NotMary and I were at the payment counter in Sephora when we noticed the lady in line glaring at us. Exasperated vibes radiated from the corralled area as we waited for NotMary’s phone to load the e-gift card I’d sent her for her birthday. Reception in the store was awful and the phone’s thinky-wheel just kept spinning and spinning, oblivious to the drama it was causing us in real life.
Our cashier murmured quietly into her headset quietly, “Hey, I’ve got customers complaining about the wait in line…can someone come help and ring them up?”.
The lady in line crossed her arms, turned to the person behind her and started a sour-faced conversation about the audacity of us holding up the line. We couldn’t hear her, but the body language said it all.
NotMary and I started enthusiastically cheering on her phone. “You can doooo ittttt. Hurry up, come on!”. We apologized profusely to the cashier, who was kind enough to wave it off AND shove more free samples in our bags while we waited.
For good measure, I glanced over at the lady shooting us the death glares and said “We’re so sorry.” to her. But when her mouth opened to reply, it wasn’t to acknowledge my apology. What came out was, “What are you doing?”. I was taken aback by the rude phrasing, but smiled as I explained the delay. While I did so, the cashier walked around to the nasty woman and took her intended purchases from her to get a head start on ringing her up.
NotMary and I were appalled. She whispered to me, “Peach, we’re taking, what? An extra five minutes of her day?” My reply was to say a little louder than was probably wise, “Life is hard.”.
After another minute or so, NotMary’s phone found the light and loaded the e-card. We were only about another 30-60 seconds at the counter, from scanning the bar code to signing the receipt to walking away.
The minute we were out of the store, we both exploded in disbelief. Was our crime so offensive that it warranted such nastiness? And big picture to Lady Meanie? You’re shopping in a luxury beauty store in Atlanta’s fanciest mall at 7:30pm on a Wednesday night. Please aim for some perspective.
Maybe I’ve grown older and wiser. Maybe I just don’t let things bother me as much any more. Maybe I’m just less tolerant of bullshit. But I don’t think coping skills necessarily always boil down to having patience. At least not in the sense of “oh, I’m at Starbucks and the line is forever long. I just have to suck it up and WAIT”. What I mean is empathy and acceptance. Empathy towards the people involved in the situation and acceptance that the outcome is out of your hands.
For example, who hasn’t been on an airplane with a screaming infant? Are you the type to get all worked up or angry towards the child disturbing your sense of peace? Towards the parents for not being able to calm the baby? Or are you the type to feel empathetic for those poor parents who are probably sleep-deprived and are 100% guaranteed more frustrated than you?
Can you accept a difficult situation for what it is? And more, can you understand that anger, frustration and negativity are absolutely pointless when you are powerless to control the results?
Big picture, I think we all struggle with empathy and acceptance sometimes. It’s much easier to selfishly live in our own heads and stew over the injustices outside obstacles are causing for us. Sometimes we are the ones unable to cope with the annoyances that pop up on a daily basis. And often times, we are the ones in need of empathy when we behave badly, too.
Perhaps the lady at Sephora just needed to run in and run out, but we obliterated her well-laid plans. Perhaps she had a trying day or is going through a hard time. I wish her well, whatever the case.
In the end, I’m grateful that I’m old enough, and dare I say, wise enough to now understand the difference between patience and empathy/acceptance. That I try to live a whole-hearted life and respect others for all that they are going through. And that I’ve reached a place that I love myself enough to do so. I am not always perfect. But I do try.
Can you say the same?