Hard lesson at the hardware store

I was standing in a long line at our small neighborhood hardware store, having come in for a few things I needed to get to work on a project I had been waiting for good weather to start, wishing I had realized earlier that I needed these things, so that I could have been out in the beautiful weather working on my project instead of standing in line in the store with all the other people who had been brought inside by the beautiful weather. There were two cashiers, and as we stood in the one line that is customary in this store, a man walked up from the direction of the head of the line and started another line behind one of the customers at the counter.

My intrapersonal battle of wits began. Who does that? That’s just wrong! Calm down. Let the staff handle it. Even if they don’t, letting one person go ahead is not going to add much time. Oh my God, another person got in the spurious line. This is ridiculous. Oh, great, now it’s three people. As I waged my inner battle to maintain equanimity, feeling outraged and at the same time judging myself for my rigid thinking and tendency to self-righteousness, I became very uncomfortable to the point of being on the verge of tears or some other inappropriate outburst.

I briefly considered complaining out loud, articulating the problem as a lack of clarity about where the line starts. That would be stupid, I thought, as everyone here knows what is happening, not only that there are now two lines, but that the cashier over there is being sooooo slooooow. And that was funny, because the spurious line went to the slower cashier, thwarting the people trying to get out faster than us conformists. As I calmed down, it came into focus how much time the slow cashier was spending talking to the person she was serving, the same person she had been serving while three customers paid and left the store from the line I was in. As she was processing his rewards card, she asked about his name and was he related to someone else in town of the same name who had been her teacher in kindergarten, and he began talking about his genealogical research. As the young man went on and on about his research, I wondered if I would actually get out of the store before the line-jumpers, and then declined to berate myself for being so opinionated, so inflexible.

Suddenly the penny dropped, and I realized that from his name, I knew who the young man was, that I knew his mother from the special education community. I realized that he had disabilities not unlike my own son’s, and I wondered if my son would someday be in a line in a store on a busy Saturday, with people behind him on the verge of complaining, and if they did, would he understand that it would not be about him, that it would be mostly about them and their own limitations.

As I left the store, I felt worn out emotionally, so glad I had not said anything to embarrass myself and hurt other people, so glad no one else had, feeling like a terrible friend and mother for having had all those feelings and thoughts, feeling awful about my own resistance to a life sentence caring about others. I had so wanted to be a mother and I remember enjoying it for years, even after we realized my son had issues though we did not fully understand what those issues are. When did I get so worn down that I struggle for control when faced with the least of adversities? I guess I will check out that “caring for the caregiver” series. Clearly, I have been standing too long in a never-ending line, but I am the cashier serving everyone else, letting everyone else come to the head of the line before I take care of myself, an all-weather project that cannot wait any longer.

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October 1, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized.

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