I’m late and agitated. The Reno streets are packed with Christmas shoppers who drive as if visions of sugarplums are dancing in their heads. The right lane of Virginia Street is decorated with those orange detour cones that limit traffic to a single lane. Two green lights come and go and now it’s my turn to bust out of the jam.
But the lady in front of me waves four cars coming out of the parking lot to go in front of her. Who designated her as the representative of all the drivers stuck behind her? She clears out the parking lot but our row is stymied. Another red light. I’m furious. I want to jump out of my car and swing a gift-wrapped golf putter through her windshield.
My next stop is the grocery store. I’m standing behind a shopper who decides not to reach for his wallet until his groceries are bagged and the total is presented, like: Surprise! Now he needs to figure out which card to use, and which way to slide it. But before he can even do that, he starts discussing with the checker the various ways to determine the freshness of asparagus. Just what I need right now: a vegetable-savvy conversationalist. I experience similar frustrations whenever I’m at the airport. Why don’t the people jammed in front of me walk down the steps of the escalator? Why do they stand there like it’s some Disneyland ride to be cherished for as long as possible? And why can’t the escalator itself move any faster? Do people expect this agonizingly slow descent to be some highlight after a week of travel? This agitated and frustrated me is one of the me’s I deal with on a regular basis. What’s saddest of all is I have plenty of time on my hands. In all of these situations, I’m not rushing about saving the world. At best, I’m on my way home to pick up the dog poop in the backyard. Fortunately, I also recognize people are capable of changing the way they feel and behave. So I decide this is one aspect of my personality I wish to reshape, for my own good and the good of those around me. I know the perfect place to practice patience and social bantering is my local Starbucks shop. I enter to find people smiling, calling each other by their first names and eagerly waiting in line to describe in detail the exact syrups and toppings to add to their grande coffees. I watch one happy barista printing precise instructions on each cup and then passing it on to the next several happy baristas who grind, whip and concoct each order, all while smiling customers wait for their names to be called. When it is my turn, I order a “small black coffee, extra hot, for Don.” I practice waiting with patience for my name to be announced. And I make a promise to myself: whenever my name is finally called, I will sashay forward, accept the cup that says “Dawn” and when I’m told to have an “extra-fun day,” that’s exactly what I will have.