I saw my old self at the grocery store yesterday.
What my old self would have been.
We were all in line ups, social distancing, standing on the circles on the floor, measured six-feet apart.
The lady in the line up next to me wanted a chocolate bar. I can’t blame her, obviously. She couldn’t find the one she wanted in her aisle, so she came over to mine quickly to grab what she was craving.
An After Eight in bar form.
I didn’t know they made such a thing.
In the three seconds it took her to find what she wanted, a young woman, late teens, early twenties, maybe, came up behind the lady's spot. When the lady stepped back into line, the young woman’s snark and entitlement came out in full force.
The old me would have done the exact same thing, behaved the exact same way.
“Excuse me,” the young woman said. “We were here first.”
Had she been paying attention, even a little bit, to the people around her and, more specifically the lady six-feet ahead of her in line, she would have seen that the lady stepped out of line briefly and returned to her spot.
But she didn’t.
And I know that I wouldn’t have either.
My old self never had the patience or understanding of people around me, living their lives.
“Excuse me, you need to move,” the young woman said, reiterating that she believed they had been there first. “This is not the way the world works!” She started yelling, forcefully, rolling her overly made-up eyes and crossing her arms.
I like to think I have never been so rude.
I am sure that I have.
The lady stood firm, in front of the social-distancing floor sticker, her few groceries easily fitting into her arms and the chocolate bar that sparked such a reaction in this young woman.
I was aggravated for the lady and rather disgusted at the young woman’s behaviour, knowing instantly in the pit of my stomach that I’ve acted in that way, too. Unacceptably so.
The words I felt on the tip of my tongue as is I witnessed this encounter weren’t mean, but they stayed there, unspoken. I didn’t think it would help anyone for me to get involved. The young woman would likely just turned on me. I know her, remember. She is me. I would have directed my loathsome behaviour at anyone that opposed me a kid when I was her, especially if I was already on the hunt. Even if it was only in the form of an exaggerated eye-roll, an annoyed shrug of the shoulders.
The lady was just in front of you line, I wanted to say. Have a little kindness. She doesn’t have that many groceries. Would you like to go in line in front of me instead?
Thinking back on the moment, which was not even twenty-four hours ago, I think I did the right thing in not getting involved. This is the way the world works and I have hope for this young woman that she will experience something similar one day. That she will realize what she did to offend someone with her words and actions someday, and that she, too, will feel remorse.
I’ve come such a long way since I was that young woman. Gained understanding, patience, empathy.
The lady just wanted a chocolate bar, after all, and while I couldn’t see her face behind the mask, I took her to be strong as she stood her ground. She was also possibly kind and unbothered by this young woman on her righteous tangent, but also possibly hurt and uncomfortable, or even ignorant to what she had done.
My point being that we don’t know the stories of others, even when we’re next to them or consider them close. What someone is going through, or understands to be okay, won’t ever be the same as someone else experiencing the exact same thing. It can’t be.
I’ve changed, from being the contemptuous young woman, to the—dare I say middle-aged—woman, witnessing the unfortunate exchange. Learning things about yourself is always pretty amazing. When I’m the older lady, one day, I can simply step aside and avoid the encounter, if the situation permits. But I also hope that I stand up for myself, my feet firmly planted in what I believe is right.
For After Eight.
Or maybe a Wunderbar.
My old self,