I haven’t found the time or inspiration to write much lately. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but let’s just blame it on the weird world we’re living in right now, shall we? My brain and my spirit have apparently been stuck in a strange place, one that’s not necessarily depressed or unhappy, but that has stifled any desire to express myself in writing. Still, there appears to be at least one person who still comes around here looking for some news from me. And maybe that’s all the encouragement I need. And right now, at this moment, I have the day off work and I’ve got some time. So here I am.
All things considered, things are good in my world. About a month ago, things were tense and scary. George Floyd had just been killed in Minneapolis, resulting in shock and anger, protests, and riots. Minneapolis is not all that far from where I live and we watched all of that chaos unfold on television. And as it turns out, the officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck? He lived here, just about a mile away from our house. There were protests in the following days, and thankfully the ones near us, the ones in front of his house were very peaceful compared to what occurred in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
I was thinking recently how much weight is on our collective shoulders right now. Almost daily, I think to myself that the world has gone crazy. Absolutely bat-shit crazy! I think about racial issues and it feels unbelievable that we aren’t doing better than this by now. I mean, really! Why can’t we reach a place where we’re able to look at any other human being, regardless of skin color, and recognize that person as someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, friend? … As someone who is loved and important to another person and deserves to be treated as such?
And then there are political tensions.
And we’re in the midst of a pandemic.
And I think, this world is just going to break apart! But it’s not. We’ve been here before, I’ve realized. I think this is just the first time in my life I’ve been old enough or mature enough to see it, to contemplate my role in it all. To really worry for my children’s futures.
I sometimes wish we could get back to normal, and I often have to remind myself that my good normal was someone else’s miserable normal. I shouldn’t want to go back there. I wish the answers were obvious and the solutions quick and easy, and that we could just get to the business of fixing all of the world’s problems.
I went to my local bulk-shopping store this morning. It was surprisingly busy, although maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised considering that Independence Day is just around the corner. My visit was all pretty uneventful until I got to the check-out lanes. People were stacked up like cordwood waiting for their turns to pay. I stood in a self-checkout line and when it was finally my turn I pulled each item from my cart, scanned it, and then transferred it to the waiting empty cart at the end of the checkout. I had some heavy items on the bottom of my cart – bottled water, and a case of sparkling water. When I pulled the sparkling water out from under, the plastic wrapping holding all of the cans together ripped apart in my hands. Cans went rolling everywhere! And with so many others waiting for me to finish, I simply picked them up and piled them in my cart for the time being.
As I was moving my cart out of the way to make room for the next person and be on my way, an employee called out, “Ma’am! Ma’am!” When I realized who was calling out, and that she was calling to me, I looked at her questioningly. With one hand on her hip, she pointed to the floor near me. I looked down to see a piece of the plastic wrapping that had torn off my package of sparkling water. I reached down to pick it up and tucked it into my cart of groceries.
“Thank you!” she said. It felt like she had said it with a sneer, but I wrote it off. Maybe she was just having a trying day. Maybe I was just having a trying day! But since she had my attention and I had hers, I rolled my cart towards her and pointing to the now-destroyed package of sparkling water, asked if it would be okay for me to go grab an intact package and swap it out. She looked me directly in the eye, grabbed a nearby cardboard box for no apparent reason, and simply turned away from me.
I was confused and stood in my place for a moment wondering what was happening. But then she turned back towards me and just looked at me again, her lips stretched in a tight line across her face.
“Um… is that okay …. if I swap this broken package for a different one?” I asked. I was feeling really uncomfortable at this point, but I had two dozen loose cans rolling around in my cart and was hoping not to have to move them one-by-one from the cart to my car. I mean, things like this happen at grocery stores now and then. Right? Was I out of line to ask for an undamaged case?
The employee asked me, “Are any of those cans open?”
“Uh, no.” I said. “None of the cans broke open, but I was hoping I could swap this pack for another because … it will be easier to transport them to and from my car?”
I was feeling like an idiot at this point. She rolled her eyes, and waved her hand away, saying in an exasperated tone, “Just go get me another one.” I now felt like a spoiled child who had just badgered her mother into getting what she wants, but I was in too deep at this point. I left my cart and started to walk back to the aisle where I could get a new case of sparkling water and suddenly just felt myself give up. “No!” I thought. “Just no.” I had no desire to interact with that woman again, and if I continued, I would have to speak to her again and subject myself to her scorn. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around, grabbed my cart, and pushed it toward the exit.
“Just forget it,” I thought. Anyway, as I walked back past where I had spoken with her, the employee had disappeared, so clearly she was going to make it a challenge for me to find her again and make the exchange. Luckily, I had several reusable grocery bags in my car and after fuming my way through the parking lot, I simply loaded all of the cans into a canvas bag.
I was so mad! So humiliated. How dare that woman treat me that way?
Then again, was I being selfish? The package had ripped due to my handling of it. Technically, it was my own fault. Still, I wished I’d had the guts to stand up to her in some way. Even if I was asking too much, did she have to be so mean to me? I wished I hadn’t let her treat me in such a condescending way. But that’s always been me. I don’t understand how people can be rude and disrespectful to another’s face, and even when I’m on the receiving end, I’ve never been good at giving it back. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
As I got the last of my groceries into the car, I noticed tucked in among them the ripped piece of plastic that the employee had directed me to pick up off the floor back in the store. I pulled it back out of my car and put it in the cart. I hoped she was back in the stood wondering where I’d gone. And I hoped she’d see the piece of plastic in the cart when it was pulled from the cart corral and returned to the store.
Petty. I know. And highly unlikely. But it made me feel just a smidge better to think she might see that piece of plastic …. even recognize that piece of plastic … and think of me. It would serve her right!
I stewed about that woman all the way home and for a long time afterward. I wanted someone to know how wrong she was and how offended I felt. But finally, after cooling down a bit, I realized that I probably wasn’t really her problem. I was probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe she’d been treated rudely prior to the time I’d interacted with her. I realized that this experience was one minor and rare experience for me. And there are people in this world who are made to feel small all the time for much less than what I’d experienced today. I decided that instead of sulking, I would remember this situation and instead go out of my way to be kind to someone else today. I just have to try not to think about her too much because I’ll just get mad all over again.
Anyway, the whole thing made me realize that people are struggling. People have lost jobs. They are isolated. They are tired. They are scared. And here’s me, enjoying a day off work because I have so much PTO accrued that I need to use it or lose it. Here’s me, shopping and cooking and packing for a long weekend at the family cabin. Here’s me looking forward to floating around the lake in the summer sun, drinking cocktails, sleeping in, reading books, playing games, and celebrating a holiday with family.
So somebody was rude to me today. In the grand scheme of things, so what? I will definitely get over it. I’m already well on my way. Maybe it was just a minuscule taste of what others experience every day, all of their lives. And if so, then I need to remember this and do whatever I can to help ensure that every day, this world becomes more and more a place where all people get to live with dignity, courtesy, kindness, and respect.