Everyone knows patience is not my virtue. If you are one of those patient and kind at all times types, I am jealous of you. Since I know this is my shortcoming, and I also realize I live in a world where things don't necessarily fall into place around me, I've learned a few tricks for dealing with recurring irritations. Of particular note is shopping – especially during the Christmas season, when it seems like everyone (especially female) has brought out their Christmas Claws.
How to have a Merry Christmas (Even If You Must Shop Walmart)
In the Parking Lot: Most of you aren't bludgeons for punishment like I am. I actually go to Walmart. I've been on Payday (you military families know what that means). I've been on Sundays after church. I went five centimeters dialated the evening before being induced with Ashlyn. I've been on Black Friday. And I continue to venture out during the Christmas Season. So I know all about The Parking Lot. I've done the spy-a-spot-on-the-other-side-of-the-aisle-and-careen-around-the-corner-only-to-be-scooped-by-a-little-coupe dance. I've done the wait-for-a-truck-to-back-out-with-blinker-on-only-to-by-scooped-again-by-a-brat-with-a-license jig. And what I've finally realized is that there is usually a spot about five or six spaces down. That's what? Thirty feet? Is it that much harder to walk a whole thirty extra feet when I'm about to cruise from one corner of Walmart to the other? Bottom line: skip the dances and save yourself some frustration. Park in the first totally available nobody's-going-to-take-it spot.
In the Aisle: also known as Bumper Cars. I can't tell you how irritated I get when folks don't show proper cart etiquette. In the Army we had these helpful little arrows on the floor directing traffic. Sounds regimented but the protocol really helped avoid aisle congestion. Especially on Payday. Anyway, you get my point. Whether you're hopping over toys and decorations strewn about the floor, or stuck wedged between a wall of greenery and a shopping cart, or even if it's just you and some lady staring at the same widget on the shelf, the aisle can actually be a really friendly place - if you make it that way. Be a little apologetic if you're the Problem Child in the aisle. And if you're stuck behind someone who won't let you get by, assume they just don't know you're there and try a polite – cheery, even – "excuse me, please." And if you're the chatty type, feel free to make an observation – "boy, they must not have planned these aisles for an actual cart," or "that's a lovely wreath in your basket" as you're awkwardly scraping your cart against hers to get by. You'd be surprised how many small, friendly and even helpful conversations this opens up. One lady taught me how to turn my outdoor light fixture into an outlet. Later she told me how to dry oranges (I was there a while). I was able to help another lady figure out how to hang the garland sashes under her window (she said, "what a blessing I ran into you" before she left – now how nice is that??).
In line: Oh, I know this one, too. You're in the elite Twenty Items or Less aisle and the person in front of you is counting forty-two cans of cat food as one item. Or you're behind someone who picked up the one item on the shelf that isn't marked and the person they're calling (over and over) for Price Check is on smoke break. Or this Problem Child in front of you is arguing the merits of her coupon. Or she can't find three pennies. Whatever it is, here's what you do: remember you've been the Problem Child, too. And you probably will be again. So show a little grace and use the six minutes in captivity to make a phone call or read that tabloid article you're pretending not to care about.
At the Checkout: So now you've finally arrived at checkout. Remember this lady or gentleman (or brat-with-a-license) has been dealing with Christmas Claws and Price Checks all day. Try empathy. A simple "so how tiring has this shift been?" can go a long way to cracking a smile. If you're not the chatty type, at least offer a sincere "Merry Christmas" before you go. Every time. You'd be surprised how much it helps your mood to say it out loud a few times.
And a final note: mind your witness. In Upstate New York I worked for a television station, and I learned early on to mind my witness. I don't recall the specifics, but at some point one morning on my way to work I got irritated with a car in front of me. I began honking and ranting before I realized it was a young woman. Probably a parent. Maybe one of the parents who attended my workshops. Or saw me talking about children's programming on television. It occurred to me that I was not entirely anonymous in that town and going forward I was mindful that I was always representing our station. You get the point: whether you're representing your faith or trying to be a good example for your kids, remember your actions speak louder than words. And please know I'm assuming all you sweet readers are great at this, but writing it is a good reminder to myself.
So there it is – a few thoughts to ponder. Maybe you have a thought to share…let's hear it!