Crazy People: 5 Ways to Deal with Them

5 ways to deal with irrational people | The Champagne Supernova

The famous wire hanger scene in Mommie Dearest.

Because of the adversarial nature of my career as an attorney, I’ve dealt with my share of irrational people.


Nut jobs.


However, one fairly recent event nearly put me over the edge.

As background, in the true spirit of a procrastinator, I usually wait until my gas tank light is on before I refuel.

It’s a game of chicken that I like to play with myself.

I also prefer not to get gas when my children are in the car because they get bored.

This event happened after a busy day at work. I was bombarded with preparing for hearings, client reporting deadlines, and responding to emails. My husband needed me to pick up the girls from daycare, and I happily obliged because, after a long day at the office, all I wanted to do was to spend quality time with them.

And drink a glass of wine.

As my gas light had been on for quite a while and it was “time,” I decided to pull into a gas station before picking up the girls.

It’s one of the busiest gas stations in town and, during certain times when it’s inundated with dawdlers like myself, the area around the pumps can be so cluttered with people waiting that it’s nearly impossible to pull in and out.

(Tampanians: it’s the Sunoco on the corner of MacDill and Platt. You know what I’m talking about!)

I pulled into the station at 5:45 pm (cutting it close to daycare ending at 6 pm) and was on the phone with one of my girlfriends.

Then I saw it. It was like manna from heaven. An open pump.

How can this be? I thought to myself.

I didn’t linger with questions. I pulled directly up to the pump.

All of a sudden, I saw a girl in front of me get out of her vehicle and start screaming.

She looked like a possessed demon. Red faced. Foamy spit coming out of her mouth.

Uh, I have to get off the phone, I told my friend, I think someone is yelling at me.

Apparently the girl was attempting to back her vehicle up to the gas pump when I arrived and, unknowingly, “stole” it from her.

Visibly upset, she was screaming, yelling obscenities, and giving me the middle finger.

Her reaction was crazy.

Under any ordinary situation, I would have profusely apologized, gotten back into my car, moved my vehicle, and waited for a different pump. That’s how I would want someone to treat me.

After all, this was an honest mistake.

However, this chick’s reaction set me internally on fire.

She must not have real problems if she’s going to get this worked up over a gas pump.

So I said nothing and, instead, judged her. She was wearing workout clothes, appeared to be in her early 20s, had her hair in a ponytail under a baseball cap, and was driving an early 2000s model Volkswagen Jetta.

I decided the likelihood of her packing heat was low.

So I completely ignored her, got out of my vehicle, and began pumping my gas. 

She became spastic.

I didn’t even look her in the eye or acknowledge in any way that she was losing her mind and making a scene in front of every bystander at the gas station.

I didn’t care. I kept pumping gas. I didn’t acknowledge her and pretended she didn’t exist.

And it made her come undone.

She was screaming. Pulled up to the back of my car and loudly called me a Fruity Banana.

Only it wasn’t a Fruity Banana.

The first word began with an F and the second word began with a B.

I continued ignoring her and stared at the digital numbers on the pump.




Hurry up! I thought.

Then, the worst thing that could have possibly happen happened.

The spot on the direct opposite side of my pump became available.

The girl pulled up next to me, got out of her car, and began pumping gas.

How can I avoid making eye contact?

She continued screaming and calling me names. Then, she got on her cellular phone and started talking about me to whoever was on the other end.

This ordeal was the longest three minutes of my life.

When my tank was full, I got into my car and moved onto more important things. My kids.

I don’t know who this girl is and wouldn’t recognize her in a line up. Maybe she was already having a bad day. Maybe she found out her boyfriend was cheating on her. Maybe she discovered she flunked college algebra. Maybe she learned her fitness class was over booked and so she got the boot.

Who knows?

Whoever this girl is, I just hope her proverbial tank has since been replenished with love, peace, and validation.

Because isn’t that what we all want?

To be loved? To be acknowledged? To feel like we matter, instead of being ignored?

I don’t regret how I handled the situation. Sometimes it’s better to do nothing. On my end, it was nearly impossible for me to bite my tongue. But I’m glad I did.

Unlike gas station girl, some irrational people cannot be avoided. Business associates. Members of churches and volunteer organizations. Relatives. People who run in your social circle. People who aren’t “going away.”

I often wonder the ideal way to handle these types of people.

I enlisted the help of some colleagues who are in the mental health profession, and they provided input on the five best ways to deal with the crazy people in your life.

Ignore. Don’t respond to someone who doesn’t deserve a response. You received a rude text? Ignore it. Someone sent you a rude email or asked you a rude question? Don’t acknowledge it. Do you routinely have to see someone who bugs you? Other than exchanging casual formalities (because you’re polite and that’s just what you do), ignore them.

Raise the White Flag. If someone acts crazy because you legitimately did something to them and you are genuinely sorry, then recognize your wrongdoing, address it with a sincere apology, and move on.

It takes guts to eat crow.

Most sane people will appreciate the apology and will provide a clean slate. Ideally, it will no longer be awkward to be around that person.

Set Boundaries. If you are constantly around someone who pushes your buttons, then recognize it and stay aware of your own emotions. As irrational people are often predictable and the pattern starts showing itself, determine ahead of time how you will deal with this person, and stick to your plan.

Don’t Take on Their Issues. I once worked with a guy who said he never let other people control the way he feels.

It stuck with me.

Sometimes it’s so easy to take on another person’s crappy attitude.

Guilty over here.

However, make up your mind that you are going to do your thing regardless of how they are doing theirs. Stick with it. If you feel their bad attitude wearing off on you, then start limiting the time you spend with them.

Offer Compassion. This one, my friends, is the hardest of the options. You never know what other people are going through, and, like the saying goes, “hurt people, hurt people.”

I went through four years of college detesting a girl we’ll call Ashley. She never “did” anything specifically to me, per se, but she was an overall nasty person. Hateful just to be hateful. She didn’t try to cultivate female friendships and had a reputation for being stuck up. Fast forward ten years later, Ashley and I reconnected professionally and, at a work conference, she confided to me that her mother was verbally and physically abusive when she was growing up, which caused her to project anger and toward others.

That explained everything.

And there you have it, my friends, five good ways to deal with crazy people. Do you have any pointers that I left off the list?






    22 Comments on Crazy People: 5 Ways to Deal with Them

    1. Melinda
      February 21, 2016 at 2:59 pm (6 years ago)

      Jennifer, major kudos to u for not reacting! “Fruity banana ” haha Love it!!

    2. Adrian
      January 27, 2016 at 7:51 pm (7 years ago)

      I had a fruity banana situation and when I came back she had keyed my car. They was sad because I had to look at it every day for like a year. Way over reacted – but hey – crazy lady.

    3. Roxy
      January 27, 2016 at 7:46 pm (7 years ago)

      I know this is terrible, but I was actually cracking up as I read your story. Who knows what she was REALLY going through that day, but I’m glad your children weren’t with you. I love love love your tips for dealing with people when they aren’t at their best!

    4. Amanda
      January 27, 2016 at 12:33 pm (7 years ago)

      Oh my! I am so glad your kids were not with you when this happened. I’m sure you would’ve been driving down the road on fumes if they were with you.
      Great tips! My favorite is offering compassion. When people show compassion, they are opening up a door of communication and respect!
      Maybe you should have hubby fill up your car next time it is low 😉

    5. JC Marc
      January 26, 2016 at 10:48 pm (7 years ago)

      At the risk of some potential nastiness coming my way, I’m going to go out on my own limb and say you actually broke the Golden Rule. We don’t know what anyone else is going through and you had no idea if you were the proverbial last straw that broke her camel’s back. Maybe it wasn’t a fight with a boyfriend, maybe it was a dying parent; a burned down house, a child killed on the battlefield.

      And you did not take the high road. Your actions screamed louder than her words. You just “in your face, back at ya Miss Banana” started pumping gas, and filling up your tank, no less. But also you waited until the last possible moment to gas your tank, then had to do so at the busiest time, so you actually created your own drama. And I agree, no one can control your emotions, but there are such things as catalysts. And other people can act as a catalyst.

      We have all been in situation where we really were unaware of another person, but when we are made aware, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just say sorry and back up a bit?

      And while I am sorry this woman responded to what you deem as innocuous behavior, she was in fact responding to your self absorbed behavior as well (YOUR client meetings, YOUR deadlines, YOUR emails, YOUR husband, YOUR children, YOUR own phone conversation, YOUR delight in pushing your gas mileage to the limits, etc.)

      We now live in a dog eat dog world where manners are replaced by rights. However, I’m old school where a touch of class shows a great amount of graciousness. Handling this situation with a touch of class would have meant backing up immediately, letting her get her gas first, mouthing “I’m sorry”, with a smile. That would have been handling the situation with class, with graciousness.

      • jenniferdaku
        January 27, 2016 at 8:35 am (7 years ago)

        I disagree with your assessment. You can internally offer compassion to someone without outwardly permitting them to bulldoze your personal boundaries. That said, I admire your chutzpah for offering a different perspective and for your obviously thoughtful comment. Cheers!

    6. Barbara from 21 Rosemary Lane
      January 26, 2016 at 4:19 pm (7 years ago)

      “Wonderful advice” said the woman in her early 50’s. That type of thing has happened to me once or twice and I wish I would have handled it by not responding at all. No reason for me to get myself all worked up over an honest mistake. It is hard not to take on others issue but I was once told “never let anyone live in your head without paying rent.” It sounds like this gal was already geared up for a fight. Good for you for taking the high road.

      • jenniferdaku
        January 26, 2016 at 5:03 pm (7 years ago)

        I’ve heard that saying before and it comes to mind when I’m ruminating over something someone has done to me. I can’t take credit for ALWAYS taking the high road, but I’m glad I did in this situation. Goodness knows how it otherwise would have transpired. Thanks Barbara! xo

    7. Rhiannon
      January 26, 2016 at 1:35 pm (7 years ago)

      There’s a crazy cat lady that hangs out at my usual gas station, she runs around putting flyers on cars about cats she has “for sale.” The first few times, I made the mistake of making eye contact with her and found myself cornered for 15 minutes. Then I got the brilliant idea to get back into my car and hit the panic button as she leaned over to put the flyer beneath my wiper. She doesn’t approach my car anymore. 😉

      • jenniferdaku
        January 26, 2016 at 5:05 pm (7 years ago)

        “Cats for sale”- are you KIDDING ME? Never seen anyone do that before… I laughed out loud regarding the panic button. Oh, to be a fly on that wall! xo

    8. Corina
      January 26, 2016 at 12:49 pm (7 years ago)

      OFFER COMPASSION is my fave because truly we rarely do know what others could be going through. You definitely do deserve kudos for not flying off the handle yourself and fighting fire with fire which we all know gets us no where especially after your long day… she could have and should have handled things differently not knowing your story but at the same time I find it difficult to judge her as I don’t know her story… I’m mean honestly how many times have I wanted to react just as she did after a bad day (thankfully never have though)? Who knows where she has been or what she has gone through and for whatever reason (thankfully) YOU just happened to be at the “right” place at the “right” time and maybe your “accidental” actions and your silence allowed her to vent and scream and let it all out. Unfortunately, and (I guess you could look at it) fortunately, you just happened to be the punching bag she must have really needed that day. Who knows, had you not come along and did what you did, her rage could have been much worse and to someone not quite as strong as you… sometimes we are the hammer and sometimes we are the wood and sometimes we are the nail but God always uses us to help build others while building ourselves. Thanks for the great article and reminder of compassion and allowing our circumstances to show us and grow us 😉

      • jenniferdaku
        January 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Corina. Being compassionate is so difficult, and seems impossible when someone is doing something directly to us. I pray to have the strength to always be reflective, even when my patience is being tested.

    9. kristen
      January 26, 2016 at 11:36 am (7 years ago)

      Okay so while this was very funny, I felt tense for you!! You are a much better woman than I am, I think I would have pumped like $1 in gas and peaced!

      • jenniferdaku
        January 26, 2016 at 5:08 pm (7 years ago)

        Trust me, it crossed my mind!

    10. swell conditions
      January 26, 2016 at 8:46 am (7 years ago)

      Bwah, I think SHE was the Fruity Banana – and I would have done the same as you!

      • jenniferdaku
        January 26, 2016 at 5:08 pm (7 years ago)

        I think nothing says “screw you” like being ignored. Cheers!

    11. Julie
      January 26, 2016 at 4:58 am (7 years ago)

      Oh my gosh, you handled that situation with class – not sure I would have been able to do the same. Good pointers, too, because whether we like it or not, we’ll all be in your situation and be called a Fruity Banana from time to time 🙂

    12. Daniela
      January 25, 2016 at 11:28 pm (7 years ago)

      Ok, I’m with you on the gas light habit. Why go before you have to?! Kudos to you on handling crazy gas station girl. Your story was hilariously written, but I’m sure, in the moment, it was horrifying. I totally shut down when I’m dealing with Fruity Bananas (but actually Fruity Bananas crazy people, not the other thing). Great advice 🙂

    13. Emily
      January 25, 2016 at 10:00 pm (7 years ago)

      All I could think about was the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes where a car of young girls cut off Kathy Bates in the parking lot to get her parking space. These pointers are all helpful and relate to why my mantra this year (inspired by you) is breathe.

    14. Nicole
      January 25, 2016 at 4:02 pm (7 years ago)

      These things are so difficult to obey, but it’s so good when you do. That girl sounds like a nut job who had nothing better in her life to worry about than gas pumps. I hope she does find some peace soon.

    15. Ali A
      January 25, 2016 at 2:24 pm (7 years ago)

      OH. MAH. GOD. I don’t know how on earth you were able to ignore her, but kudos to you. It was an honest mistake and if she acted like a rational human being about it I’m sure you would have let her go first. I’m convinced there are like, a thousand ways you can react to a situation so when people choose something like this it’s baffling. It’s funny how our posts kind of coincide today; as batshit insane as that girl was…you really just NEVER KNOW her ‘deal.’ So in the case your non-reaction was probably best!

    16. Sarah Eliza
      January 25, 2016 at 1:42 pm (7 years ago)


      I got stressed out just reading that. 😛

      Good advice about dealing with it though!

      Wishing you a fantastic and stress-crazy-people-free week. 😉