A while back, my son and I found ourselves caught in a holiday weekend crush of shoppers at Meijer. Who knew that so many people think Meijer is the place to be on a Memorial Day weekend? Every check-out was open, but lines were still long. People were trolling for the shortest line but they were all pretty much the same – seemingly standing still and going nowhere.
Cranky kids were whining and couples were counting the items in their carts, trying to determine if it would be better to split up and go through the 15 item or less express lanes. One line over from us, a woman had opened up a bag of chips or crackers from her cart. The energy in the room was not good. A large impatient man behind the chip eating lady seemed to be growling.
My son and I stood quietly beside our cart, taking it all in. Someone further down the way shouted, “What is taking so long!” My son turned and gave me an anxious look. “Somebody’s gonna blow,” I said to him under my breath.
Suddenly the woman with the chips whirled around and said to the growly man, “Have you tried these? They’re delicious!”
Grumpy man paused for only a moment and then reached in the bag withdrawing a handful of the tasty snack. “Thanks,” he said as he started to munch. And the whole atmosphere around us changed. People started chatting about why the lines were so long and what they had planned for the weekend. Others invited those with smaller orders to move ahead. We watched the effect ripple through the lines to people who were far enough away to not even have heard the exchange of the chip lady and the now not grumpy man.
During my college years, I waited tables at a Big Boy restaurant, usually working in the evenings. One Sunday I was scheduled to work the morning shift. Two older women sat at a table adjacent to my regular section. I became aware that nobody seemed to be checking in with them. They sat unattended too long and began to look around restlessly. Back in the kitchen, I checked the seating schedule to see who was supposed to be their server. Turns out the morning table configuration was different than that in the evening and it was supposed to be me!
Needless to say, I didn’t want to approach this table that was my responsibility and was already having a less than ideal experience. On the next pass through my section, I stopped at their table, glanced around the restaurant and addressing the women I said, “It doesn’t look like anybody has been here yet.” When one of the women testily agreed, I said, “Well let me just take your order for you if you’re ready.” Although I didn’t say anything to them that wasn’t true, they got the impression that I was not their server and I had swooped in and saved the day. I gave them great service, they were grateful and I was relieved.
When the unexpected happens, do you roll with it, or does it throw off your whole day? When a storm blows through and you lose power at home, are you the person that frets about the food in the freezer, bemoans the loss of TV and internet, constantly checking in with your energy company to see how much longer the shortage is expected to last? I try to be the person that is excited about the opportunity to unplug from electronics, light candles and find a flashlight to read my book. If it’s cold and no heat is available, I love to drag a mattress and piles of blankets and pillows into the living room for a giant slumber party. I try to be that person always. I am that person sometimes.
Fifteen years or so ago, my sister and I were introduced to www.audible.com and began listening to books during our respective workday commutes. An interesting book during an arduous drive makes all the difference. My sister promoted audio books to everyone she knew. “I love them. Getting stuck in traffic is a pleasure.” It was certainly a game changer.
My mom used to say if you’re looking for something to be unhappy about, you’ll find it. She also used to say nothing good happens after midnight – usually when I was on my way out on a Friday night. That wasn’t necessarily true, but that’s a story for another time. So I try to look for the good, pack my patience, and remember to keep things in perspective. And when all else fails, there are always snacks.