“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and response is something we can choose.” ~Maureen Killoran
The holidays can be a warm, happy, joyous time.
They can also be a trying time: bringing out the stress, anxiety and impatience in all of us.
I thought of this a couple of weeks ago when I went to Rite Aid to stock up on a few things. And then, there were also the holiday supplies that got added to the cart. Wrapping paper, tape, gift bags, holiday candy…
I had a little more than a basket’s worth, but not a crazy amount. (It’s important you get a visual for the next part of the story.)
When I went to checkout there was a long line. It seemed most of us were doing the same: trying to make a dent on our holiday needs.
Just as the line was creeping up, a male voice spoke up from behind me.
“This is ridiculous! Can’t anyone else ring us up?”
The two young women who were behind the counter smiled and one replied, “It’s just us on right now.”
The man continued, “Of course! Well, is there is a manager I could speak to?”
The young woman responded, “I am the manager. The other manager is on break.”
“Of course! That’s just great! This is ridiculous!”
He huffed, he puffed, and everyone else in line stood in silence, not sure what to do.
Finally, it was my time to pay. As my receipt printed, I leaned in to ask the cashier a question about the coupon I used.
Apparently, the man behind me didn’t like this.
Suddenly, I felt his presence behind me and then he reached over my head with his basket and handed it to the cashier.
“You can get started ringing me up now.”
I turned to face him. My bags were still on the counter. My keys were still in my purse. And I was being pushed aside so he could slide in. I was stunned. It was rude, but more than that, I felt uncomfortable. This man, a stranger, was clearly out of line and in my personal space. And I have to add (because I want you to get the complete visual) that he was much taller and bigger than me. I’m a fairly small girl, and did I mention I am pregnant?
I looked at him and said, “Excuse me, but I am not done here.”
This didn’t bother him at all. In fact, it fired him up more. He pushed closer to the counter, edging me out more.
“Well, you can see there is a long line here. This isn’t the time to ask stupid questions about your receipt!”
“Excuse me, but I am pretty sure I have the right to ask any question I want and you can be patient and wait until I’m done.” At this point, I was a bit shaken and trying to get my bags, get my keys and get out, but he wasn’t giving me much room to do all this.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be doing so much shopping. This is a convenience store!”
(Rite Aid is clearly not a convenience store, but I let this comment go.)
I said, “I am pretty sure I can buy whatever I want. And I am sorry you are so upset, but you don’t have to be so mean about it.”
I finally had my bags when I caught the eye of the woman behind us in line. Her eyes were as wide as could be, and she had a look of fear on her face for me. She looked at me and gave me a head shake towards the door, signaling me to not bother, and to get out of there.
I left, got in my car, and just started crying.
It had been a long day. I had a long night ahead of me. And I was stunned that someone could have the audacity to step over me, push me aside, make insulting comments and not be bothered in the least.
The thing that upset me most was there was nothing I could do—that any of us felt we could do.
I had spoken calmly, politely, rationally, and was truly envisioning nothing but light in that moment, but it didn’t matter.
There was no amount of talking sense, or killing him with kindness, that could have shifted that experience into a more acceptable one.
Everyone around me stood in silence and at the end, all I could do was retreat to the safety of my car.
I felt bad for the cashiers who were in their late teens or early twenties. I hoped they didn’t have to deal with customers like this often—the kind that intimidate, bully, complain and make a scene—but I wasn’t sure.
I get it. The holidays can make us all a bit batty. We’ve all been in that long line where we want to crawl out of our skin. I was in that same line. I wanted it to move along too. But never would I act in a way that would make anyone else feel bad about… about what?
In the grand scheme of things, is waiting an extra thirty seconds or even a minute or two really the end of the world?
We all have our moments of stress and overwhelm, but I would like to think that we can hang onto our sanity and treat others with kindness, patience and compassion.
As the next couple of weeks gear up and we get in the full holiday and New Year’s swing, let’s put the nasty, ugly, frustrated, annoyed side (that we can all exhibit) on hold and let’s let our best selves shine through.
Let’s try and be patient beyond our typical tipping point. Let’s still be kind even when others aren’t kind to us.
Let’s remember all the ways our lives are blessed. And in the moments when we want to scream, let’s slow down, think of what we are grateful for, and reset our energy. (I do this and it works!)
Let’s spread cheer and love.
Let’s do what we’re supposed to do: enjoy this time of year to the fullest, making as many happy memories and traditions as we can. Let’s not lost sight of what really matters.
Wishing you all calm, happy and peaceful weeks ahead. Here’s to ending the year with positive energy!