I pulled away from the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and I cried.
It had been one of those weeks – the ones that seem to feel like they come more frequently now. The weeks where bad things happen, when people show you their worst, and others show you their best. Weeks when you shield small eyes from news and try to figure out how to explain to small people why bad things happen, when you don’t really know yourself. Weeks when so many of the tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts I see are some variation of “hold the ones you love extra tightly tonight”. It was one of those weeks.
And it was a Monday. Back into the swing of things. I had spent nearly an hour, before 8 am, trying to persuade Pickle to get dressed. He spent much of the morning half-naked, wailing from the stairs that he wanted other pants and he wanted to help Dad with the trash. He was, in typical nearly-3-year-old fashion, unmoved by my calm, rational, suggestion that he needed clothes to help Dad because it was 34 degrees outside, and that he could be helping him right now if he just stopped screaming at me and got dressed in pants of his choosing. His response? “DON’T EVEN LOOK AT ME! NEVER NEVER!” Sigh.
So the lady who cut the line at the Dunkin drive-thru really bugged me today. I can usually let that kind of stuff roll off my back. I can accept that some people are greedy, some people are selfish and some people make bad choices. And really, a 30 second delay in me getting an iced coffee isn’t a very big deal. But today, it annoyed me. There was a minivan in front of me, and 2 cars behind me when the woman in the silver car jumped the queue. She just tucked herself in, in front of the minivan lady. I was annoyed. I had visions of kindly informing her – from my open window, and loudly – that there was indeed a line, and she had just cut 4 people, and who did she think she was anyway. It made me grumpy – the idea that she could be oblivious to those around her, to the rules, to the order of things. It made me grumpy that people act without full consideration of their actions, that people could care so little for the people around them. And perhaps I projected a bit of my sadness and anger that stemmed from events of the last week onto this woman. It is hard to understand why people are selfish, why people are stupid.
The line moved up, I placed my order and pulled up behind Ms. Minivan. I saw the man at the window hand her a Diet Coke, and a bag and off she drove. I pulled up, and handed over my debit card, but the man at the window refused it.
“The woman in front of you paid for your order,” he said. “She just said to pay it forward at some point when you’re feeling generous.” He smiled. I was lost in my grumpy train of thought, so his words took a second to register; I’m sure I looked confused.
I mumbled something about how nice that was, and offered to pay for the person behind me, too. Maybe she paid for the person behind her too; I won’t ever know.
And maybe I’m overtired, or hormonal, or silly, or perhaps just human, but I cried as I drove away. A few of the tears were stored up from the week before, a few were tears of embarrassment or anger at myself for losing faith in my fellow human beings, even if just for a bit, and a few were tears of thanks, to the woman, and the universe, for teaching me a little bit of redemption and kindness through a cup of iced coffee.
“Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right”