All during the month of February, I’ve focused on the word “love.” It is the month of Valentine’s Day after all. I’ve posted quotes on Facebook and Instagram all about showing the love. I’ve focused my efforts on giving love, whether in service to others or learning to love myself a little better. I’ve really tried to see the face of God in every person I’ve met or crossed paths with in one way or another. I’ve even tried to love Donald Trump. Ok… So, I’m totally lying about that one. Sorry. I’m only human. I’ve tried to smile more, engage strangers, look for ways to offer kindness and service, live out my faith in my day to day life.
Well…I was doing really good till the last two days of February. On February 27th, it all went to hell. Where you will probably find me… with my grocery cart of anger and bitterness. There are two places where I’ve found myself to be at my most vulnerable to react negatively – the grocery store and behind the wheel of my car. If I’m going to present the worst version of myself, it usually happens in one of those scenarios. Patience, love, kindness and sanity – all completely thrown out the window when I either enter the swish swish doors of my local grocer or when I slip behind the wheel of my car. I don’t know what happens to me. It’s almost an out of body experience, I see myself behaving badly but appear powerless to stop it.
It was a Monday, which should have been my first clue not to leave the house, but did I listen? Nope. I dropped my husband off at the train station, and decided to stop by the store on the way home to just grab a few things, less than 5, it would take no time at all. I’d zip in, then zip out. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Right? Wrong. First, I talked myself into popping into the easiest grocery store from a navigation/proximity perspective. After all, I only needed like maybe 5 things, 6 tops. This is my least favorite location of this particular chain. It smells funny. I dislike the layout and parking is always bad. I knew better than to stop here. I should have gone just a teensy bit out of my way and perhaps none of this would have happened and I could have closed the month of February feeling as if I’d at least adequately mimicked a good person, full of love, generosity of spirit and a heart bursting with kindness and compassion.
Might seem a tad dramatic, but you understand my point. So, I grab my few items and walk immediately to the “speedy checkout” line. There are two people ahead of me. The lady checking out is an employee buying some gummy bears and the girl in front of me, has maybe 22 items (even though the sign says 20 or less…but that’s okay, I’m choosing to let it go, if only I’d kept up that mantra). As it turns out, the employee is buying 2 things of candy, apparently paying for them separately. She is talking animatedly with the cashier, like they have all the time in the world. I can feel the tiny pinpricks of annoyance. I force myself to smile (which was probably more of a grimace really). Her second transaction gets messed up. Sigh. More laughing and talking. I’m thinking she eats that package of gummy bears faster than she paid for them. My mood is deteriorating at lightning speed. I can feel myself deconstructing, my good intentions paving that road to hell. A road that will be paved before she finishes paying for these damn gummy bears. At this point, my mask of tolerance has slipped and probably something like this has been left in its place…
Naturally, she chooses this moment to turn around and look behind her (yeah color me speechless, you aren’t the only one in this line!) She grabs another candy bar (which I ungraciously think she doesn’t really need…) and includes it with the gummy purchase. Finally! She is done. She turns around and hands the candy bar to the girl in front of me (who has been on her cell phone the whole time probably tweeting complaints about the amount of time this lady is taking btw) and thanks her for being patient, then shoots me a dirty look. I feel a tiny bit of remorse for my impatience. Ok, not really. The slight just makes me more agitated and annoyed.
The girl ahead of me is super speedy (God bless her). Then it’s finally my turn. Hours later. I unload all my items, grab my purse and step toward the cashier when he does the thing that completely sends me over the edge. He actually beckons to the guy behind me and says, “hey since you only have one thing, I’ll check you out real quick.”
OH NO HE DIDN’T.
THIS IS SO NOT HAPPENING.
I mean, yes, he only had one thing but I was next in line and I had been waiting longer. He just got there! Sure, there have been times, when I’m not in a hurry, that I’ve let people with fewer items step ahead of me, but that’s been MY choice. I can’t even find words. I’m just standing there with my mouth hanging open. Incredulous. When my brain catches up to the scene playing out in front of me, my face turns from shocked bewilderment to something that I’m pretty sure looks like this –
He ignores my death stare and sharp breaths that would rival Darth Vader’s. I know my face is bright red, I can actually feel the rage. I’m so pissed off. The only thing that saved him and me was the fact I was too angry to even speak. I just stared him down. I didn’t even acknowledge the guy buying his yellow stupid ball; although, in hindsight, why would he accept! I would have at least made sure it was okay with the person waiting in front of me that I was cutting off! I can feel myself getting mad all over again, just reliving it here. This is why I would never carry a gun. I know my limitations. Yes, I was that angry. I was in a hurry to get home. It had been a long day, and I only needed 6 THINGS! SIX! I jerked my items off the turnstile and threw them in my cart, finding every possible passive aggressive form of anger I could use against this seemingly unaffected cashier. To his credit, my anger and eye shooting daggers didn’t seem to phase him in the least. When nonverbal communication doesn’t work to affectively notify the object of my ire that I’m angry, I result to muttering under my breath. Which I began to do now. I think he just thought I was crazy. Yeah yeah…don’t say it. I know.
The next morning, against my better judgment, I go to the same store, different location. I needed binders and school supplies and it was too early for Staples and Target was too far. There were no checkout lines open, so I had to use the self-checkout option. Not a big deal. I’m pro. As I scan each item and drop into a bag, I get an error message.
“Unexpected item in the bagging area.”
This happened after each item.
I had 6 binders, tab dividers, coffee, orange juice and apple juice, a journal and a spiral.
By the 3rd item, I could feel it happening again. I get to the 4th binder and it won’t ring up. It says the barcode is invalid. At this point, the cashier is practically standing on top of me because she keeps having to enter her code after I scan each item. She attempts to scan it, even though she just watched me do it, and same error message. She attempts to manually type in the code. THREE TIMES. Same error message.
She walks away. WITH MY BINDER. Saying nothing.
I’m all like…um excuse me? I need that?
She responds, “the code is wrong.”
Ummm. Yeah. I got that part. But I say, “well, I have another one, the same size…?”
She responds, “different brand.”
Are you freaking kidding me? They are like 50 cents. Ok so there are literally 5 employees just standing around talking, maybe she was going to ask one of them to go pick up another binder for me?
She walked over (with my binder under her arm) and helped another customer. Shaking my head, I rang up the rest of my purchases. Getting an error message each time about the unexpected bagging. At this point, my jaw is clenched, my hands fisted. It’s taking everything I have not to erupt. She clears my errors from her main terminal, not walking back towards me. So she’s not completely clueless. After I ring everything up, but the binder in question, I look over at her again.
She’s still holding my binder.
I say, “Umm… I didn’t put that into my cart for looks, I kinda need it? Can you send someone to get another one, or can I leave my stuff here?”
“It won’t scan.”
I’m done. I’m need to get out of here. Screw the binder. I will make one out of lasagna noodles and string!
The month wasn’t a complete bust. As a family, we spent one early Sunday morning in service to the homeless population in our downtown area with an organization that faithfully serves this marginalized portion of our society, feeding them physically, spiritually and emotionally. It’s one of our favorite missions, and a time to truly live outside yourself and your own unique set of circumstances and learn the value of loving and helping others and the true definition of grace. It’s a reminder to those who serve how much you have to be thankful for in your life. A humbling experience that reminds each of us how precarious life can be and by the grace of God how much we are loved.
In reflecting on my behavior in those two incidents, I am reminded of the hours spent in service to others that cold Sunday morning. I’m brought low by my negativity, my poor behavior, my impatience with others, my anger and my selfishness. I spent that last day of February in quiet reflection and prayer. Thankful, that God’s grace has been bestowed upon me. Reminded that although I will always be perfectly imperfect, made in His image, I’ve been afforded His grace, love and forgiveness, unconditionally and forever and that it is always within my power to extend that same love, forgiveness and grace to others, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. It’s probably a lesson I will have to learn anew each day as I live out my faith as a flawed and fragile human being.
I woke up on this new day, March 1st, with the promise of spring in the air, feeling renewed and refreshed. During this season of Lent, I wanted to give up something meaningful, something possibly life-changing. Not chocolate or social media or carbs. I wanted to do something really hard, something that would require daily (heck even hourly) purposeful intention.
I’m giving up…
True story. I might have to take up drinking.
If it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice and I really need to work on this. It’s probably my worst vice and leads to many others. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.
I’ll leave you with this Irish Blessing ❤