Posted: July 11, 2020
The other day I got into my car (mostly just to drive it to keep the battery charged) and drove to the closest In-N-Out Burger to get some tasty cheeseburgers.
It was around lunchtime and there was a bit of a line (not surprising at any In-N-Out, lunchtime or otherwise).
From my perspective, there were two ways to merge into the drive-in line, so I let the guy in front of me go first and then I merged into the line.
It was hot out, so I had the window up and the air conditioner blasting while I listened to a favorite podcast – in my own little cocoon.
A couple minutes later I heard someone outside yelling in an angry tone, “HEY! … HEY!” – I looked up and saw a guy standing outside the driver’s side of my car.
I rolled down the window and the guy told me in an irritated tone of voice that I was taking cuts.
I was surprised at this and my defense mechanism automatically kicked in … I told the guy (he was a rough-looking construction-worker type guy in an orange T-shirt in his early-mid 40’s) “Thanks, buddy, I appreciate it.”
At that, the guy made a dismissive gesture with his arm at me and muttered an expletive as he walked away and I rolled up my car window.
Thinking I effectively brushed off this ruffian, I drove further up in the line to meet an adolescent male dressed in white pants and shirt, white side cap headgear and a red apron, holding a electronic notepad.
“Are you here to take my order?” I asked the young man.
He responded in a soft, cracked voice, “I’m sorry, you took cuts, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
Poor kid. While not further contributing to his obvious discomfort wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, seeing I wasn’t going to prevail in this conflict, I put my car in reverse, got out of the drive-through line and departed, cheeseburger-less.
So there it was. While I didn’t *intend* to take cuts, the authority figure in the form of an awkward, pimply-faced adolescent dressed in white told me how the cow was going to eat the cabbage.
A simple misunderstanding.
Afterwards, I thought about it and concluded I missed an opportunity.
Instead of putting my hard face on, I could have showed Mr. Construction Worker Guy hungry for a burger some grace.
I could have told him, “Hey, thanks for letting me know, I’ll get in the back of the line now”.
Instead, my natural defense mechanism in the form of “Who the hell does this guy think he is, telling me what to do?” kicked in.
Lesson learned: I think the pandemic has a lot of people stressed and on-edge and I need to have a rapid response plan to show more awareness and grace to my neighbors, including those whose name I don’t know who are cut out of a rougher piece of wood waiting in line to get a burger.