NOTE: Today's post is rated PG due to one word of some very strong language, placed carefully and appropriately for emphasis. (Confucius said, "Always use the right word....")
Everyone is angry these days. Okay, maybe not everyone. The handful of people who are pleased with their income and don't follow politics and get great health care and aren't concerned about Syrian refugees or racism in America or gun violence--those people aren't angry. The rest of us are either simmering or about to boil over. A few have gone over the boiling point. Case in point, a woman I recently encountered in the drive-thru at Starbucks. Here's what happened:
If you look at the photo above, you will see the somewhat faded green arrows indicating the route cars are supposed to follow to access the drive-thru at the Calimesa Starbucks. And if you look closely, you'll also see a long line of cars not entering in the prescribed way but rather from the Walgreens parking lot. Actually, you can't see all of the cars lined up for the drive-thru in this picture, because the dumpster hut blocks the view. But on the day I took this photo, there was a line. (You can trust me; I write stuff, and we all know that if you read something online, it's the absolute truth. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.)
So: A few weeks back, I stopped by this Starbucks for a Skinny Vanilla Latte, following the preferred route. Moments after I pulled up to where the pavement ends and the concrete driveway of the drive-thru begins, a small black car pulled in--from the Walgreens parking lot (so, I guess, going the "wrong" way). The woman in the car made eye contact with me--'I see you, I know you're next, I'll just pull in after you.' Perfect. Except... just then another woman pulled in--the "right" way, behind me. This was a young, attractive blonde woman in a large white SUV. I could see her plainly in my rearview mirror. The problem was, she couldn't see the small dark car that had arrived before her because the dumpster hut blocked her view.
Oh dear. What is the right thing to do here? For a brief moment, I considered actually climbing out of Cloud (my trusty and beloved Ford Ranger) and walking back to White SUV woman to let her know someone she couldn't see was ahead of her in line--but just then the line moved. So I pulled up. And so did the Small Black car, right behind me, before the woman in the White SUV had time to react--which set off a temper tantrum the likes of which I have not seen since my eldest son was a toddler. Blaring her horn, waving her hands and screaming, the woman in the White SUV threw her vehicle in reverse, flying backward, then laid rubber on the asphalt of the parking lot as she sped through it, only to flip a U-turn and come speeding back to park and charge inside the Starbucks. The employee who was by then taking my order at the drive-thru told me "I'm sorry--one moment, please"--only she left her mic on, and I could hear her saying, "I know... it shouldn't be that way... I'm sorry that happened...."
Meanwhile, the woman in the Small Black car simply sat behind me in line, a look of stoic endurance on her face. What happened was not her fault. It was no one's fault, or it was mine, because I could see the problem but I did nothing to alert the woman with anger management issues behind me. It was a situation. It happened. Stuff happens.
Still.... That was one hell of a lot of anger over a Starbucks order. Seriously. The three of us were not refugee women waiting in line with our children for hours to be handed a small bag of rice or millet. (The latter grain, for the uninitiated, is what I happily, abundantly, pour into my bird feeder daily, along with sunflower seeds, to feed my neighborhood birds.)
White SUV woman didn't just sigh in impatient exasperation and resign herself to waiting through one more car to be next in line. She exploded in rage. Over the pricey, high-fat, high-sugar comfort drink she desperately needed, apparently, to make her feel safe in the world.
What the fuck is wrong with us?
By the time I drove up to the window to pay and pick up my stupid, expensive latte, I was experiencing quite a severe episode of anger myself.
So I took a long, deep breath, asked the ancestors for serenity, and, as they sometimes do, they offered a suggestion instead: Pay for the order of the woman behind me in the small black car. So I did. My tab was four bucks. Hers was twelve. Maybe she was buying drinks for friends at work or just getting breakfast. Who knows? Who cares. Her car was twenty years old and had seen a lot of miles. A stranger had screamed and honked in rage at her with very little provocation over the stupidest of things. So I forked over the money, smiled at the young Starbucks employee who was already anticipating getting to tell the next customer her order had been paid for, and I pulled away.
As I drove out slowly through the parking lot, I watched as White SUV woman came charging back out of the Starbucks holding a cardboard carrier with four drinks in it. Maybe she was late for work. Maybe her boss sent her a text and asked for the drinks. Maybe she's been trying to please that boss because she's facing an annual review with the chance of a raise that is critical because she desperately needs to file for divorce from an abusive husband. Again, who knows? The truth is, we never know what others are going through, so we should never judge or return anger for anger... which is always the hardest challenge for me. But... what we needed right then was a reset. I couldn't help the angry woman. I hope I helped the other one.