Journal Entry – 08/26/19
Yesterday morning, like a zillion people in my area, I went to Costco.It was a quick trip to pick up contact lenses for my wife and a box of 300 pieces of plastic cutlery for all of those events requiring plastic cutlery.
I was tired from a late gig the night before and almost sleep-walking through the store. I paid for my products and shuffled into the long single line at the exit where they check receipts to make sure “you got everything you paid for” (i.e., “you didn’t put extra stuff in your shopping cart”).
I was behind four other people in line when a second employee came up to the exit and said, “Please form two lines.” I waited a second and didn’t see anyone in front of me moving, so I acted decisively and shifted to the new line on the right with my two purchases in my hands (no shopping cart necessary).
As I handed my receipt to the Costco employee, a thirty-something lady with her grammar school daughter came up behind me to my left and angrily said,
“Hey BUDDY – I was in line first! Do you think you’re SPECIAL or something?!”
Now, I’m not one to think clearly when someone aggressively challenges me in person. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing… because I have time to reflect, gather my thoughts, and even re-word them after I’ve finished the initial writing. So my response was to take a quick glance at her… and walk out the door without uttering a word to acknowledge her strong feelings.
Once I reached my car, that’s (of course) when the replies started coming to mind. I could have said: “Do I think I’m special? No, simply decisive.” I wouldn’t have jumped to the new line if she or the others in front had budged an inch toward it. I doubt it would have placated her, but it’s the truth.
Or I could have said: “Ma’am, why are you so angry? Are you having a bad day? Has someone hurt you recently? How can I help?” I doubt the offer would have been accepted, but empathy is usually a good thing.
Or perhaps: “Do you really think this is a good example for your young daughter? Would you like her to grow up thinking that it’s perfectly acceptable and safe to verbally chastise strangers in public because you have to wait an extra ten seconds before exiting a building?” It might have stopped her in her tracks… or aggravated it all.
Or perhaps: “Am I special? Why yes I am. Thank you for noticing.” I suspect that would not have ended well.
Or perhaps: “Do I think I’m special or something? Maybe not special, but yes, I’m something. So are you. So is your daughter. We’re all interconnected at the subatomic level and have the appearance of individuality while at the same time we experience a quantum entanglement.” That might have been delightfully confusing.
Or perhaps: “Buddy? I’m sorry but I’m not yet your buddy, but if we got to know each other better perhaps we could be friends and you might be able to learn my side of the story and accept that I meant no harm.” That might have been a gracious way to deal with it that could have led to reconciliation for a perceived wrong.
But no, I said nothing and just walked out the door. She may still be angry right now for all I know. And that’s sad. I hope in the future I can more quickly consider alternatives and respond – in the moment – with more grace and compassion. So now I have a new goal and I know what foot to start with…