I love the Mother Teresa quote which says, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”
I would like to be like Mother Teresa, to be able to say that my life is a love letter to the world, but some days, I’m afraid my life looks less like a love letter and more like graffiti.
The other day I went to Walmart to pick up just a few things, and is always the case, when I walked into the store there was no one in the checkout lanes. The lanes were so empty you coulda gone bowling. The cashiers were standing in the main aisle chatting and looking around hopefully for someone to checkout. Ten minutes later, when I had gathered my few things and headed towards the lanes, they were backed up, three deep.
But that did not matter, for I was in a love-letter-writing-to-the-world mood. I stood in line behind a lady who was apparently stocking up for the apocalypse. But what did I care? I was all love, peace, patience, kindness, yada yada — I was busy browsing the September issue of Good Housekeeping (the one with Meredith Vieira on the front; I’m featured somewhere around page 150, in case you care).
Now let me pause here and say that someday I am going to write an entire series on grocery store etiquette, but for now, I will just tell you that at the top of the list of grocery store do’s and don’t is this: Don’t crowd the person checking out. They own that space until they have been cleared for takeoff and pushed away from the checkout tarmac, so BACK OFF. I hate it when I am not even done loading my stuff on the conveyor and the person behind me starts putting their stuff on. It makes life complicated. As well, don’t stand right beside me when I am paying. You are not welcome in my space at that time, so please, step off.
So since the lady in front of me was the current owner of the conveyor, I politely left a reasonable 12-18 inches between the end of the conveyor and me.
As I was standing there, flipping through the pages of Good Housekeeping, I sensed a cart was very close to my backside. Apparently my backside has some sort of extra sensory perception, my backside has ESP. So I turned and looked and sure enough, there was a cart there, with only a whisper of airspace between my Hanes yoga pants and this cart. But again, I was feeling the Mother Teresa vibe, so I didn’t turn and shout, “BACK OFF BUSTER!” I just kept reading.
And then I heard this very large middle-aged man behind me grumbling loudly. “You are a complete idiot!” I turned again, anxious to find out to whom he was directing his ire and boy was I surprised when I found out it was ME. And my first thought was this: I am glad my kid is not here. My second thought was this: Wha?
He continued his tirade against me, describing me in inventive and colorful terms. That was a day brightener.
I finally figured out that what I had done to upset him so was that I had not moved forward 18-inches and sidled up next to Apocalypse Lady to watch her write her check. He was upset because he had to stand at the end of the aisle and not next to the gum rack.
I was stunned. In my years of shopping at Walmart, I’ve encountered the occasional less than pleasant electric cart lady, but never has anyone behaved so aggressively towards me. So in an effort to smooth his ruffled feathers, I said to him, “I’m really not trying to upset you, I just want to give the lady ahead of me her space.” But he didn’t care to hear my thoughts and provided an exhaustive description of the content of my character.
And frankly, I didn’t know what to do. I felt like opening up a can of Antique Mommy whoop bottom on him. I felt angry. I felt intimidated. I felt scared. I felt like crying. But at no time did I feel like writing a love letter with God’s little pencil.
So I just turned away and ignored him as best I could and tried to convince myself I wasn’t terrified.
When it was my turn to checkout, I put my few things on the conveyor, anxious to get checked out and get gone. I had picked up a water bottle for Sean that did not have a price on it, and for a split second, I was tempted to insist on a price check, just to gig him. But I didn’t. The urge to flee trumped the urge to gig. So I told the cashier I didn’t really need it and I would get it another time. That was as love-lettery as I could muster.
As I left the store, anger began to overtake fear, so I stopped by the manager’s station and told her what had happened and pointed him out. And then I high tailed it out of there, anxious to get home and get some sympathy from Antique Daddy.
As luck would have it, when I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the lane that passes in front of the store, Mr. Asshat was coming out. And he notices me in spite of my clever disguise of sunglasses. He stops in the middle of the of lane with his cart and blocks my car. He bares his teeth at me, like some kind of animal, and then punctuates his point with his middle finger. Wow. What an awesome display of manhood. His mother must be so proud.
So then I did what I’m sure Mother Teresa would have done. I stuck my tongue out at him. And then I sped home taking a circuitous route.
Yes indeed, Mother Teresa’s life was an inspirational love letter to the world. Then again, Mother Teresa didn’t shop at Walmart.