I got my hair cut yesterday at a local salon. When I arrived, I had to take off my sweater and put on a little smock; they provide a tiny little one-person dressing room stocked with smocks for this purpose. There was someone in the dressing room when I arrived, but she had the door open and was just standing there, texting someone on her phone. I waited politely just outside the door.
The hair-washing lady saw me standing there. She looked at the lady texting on her phone, and then she looked at me. She watched me with interest.
After a few minutes, when it became apparent that the texting session was not going to be over quickly, I poked my head into the dressing room and asked, "May I just grab a smock please?"
"Of course," the lady said, not looking up.
I took a smock and went to the ladies' room to change into it.
When I emerged and sat down to have my hair washed, the washing lady said, "That was really smart, what you did there."
"Thanks. There's always a better solution than yelling at someone to hurry up, don't you think?"
"You're a better person than I am," she said. "I would have told her to move along."
I'll admit, I thought about asking her to step outside to finish her texting. But I thought, this is just a small moment, a small inconvenience. I had no idea what was going on. Maybe she had a sick kid, or a crisis at home. Elderly parents. A car in the shop. Maybe she was arguing with her husband or her boss. Who knows? Who am I to judge someone I have never seen before? And she probably didn't even know I was standing there. There was nothing to gain by being rude. I saw that the bathroom was unoccupied, and that would work just as well for me.
A few minutes later, a freshly-coiffed woman approached the hair-washing lady with a small wad of cash. "Thanks for washing my hair," she said. "This is for you."
"I didn't wash your hair," she responded. "That was Lisa. She's in the break room. I'll give this to her."
"No, I'm pretty sure it was you - wasn't it?"
"Nope. But no worries. I'll go give this to her." The washing lady took the money and, leaving me for a moment, went to find Lisa.
When she returned, I said, "Don't ever tell me again that I'm a better person than you."
"What do you mean?"
"You could have said 'thank you' and put that money in your pocket, and no one would have been the wiser."
"Yeah, but that wouldn't have accomplished anything." She shrugged. "What goes around comes around."
She was right. I thought about it later, when I was stalled in traffic in the grocery aisles, and then later, when my son texted me that he absolutely needed a black t-shirt for school by tomorrow morning and would I possibly mind running to the store to find one for him? This involved a trip to K-Mart at 6 P.M., with the full load of groceries still in my car.
There are opportunities to be kind and helpful, or at least not rude and judgmental, lurking in every small moment of every day. I'm going to try to start taking those opportunities as often as I can.
(Yes, I am aware of what is going on in Ferguson, MO and in other cities all around the country. I will write about that soon. I'm still thinking. I like to think before I write, if I possibly can.)
Happy Thanksgiving to my readers in the U.S.!