Friday, April 24, 2009

Lesson in Humility

I awoke late after snoozing the alarm too many times. I rushed to eat breakfast while listening to Radio Paradise. Steely Dan. I hate Steely Dan.

It was one of those mornings: late to work, fumble fingers, bad attitude.

I quickly ate my lunch and rushed to complete an errand within my allotted time. I noticed the middle-aged, unkempt woman when I entered the store. She was mumbling too loudly to herself. She was deciding between greeting cards. Crazy lady. I sped down the aisles of the store and found what I was looking for, naturally after looking in three different places.

I was late again. My time was up. I still had to check-out and drive ten minutes back to work. The employers do not pressure about this, but I dislike taking advantage.

Two lines were open. Both had a number of customers. I sized up the other line, mentally jockeying for position. That's when I realized that mumbling lady was in front of me. Great.

There were still two people in front of her, but she began preemptively haggling. "Those aren't marked, but they are supposed to be half off," she told the manager as he walked by apologizing to everyone for the wait. A few minutes later she would repeated that to the cashier. My jaw clenched. One of those…

Ten minutes had passed before she was at the cashier. She had a slight unbathed odor. Her hair was uncombed, her clothes unwashed.

The haggling continued. "How much is that? I don't want it then. Did that ring up half-off?" The cashier finally presented the total: twenty-some-odd bucks. Hand in pocket, her demeanor changed. "Where's my money? I can't find my money!"

What con job is this? Is she going to claim someone stole it? For the third time, I thought about leaving and returning after work. But, I was so close now. What was a minute more? Man, I hate people. What a crappy day.

"I can't find my money!" She frantically searched her purse. She felt through the pockets of her coat that was flung over the shopping cart. The cashier was looking annoyed. "I just went to the bank, and I can't find my money!" She was shaking. She was scarred.

A voice came from just behind me in line. "Now, honey, calm down. There ain't no use getting excited. Take a breath and look for it. If you get all worked up, you'll never find it."

"I'm sorry for holdin' up the line. I just know I put it in my purse." Her quakes had intensified. Her entire body showed real fear.

"It's fine, honey. Just calm down. Ain't none of use got nowhere to be. Just take your time." While their words ping-ponged past me I stared straightforward. The woman's kindness was slacking my jaw a bit, but I was still aware of how late I was.

"You got the patience of Job." She was triple checking her coat, her purse, her pockets. She was nearing tears, probably hysteria.

"Did they put it in one of those envelopes? Usually, they put it in one of those little white envelopes."

"You got the patience of Job." She searched the purse again and pulled out a fresh bank envelope. "Here it is. Thank the Lord! I just knew I'd put it in my purse. I'd just gone to the bank and took out two-hundred dollars, and I just knew I'd put it in my purse."

Two-hundred dollars. There have been nights in my life that I've pissed away that much. I've throw that much away in a frivolous click on a website. Two-hundred bucks.

Ashamed at my impatience, my cynical thoughts, I drove slowly back to work. "It's okay, honey, take your time." Those could have been my words. I could have shown kindness to that less-fortunate stranger. I was embarrassed and I felt penitence.

I mashed a preset. The same Steely Dan song was on the radio. Accepting my punishment, I turned up the volume.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Wish I could upvote you.