I speed-walked through the aisles at the grocery store, nimbly avoiding slow-moving senior citizens blocking my way through the store. From produce to cereal, they stood, unaware of my angst. Get out of the fast lane, I thought to myself.
Have they all somehow lost their peripheral vision? Or, do they see me and decide in unison not to let me pass, out of solidarity for senior citizens everywhere? Do they know that if I don’t get done soon, I’ll miss the bus dropping my ten-year-old at the stop? Sure, he can let himself in the house, and will probably be happy for the ten minutes of feigned independence, but still, I need to be on my way. Now.
I shouldn’t have been late. I timed everything so perfectly. But I took too long at the front of the store, hovering outside before going in. I was on a conference call with the head of Adaptive Services at my daughter’s college. She’s having trouble staying quiet in one of her classes. The subject matter is too disturbing to her, and she has Autism. The professor of her class came to Adaptive Services to figure out a way to accommodate my daughter, and still preserve the learning experience of the other young adults in the classroom. What a kind professor. For a moment, I felt compassion for kind-hearted strangers.
Until I walked into the grocery store and was prevented from moving forward by every “old” person who decided to leave behind the snowy north and vacation in Southwest Florida. I was angrily pushing through the aisles, rudely passing elderly shoppers left and right when a nice man with white hair looked at me and smiled. He held up a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. “Ma’am, is this a bottle of pancake syrup?”
I checked his face. It was not a joke. Something must be going on with his vision, I think, but he’s making eye contact. “No sir,” I say. “It’s Ranch Dressing. You can find the syrup one aisle over.”
He smiled and thanked me kindly, and I instantly felt like a heel.
How can I push past these people, angry that they are taking up too much space? Resentful that they are taking up my valuable time? How dare I ask that they not crowd my aisle at the grocery store?
We’re all in the same lane, I thought, as I checked out, no longer worried about arriving home late. The time to be on time had already passed.
As I walked through the exit doors, I allowed another woman, not quite as old as the Ranch Dressing man in front of me. She said, “Oh, you should go first, it looks like you have work to do!”
“We all have work to do,” I answered. She walked ahead and I smiled as I made my way to my car.
If a room full of eager college students can make adjustments for my Autistic daughter who is struggling with the content of real-world movies, I can make room for slow-moving people in my grocery store. We all have a lot to learn from each other.
And we’re all in the same lane, aren’t we? We’re headed to the same place. Some are just further along than others.