I can’t express how appreciative I am for all the thoughtful comments and replies I received on last week’s piece about my dad. Thank you so much.
I’m waiting at the cash register for my smoothie and flipping my American Express card around in my hand. The store is bright white everywhere, almost hospital-like, with high ceilings and exposed industrial-style ductwork. You’d think I would be overwhelmed by the sweet smell of juiced fruit, but it’s as if the ingredients are hermetically sealed and only exposed to the air for a split second at a time.
I’ve been here for at least twenty minutes, maybe longer. I should be angry, but I’m not. I’m more annoyed than angry. Mostly, though, I think it’s funny.
There are two women working behind the counter, one of which is obviously new. She keeps looking up at the menu on the wall above her to check the ingredients as she slowly adds them to the blender one by one. I wonder if she knows how much of each ingredient to include. It’s not like they have specific amounts for each one listed on the menu. Is she just, like, winging it?
We drew the unlucky card and the new employee was the one who took our order. The problem was, she only took my stepdaughter Sara’s order at first. When the more experienced employee finished with her customer, she took the next person’s order instead of mine or my wife Allison’s. For a second there, I wanted to butt in and say, “Wait, that’s not how this process works at all. We were here first. What planet do you live on?” But I didn’t want to make a scene.
So now I wait and silently stew like a decent person.
Sara is already sipping her smoothie while waiting in our air-conditioned car with Allison and my daughter Em. Allison gave up on ordering her smoothie. Em is tube-fed, so she doesn’t drink anything, let alone smoothies. I suppose we could push one through a syringe into her belly, but it’s not like she would taste it.
I should’ve given up when Allison did, but I’ve never had the Soleadito smoothie and I really want to try it.
Finally, the store clears out and the more experienced employee jumps in to help. I see the new employee stuffing some sort of leafy greens in the blender. I furrow my brow and think, are there greens in the smoothie I ordered? Instead of saying something and interrupting their newfound flow, I remain silent.
Four seconds later, the blender is whirring, and a minute after that, the more experienced employee puts the lid on the biodegradable cup with a snap.
“Sorry for the wait,” she says. Finally, an apology, I think. She snags a straw, starts to pass the cup across the counter to me, and says, “Here’s your Cielito Mio.”
“Wait, I ordered the uhh,” I pause and look up at the menu, “the Soleadito.”
“I’m so sorry,” she says as her shoulders slump. “We’ll make it right away.” She’s annoyed too, but not with me. It’s clear she’s having a hard day. I’ve been in her shoes before. I almost feel bad for pointing out that my order was wrong.
Now I really should leave. I know it’s nearing 12:30 pm and Allison is probably getting anxious about Em’s nap time. She did seem perturbed as she walked out of the store without ordering something for herself. And that was ten minutes ago. But I’m in too deep. I have to wait now. Em will be fine and we only live five minutes away.
But isn’t this infuriating?
Ugh, you again?
This shouldn’t be shocking anymore. I’m always here.
You should put up a fight and get both smoothies for free?
I don’t know about that. They’re just doing their job, albeit not very well.
Seriously, will you get angry for once?
I mean, I get why you would say that. Wait, I guess it’s me saying, err, thinking that? I’m still not totally clear on how this works. Anyway, I don’t like getting angry if I don’t need to. I just don’t think it’s worth the energy. In this case, I would only make their already crappy day even crappier. No thanks.
That’s exactly it. You don’t like to get angry and you want everyone to like you, so you avoid confrontations.
Well, yeah, sometimes I do. I guess I just don’t get that worked up about things like this. I try to put myself in other peoples’ shoes and have empathy for them. That doesn’t mean I don’t get upset about things people do sometimes. Of course I do. But I question if it’s worth the effort to get so worked up that I feel the need to say something and make a fuss about it.
This reminds me of that one Marcus Aurelius quote:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”
Oh, so you’re pulling the “quote some famous old guy” card, huh?
Yeah, I am, because I think what he said is important. And it’s helped me not get so irritated about things that aren’t really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
Well that’s not going to get you your smoothie any faster, is it?
True. But I’m okay with that.
Try to find some perspective here. When you really boil it down, we’re just a bunch of slightly advanced apes who are spinning around on a rock in space. It’s kind of insane when you think about it. The odds that we’re even here at all are incredibly slim. For some people, this might make them feel insignificant. But I would challenge them to see it as a remarkable gift.
I feel like we’re getting off track now.
It’s all interrelated, though. All of us humans are in this together. And we’re not even around for all that long really. So why not have a little compassion and humility and give people the benefit of the doubt? Everyone is dealing with their own struggles.
The new employee is feeling inadequate and confused about what to do next. The more experienced employee wasn’t eager to help and she looks frustrated and annoyed. She’s obviously not having a great time back there. The last thing she needs is some a-hole making her day even worse.
Hey, remember your old band’s song called Even Worse?
Oh, yeah. That one was super fun to play live. Wait, are you trying to change the subject? Actually, though, playing live music was a great way to get some aggression out.
Stop. I’m not falling for it.
Okay, okay, but doesn’t it bother you when people don’t return the favor and give you the benefit of the doubt?
Sure, it stings. But everyone has their own crap going on in their world. The guy who cuts me off on the freeway might be going through a divorce. The woman who swoops in front of me at the deli counter might be stressed about work. The kid who keeps stealing the pomegranates from our tree in our front yard might not have enough to eat at home. I try to keep in mind that everyone else is just as wrapped up in their own head as I am.
I feel seen.
Is this... self-love? ♥️
Let’s not get carried away here.
“Here you go,” the more experienced employee says as she hands me my Soleadito smoothie, “Sorry about that again.”
“No worries,” I say as I hand her my credit card and take my first sip.
Was it worth the wait?
Listen to me
I recently joined my writer friend Nate Kadlac and his co-host Reza Saeedi on their podcast It’s Gotta Be the Mic. It was a great conversation about being vulnerable in my writing, storytelling, and a bunch more. I’ve been a fan of their podcast for months, so it was a treat to sit down and chat with them.
Thanks for being here.
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Love this: "You’d think I would be overwhelmed by the sweet smell of juiced fruit, but it’s as if the ingredients are hermetically sealed and only exposed to the air for a split second at a time."
This is such a good piece, Lyle. Never ordering that smoothie though.
This piece certainly made me be more aware of my reactions. 💕