My wife and I enjoy shopping together. Yup, we enjoy a romantic night of casual food shopping at any one of our four local markets. It’s just a bond we have; call us weird. Anyway, we found ourselves at the local Wegman’s a few days ago picking up some odds and ends. After enjoying a pay-by-the-pound fluorescent lit dinner, complete with self-dispensing plasticware, while listening to a guy play funky guitar in the dinning hall, we headed off with the list in hand. Hey, everyone has their definition of romantic, don’t judge!
We tend to do a lot of little trips rather than one gargantuan haul each month. There were just two items left, so we split up. I headed for the organic canned coconut section, and she went for the over-sized Swiffer cloths - conveniently placed at the opposite end of the store, of course.
Having made my way to the proper isle, I grabbed a deuce of cans and figured I’d find my wife somewhere between the paper towels and the floor cleaners. On the way, my phone chimed. I’d received a text message! Could someone be thinking of me? Then. Life. Slowed. Down.
Not having anything additional to acquire, my hunting trip over, I pulled the phone out of my pocket and read the message. Figuring there’s no time like the present, I responded. Partway through my “LOL”, I felt a strange presence behind me. Probably the same feeling that actresses in B-rated horror flicks should have when two feet behind them is an axe-wielding lunatic. Yeah, that feeling. Being engrossed in the glow of my phone, I kept walking. Slowly. You know that walk people have when they’re strolling and texting? The one that makes the people behind them burn with fury? Yeah, that stroll. Well, I had it nailed.
“Why are you talking to me, just get out of my way!”
Still, in my electronic stupor, I had enough sense to turn around to see what was causing this strange sensation. There, two feet behind me, I discovered a woman pushing a filled carriage. Small, but perceptible body language signaled she was trying to get around me. Sloth that I was! With cans in hands and phone still aglow, I realized what I’d done. Looking at her bewildered and impatient face I said, “Didn’t you know….” her mouth twitched, and I could imagine, in her mind, she was saying something like, “Why are you talking to me, just get out of my way!”
Then she burst into laughter.
I continued the sentence, “…that you had your own…” Her face shifting again. This time it was more like, “Why are you talking to me, creepy guy? Move!” I continued with a smile, “…personal barricade!” As the final syllables slipped from my lips, I watched her run through a plethora of additional expressions. Then she burst into laughter. Yes, she LOL’d! Then I LOL’d and we both nearly ROFL’d. Ah, good times!
It was in that hysterical gush that I knew that she grasped that I was aware of my electronic comma. I was right smack dab in the middle of isle 17a, and there was nothing she could do about it! We parted ways as we continued to laugh. I found my wife sniffing hand soap, and I told my story. Being accustomed to my profound shopping antics, we shared a chuckle and went back to the soap. We picked olive oil and aloe.
On the way home I got to thinking. Not willing to let simple stuff go by without some lesson or meaning, I wondered about how this interaction was a microcosm of life.
In my self-absorbed, egocentric living, do I cause frustration or induce anger?
I wondered, how many times have I been more of a blockade to people’s progress than an aid? Not just in locomotion, but in emotional and spiritual growth. In my self-absorbed, egocentric living, do I cause frustration or induce anger? I bet I do. But I don't want to, not intentionally.
I wondered, on the flip side, how many times I’ve gotten annoyed with someone for my self-centered, gotta-keep-moving hectic lifestyle? Probably thousands, and for what, to gain a few extra ticks on the clock? How much sooner do I get home by honking the horn at the guy in front of me doing the speed limit? Not much, I would guess. So, what am I accomplishing? Other than making another person’s life stressful, nothing.
I take life seriously, well, most of the time, unless I’m shopping. There’s one thing for certain, that moment in aisle four made me want to be more aware, more “present” in life. The people around us are, well, people; made in the image of God and worth noticing. Our culture is losing its grip on the value of real, human, interaction and community, even casually. I think all of us should reflect on this as our society is inflamed with selfishness and anger.
So, the next time you’re out strolling, having a romantic time with your spouse - wherever that may be - and you get a text message, stop and giggle. You may just become someone’s personal barricade!