaining that I thought I was right,
and then I immediately went back to the store, returned the money and apologized to the clerk, and told him I would understand if he asked me to never come to his store again.

He thanked me for coming back, and said I would always be welcome there – I was really ashamed (still am) for what I did . . .


Also, mistaken identity. Oddly enough, two weeks back at work I saw someone who looked like they shouldn’t be where they were too: white guy in a suit on a near-empty floor hanging around a bathroom.
I reported it to security and… found out that he was the new security guy too.


Went to a movie a few years with my wife and kid on opening night. Part way through the projector died or whatever and we were told that since the later shows were already sold out, we’d be given vouchers for a showing on another day. I was pissed because the whole point of seeing it opening night was to see it opening night and the IMAX theater was an inconvenient distance from the house, etc. What started as a reasonable amount of annoyance turned into me giving the employee shit just because I was angry. Then my kid said “Dad, it’s okay, it’s not that big a deal” and I realized I was being That Guy. Pretty sure I apologized and stuff but what I mainly remember from it was that I was being a real dick.

It’s been a few years, so I can’t say for sure, but I might have been spent close to, or at, the limit for what we normally spent on birthday gifts for our kids. (I honestly don’t remember how close I was, just his reaction generally.)

Thanks for the input also, IvoryTowerDenizen and HoneyBadgerDC. Yeah, my husband did have options: we could have spent more on Stepdaughter #2 that year, or he could have returned the gifts and bought different ones, or myriad possibilities, really. That wasn’t his choice at the time, and he implemented a rule going forward that I wasn’t allowed to buy his kids birthday or Christmas presents whatsoever - only he would. I’ve followed it, though I remain a little puzzled why it’s such a hot-button issue for him.

Generally speaking, I think any remarriage and especially step-parent situation can land you, unintentionally, into acting the role of That Guy or That Girl for your spouse, especially if you’re not good about (and we weren’t) clarifying the boundaries ahead of time.