image courtesy of photobucket.com
In my last post, Trading misery for gratitude, I decided to set aside my grumbling and simply focus on all the many blessings–both tangible and intangible–in my life; in all of our lives.
Well, I did that.
But Thanksgiving’s over with, isn’t it?
And I’ve got a few things I need to get off my chest before we start singing Christmas songs at church and that whole “peace on earth good will towards man” sentiment kicks in.
Do you remember that quote I posted? Here it is again:
“If you want to be miserable, think about yourself, about what you want, what you like, what respect people ought to pay you and what people think of you.” -Charles Kingsley
If that quote is accurate, then I am surrounded by miserable people. People so focused on their own wants and needs that the rest of us simply become peripheral objects in a universe in which they are at the center. An old boyfriend of mine used to tell people that he was a self-indulgent, hedonistic opportunist. He wasn’t, of course. It was meant as a joke. Because seriously–how many people do you know who would fit that description, let alone admit to it? But lately it seems that’s become the norm. We say, “it’s funny because it’s true”. In this case, it’s not funny because it’s true.
Examples of this mindset abound. The first example I witnessed at the airport security checkpoint. I’ve often been frustrated and baffled by news reports of travelers being randomly selected for pat downs and full body scans by TSA screeners. I’ve wondered what threat a 5 year old boy or someone’s sweet little grandmother could possibly pose to the safety of other passengers.
It wasn’t until I witnessed a frail, white haired lady being helped from her wheelchair in order to be escorted through the full body scanner that it occurred to me why this may happen. It’s because little old ladies and young children DON’T POSE ANY THREAT TO THE SAFETY OF OTHER PASSENGERS. “Randomly” select them, and you’ve fulfilled your security quota without actually having do the most important part of your job: preventing dangerous people from boarding airplanes. Because let’s face it, that would be potentially dangerous for you at worst, and a giant pain in the ass at best. Old ladies and crying children don’t require much paperwork or effort on your part. Mystery solved.
Determined not to allow this lapse in human dignity ruin my vacation, I boarded the airplane with my family and set off for our destination. The rest of the day was uneventful. We landed safely, picked up our rental car. Over the river and through to woods to grandmother’s house we went. Although technically, there wasn’t a river or any trees as we were driving through West Texas and Eastern New Mexico, area motto: Gee, your oil well smells terrific!
Thanksgiving day was spent as it should be: eating too much, watching football and spending time with family. It wasn’t until Friday morning back at the hotel that I was reminded of the shortcomings of humanity.
The Holiday Inn Express in Carlsbad, NM is a lovely hotel. Nice rooms, friendly staff and a wonderful complimentary breakfast bar in a large room with several tables and chairs provided for guests to sit and enjoy breakfast. As expected, it was fairly crowded on the morning after Thanksgiving. Families gathering and fueling up for a day of shopping or more visiting with relatives. But traffic flowed well. People filled their plates and moved aside for the next person waiting. Such was not the case on the opposite side of the room at the coffee bar.
The above picture is an accurate representation of the coffee bar. What it doesn’t show is the vast expanse of counter space on either side of the coffee carafes. This is the actual coffee bar:
Imagine my caffeine deprived frustration when one person, who had yards of counter space on either side of the coffee carafes, instead chose to remain smack dab in front of them after she had already filled three cups full of coffee. She had not, however, added the appropriate amounts of cream and sugar for each individual cup, and apparently was in a deep state of concentration, no doubt trying to remember if her mother wanted one sugar or two. I’m sure that’s why she only glanced in my general direction when I walked up behind her with an empty coffee cup in hand. Not wanting to break her concentration (because I’m thoughtful like that), I returned to my table, set my cup down, walked to the other side of the room, served myself a plate of scrambled eggs and sausage, returned to my table, picked up my cup and again approached the coffee bar. WHERE SHE WAS STILL STANDING IN FRONT OF THE COFFEE. I think I’m a pretty friendly person, a marginally patient person, but seriously:
“Excuse me”, I said. “May I get in here and get a cup of coffee?” She seemed a little miffed, and why wouldn’t she be? Considering the fact that she would have to move herself to the right a full 12 inches in order for me to get to the coffee.
Was the coffee incident a big deal? Not really.
But it speaks to a larger problem. I’m guessing that she did not approach that coffee bar with malice intent to prevent others from getting coffee. It simply never occurred to her before she planted herself in the center of the coffee bar that other people might actually want to get a cup of coffee.
Because as I’ve already stated, when you’re the center of the universe, everyone and everything else is simply peripheral and unimportant. I mourn for a society where this behavior is not only accepted, it is celebrated.
Don’t be the lady at the coffee bar or the TSA screener at the airport. Choose to be gracious, not because it’s easier, but because it’s the right thing to do.