Dude, where’s the love?

It has been one of those weeks. I’ve gotten little sleep, and my novel-writing stamina and enthusiasm have wavered. I’ve continued with my writing schedule; morale is low, that’s all. Also, there have been a few worries regarding my boy’s school. Then there’s the neighbor who wasn’t as considerate as I might have expected. The father with the car seat in the back of his own car who abruptly cut off, and nearly took down, my husband and my kid as they made their way on foot across the parking lot. At the pumpkin patch! The dude at the library yesterday, in charge of the second-hand bookstore, who nearly took my head off when I asked a question about the pricing of the books. The other dude, who sat across from me at “my table,” and proceeded to type on his laptop like the keyboard was a tough piece of meat that he was attempting to tenderize using nothing but the tips of his fingers. The whole table trembled like an elephant stampede. I wanted to reach over and smack him. Sometimes, I daydream that I have no filter whatsoever. I’ve done a lot of that this week. Because I am one of those people who, in times of low-energy fragility, have an extremely vulnerable emotional response to what I perceive as gratuitous unkindness.

After I completed yesterday’s scheduled ninety minutes of writing (over 2,000 words, yeah!), I finally had time to read an article that some friends had posted on Facebook via Huffington Post, called Surviving Whole Foods, by Kelly Maclean. I laughed out loud. This probably annoyed the meat tenderizer across from me; hey that’s just gravy, man. This is the kind of mood I was in. Maclean’s characterization of what it sometimes feels like to shop at Whole Foods was poignant, funny, and very relatable. And the parking lot? Spot-freaking-on:

“Whole Foods’ clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion… until they get to the parking lot. Then it’s war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says ‘NAMASTE’. Poor lady didn’t even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.”

Ugh. So true! Let’s face it, the place often seems to be predominantly populated by self-important types who appear to be so seriously caught up in what they put into their bodies, that they are far less concerned with what they put out vis-à-vis human connection. I was thinking about those types as I read the article. And then I remembered the day when I experienced a distinct exception to this phenomenon.

About a year and half ago, I had parked my car at the Whole Foods parking lot, and taken my son in his stroller to run a quick errand before coming back to shop there. When we came back to Whole Foods, I took him out of his stroller, and was attempting to get him into the shopping cart. He didn’t want to go in, and in the struggle, I accidentally pulled the wheel of the cart onto my foot, a lot harder that I initially thought. Bam. Broken pinky toe. I called my husband immediately to tell him what happened and to try to figure out what to do next. Throughout my talk with my husband, it felt as though I was the object of various forms of tsk-ing, hissing, and mean looks from passing strangers, because I could barely move, and was standing in the way of terribly important people, in a terrible hurry, wearing their trendy-pricey-skinny yoga leggings, carrying their $10 cup of freshly juiced green juice (probably their one meal for the day, I speculated).

Basically using the shopping cart as a walker, I managed to buy the few essential items that we absolutely needed at home. Then, with the help of a very friendly and concerned check-out clerk, I got my son back in his stroller, and the two shopping bags hooked onto the handles of the stroller. I made my way to our car, wondering whether I would even be able to drive home. It was my right pinky toe that I had injured. The parking spots next to ours were vacant, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was preparing to cross the empty parking spots diagonally to get to my car faster, when an elderly woman pulled up, clearly intending to park in one of those sports. I waved her in, I’m sure, with an exasperated eye roll. She, in turn, motioned for me to go.

So I moved, wobbling, in pain, close to tears, toward my car. Now on top of having a broken pinky toe and still not knowing whether I was going be able to drive home, I was going to get a talking-to about manners from an eighty-year-old woman. After I made it to my car door, the woman quickly parked her car. One second later, she was next to me. “Qué necesitas?” Of course she spoke Spanish! The woman wanted to know what I needed. I have no idea what I said in response. What I do know is that, in a matter of one or two minutes, she had loaded my groceries, my kid, the stroller, and my own wounded self into our car. “Yo seré vieja, pero soy fuerte! = I may be old, but I’m strong!”

I have since had a chance to personally thank the friendly check-out clerk for her help that day. In fact, I think that made her day when I did! But I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Whole Foods parking lot angel again. If there’s ever been an unlikely place for having a loving encounter with a stranger, I would tend to think that the Whole Foods parking lot, at the very least, makes the short list. I really love it when I’m wrong sometimes.

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