The other day I was shopping for birthday cards at my local dollar store. The line to check out was extra long because there was only one register open. Reluctantly, I got in line and patiently waited for my turn to pay the $2.13 for my four cards. When I was about 4 people away, another register opened up and the cashier announced that he would take the next person in line. Well, for whatever reason, the three people in front of me hopped into his line, leaving me now in the first position in the original line.
Now, you can imagine my joy thinking that I am going to be able to leave a few minutes earlier than I originally planned. I secretly thought that the other two people were crazy to follow the first guy, but maybe they liked waiting in lines? Who am I to question them?
So, when the original register opened up, I stepped up and placed my cards on the conveyer belt. Then, out of nowhere, came a woman from Line B shouting, “Excuse me honey, but I am next.” My mind began to race and I was instantly irate. First of all, I am definitely not your honey and secondly, no you are not! The Kindergarten rules of line waiting state that if you leave a line, you lose your place. That’s how it works. Apparently, this woman missed that lesson, because not only did she infringe on my six foot bubble, she literally squeezed her way in front of me to put her items on the conveyer belt in front of mine. Shocked by the situation, I replied with the response of a five-year old, “No, you got out of line!”
It is a good thing that I am a seasoned self-talker and can calm myself down reasonably quick. Otherwise, I think I could have easily got into a screaming match with her right in the middle of the store. Fortunately, my inner voice told me to reply with just a hint of annoyance, “Whatever! I am not going to argue with you about this!” And I backed up six feet to give myself the necessary social distance required in the store.
But man was I fired up!
Once I got back to the car, I retold the story to my husband, using terms such as “Can you believe her nerve?” and “Once you leave the line, you can’t come back. Even my Kindergarten students know that!”
I am sure we can all think of examples when total strangers have annoyed us to the point of an emotional response. Someone cut you off at the intersection. The waitress forgot to put your salad dressing on the side. The baby that cried for the entire flight home. The person who stands still on the moving walkway. The family that plays their music too loudly at the beach. You have been there and done that.
What I think we all have a tendency to do during these moments is to think the behaviors of others are “happening” to us. How many times have you said, “Why does this always happen to me?”
Bad news folks. These things are not happening to you. They are just happening. The baby is not crying to annoy you. The person on the moving walkway may not be in the same hurry. The waitress did not purposely forget to change your salad order and the woman at the dollar store thought that she was in the right.
Roy T. Bennett states that we can not control the behaviors of others. We can only control how we respond to their behavior. We can choose to get angry and upset or we can choose to say, “Whatever!” and move on. It’s our choice…
How do you respond when someone annoys you? Do you immediately get defensive? Does your mouth erupt like a volcano, spilling words of lava to anyone who will listen? Are you able to ignore it and move on? Do you like to shop at the local dollar store?
For the record, I still think that I was right. Once you get out of line, you definitely lose your place. But, whatever!