I just returned from a quick trip to Costco to pick up a contact lens order that had come in. I figured while I was there, I’d get a case of bottled water, (which we like to keep around for occasional on-the-road needs … and yes, I know I’m defensive about my carbon footprint-expanding sometime use of bottled water). And while I was picking up the water, I managed to spend another $100 on a holiday gift, a cute skirt and sweater, jeans for one of my kids, a bag of mini peppers and some dark chocolate covered pomegranate. Not that you asked.
As I was making my way to the aisle where the water is, there was a man in my way, stopped dead in his tracks with his shopping cart, just before where I needed to get in to reach the water. So I pushed my cart around him, went in front of where he was standing and hauled a case of water into my cart. As I turned back around to leave, he’d just started to move again, and as we made eye contact, he muttered a sarcastic, “Thanks,” as he rolled away.
And as a grown woman in my 40s, do you know what my instinct was? I wanted to cry.
And that really sucks. Because I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything wrong. Or if I did, I didn’t realize I did. And if I did, it wasn’t a particularly big deal.
For all I know, this guy could’ve been having a bad day. He could have some personal crisis going on that he took out on me. His wife could have been taking too long looking at cute skirts and sweaters in Costco. Who knows.
By the way, I didn’t cry. And about 10 seconds later, I got mad, and really wanted to go tell this guy off. As I’m writing, I realize how ridiculous my extreme emotions sound. But I’m pretty certain that lots of people would have had the same reaction.
A few years ago, saddled with two small kids, I ventured to the supermarket, put them both in one of those shopping carts that has the plastic car attached to the front, and started doing my shopping while pushing a small tank around. As I was waiting in line at the deli counter, an older woman backed away from the counter and stumbled over the car part of my cart. She didn’t fall or appear to be hurt in any way. But she began berating me about how I needed to be more careful, because she had had a hip replacement, and couldn’t afford to fall. I remember my face getting flushed, and I know I responded, but not as strongly as I probably should have.
A few aisles over, still stinging (and on the verge of tears) from the odd deli counter exchange, a random woman walked over to me, and said, “I saw what happened back there, and I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” I immediately felt better. I could see that I wasn’t alone in my reality, and that what I had perceived to be essentially just grownup bullying was just that. And I realized that thankfully, in a world that can sometimes be a hard place for a sensitive person, the kind words of just one person can be enough to take away the sting of the unkind.
And clearly, I should just stay away from the shopping carts.