I saw it leaning against a shelf, forlorn and forgotten, getting colder by the second. Cheerful employees maniacally buzzed to and fro right in front of it. I knew the generic plastic white bag, and all its contents, belonged to me.
Meanwhile, I helplessly watched, vying for the title of most neglected customer. I needed attention. I tried waving my hands above my head in the crowded shop; lying stomach down on the stainless steel countertop and flailing my arms and legs; displaying a whopping white flag and shouting “Excuse me!” none of which offered solace or garnered assistance. The grapefruit size silver hoop earrings worn by the man behind me got more notice.
We were on our way to a movie theater; I had ordered take-out from a popular burger place. As is customary when my family attends movies, I carried a handbag the size of the state of Rhode Island; perfect for filling with our own delectables. Who needs Skittles, Raisinets or the standard vat of school-bus hued popcorn?
Damn! All I wanted was my already paid for order. A projected fifteen minute wait had stretched to thirty, and I was on a schedule. Stupers (short for unfeasibly stupid persons) stood between our theatrical feast and me.
I’d been waiting for the customer before me to get her pecan pie order and leave. Slicing a piece evidently required as much preparation and clearance as securing a taxi for Mr. President. The worker in charge of cutting the pie polished his knife so carefully, that when he paused to view his image in it, he smiled and stated, “I could practically count my nose hairs on this thing.”
The actual slicing and dishing out took a solid three minutes. I could wait no longer. I felt bitter and alone. Visions of screaming uncontrollably danced in my head.
Fortunately, the bitterness didn’t last long. While grousing about the shop’s imperfections, I came to an understanding. All the employees looked happy and hard working. They were doing their best. Granted, I was in a rush and my order was only six feet away from me. So what if the hamburgers and fries were lukewarm? They’d hardly stay hot on our trek to the theater anyway. Would I be happier if I threw an enormous tantrum, demanded my money back and gave a lengthy lecture on the care and handling of waiting customers? Maybe. But I knew that if I took their lack of prompt, efficient, attentive service in stride and displayed kindness instead of madness, I’d feel happier.
I lassoed the dedicated latte-making employee and asked her, very pleasantly, to hand over my order. She said, “I’ll have to get someone else to do that for you.” But when she realized that all she had to do was grab and pass, she gave me my bag. (Oh, don’t worry; I untied her before I left).
As with most relationships, you take the good with the stupid. I knew I was right. It was no great challenge for any one of the four employees to pause a few seconds from taking an order or a payment or to reach out between creating cappuccinos to give me my order. But I also knew that sometimes, it’s better to be kind than right.
I sincerely hope that I’ve set a good example of tolerance and patience for my dear, intelligent readers. Happy New Year and my very best wishes to all!