I used to think I was a woman of little patience. As a matter of fact, “God give me patience” was a daily, if not hourly, mantra of mine ever since I gave birth to my two children (and acquired two new ones from a remarriage).
As life moved on, and those stressful incidents still occurred (does any parent get through the child-rearing years unscathed?), I became frustrated that all I seemed to do was ask for patience, and all that seemed to happen was that I encountered more episodes in my life that required, well, patience.
And then my “Eureka!” moment happened. How would I know that God was giving me patience unless it was tested? What I should have been praying for was, “God, please just let me sail through life without a worry.” NOT.
Let’s fast forward to my current position as a lead activities coach, working with developmentally disabled young adults. If ever there was a job where one’s patience would be tested, this is it. Although most of my individuals are adept at performing their duties and interacting appropriately in the community, there are occasions where one of them will not handle a situation in the best manner (for instance, this week on my birthday, one of my individuals pulled my hair and slapped me because I honked the horn of our minivan to prevent someone from backing into us). But in actuality, they are not the problem. It’s the general public that I need patience with.
Today, while I was food shopping for a senior citizen with four of my individuals, I encountered impatience at its finest—and it wasn’t expressed by me. After our last item was scanned at the register, I told the young cashier that we needed five packs of cigarettes—Kent 100’s, to be exact. The young man got his manager over, and she unlocked the cigarette cabinet. She perused up and down, across and diagonal, to locate even a single pack of our desired brand—but no luck. She explained that all they had were regular Kents (since I’ve never been a smoker, I had to ask her what the difference was). I inquired as to whether or not they could be returned if he was not happy with them. She told me she would check, and she’d be right back.
As I turned around, I noticed a woman had unloaded her groceries behind me. She looked at me in a somewhat annoyed manner, and I graciously told her that I was sorry for any delay I was causing. The cashier looked at me and said, “Your total is $41.50.” I politely told him that I was waiting to see if I could purchase five packs of cigarettes, and I couldn’t pay yet. With this, the woman behind me scowled, “Can’t you just pay for what’s there, and pay for the cigarettes later?”
(I felt my heart start racing, and my blood start pumping. She didn’t really just say that, did she?)
I politely told her that it was impossible for me to do that, being that the senior citizen we were shopping for only gave us one check. She scoffed at me and said, “Well, he shouldn’t be smoking, anyway!! Why don’t you just get him another brand??”
(Okay, did she just say that, too? My blood starts pounding in my ears to the beat of my now-dashing heart.)
I finally looked her in the eye and said, “Ma’am. If I was shopping for your father…and he was all alone in a studio apartment…and he gave me a list of things that he wanted, and I was responsible to purchase them for him…wouldn’t you be happy that someone cared enough to get exactly what he wrote on his list?”
With complete disgust, she exclaimed that everything was “ridiculous”, and she didn’t have time to wait there any longer. She abruptly started throwing her items back into her cart, and then backed out without looking, crashing into another woman who was unfortunate enough to stand in Checkout Aisle 9. She turned and looked at this other woman, snarling that she shouldn’t bother waiting there, and that I was taking too much time (happily, the other woman just shrugged her shoulders and gave her a blank stare). As she gave me one last, nasty look, I looked at her and said, “Ma’am, instead of becoming all upset over being in line at the supermarket, why don’t you look at it this way? Maybe—just maybe—you were meant to wait. Did you ever stop to think that because you had to wait behind me a few extra minutes, I may have prevented you from having a car accident later in the day?”
Well, that was about all she could take.
She said something about “rude”, and stormed off into the sea of carts waiting at Checkout Aisles 8, 7, and 5.
For a moment I stood there, astonished. Here I am, explaining to her that I’m shopping for a man who is unable to do it himself. With me, I have four individuals with special needs, two of whom are very obviously handicapped with Down ’s syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. And with all of that in consideration, this woman could not even spare three minutes out of her selfish time. Let’s be real; who doesn’t wait in line at the supermarket? Isn’t it a given?
Ironically, the second she stomped off in her rage, the manager came up to me and told me to purchase the cigarettes; they would have no problem returning them as long as we had our receipt. We paid for everything with the single check the man had given us, got our receipt, and walked toward the exit.
As we strolled down the exit aisle, I couldn’t help but wonder if our friend, Ms. Uptight, was in the midst of checking out (as the woman who was behind her at Checkout Aisle 9 was almost finished doing). Gleefully, I spotted her standing behind not one, but two people at Checkout Aisle 7. And better than that, she spotted us.
Walking through the parking lot, it occurred to me: Perhaps all those years of praying for patience had finally paid off. Although I may have gotten more instant gratification from throwing a bagel at her head and telling her to jump off a bridge, I held onto my dignity (and the dignity of the individuals I was with). I was proud that I kept it together. And in the end, as un-dignified as this may sound, I came out on top (in other words, I *WON*!)…