It’s funny how you can get jarred and jolted out of your everyday routine, even have your innermost thoughts, feelings, and preconceptions destroyed. It can happen in the blink of an eye. It happened to me the other day in the drive-thru line, of all places.
I have to admit, when I first saw multi-lane drive-thru setups, I told myself “this will never work well, because people are people”. I was roundly confirmed in that notion the first few times I used one, but it eventually got better. They do have their advantages. If one lane has “that person” who just can’t decide what they want, or feel the need to dictate every detail of their order multiple times, an additional lane can ease the bottleneck.
I eased into the shortest lane, hoping to get through the line faster (I never pick the fastest/shortest lane, not here, or at grocery stores, but at least here I had a 50/50 shot). Everything went well until I pulled past the order space and attempted to merge behind the car from the opposite lane. As I sat there, the car behind them eased up, obviously framing themselves to go next in the line, even though I had emerged from the order space first.
“Here we go,” my primitive brain told me. “That lady is going to completely ignore me”, along with, “she did that on purpose”. Choice words flooded my thoughts, even though the actual “damage” to me was maybe an additional 30 seconds in line. It didn’t matter-my fight or flight response was in full fight mode…in my head, anyway. I rolled up my window, turned up my music, and fuming, waited impatiently.
When we pull around to the first window to pay, I notice that the lady takes forever to pay, twice handing over her card to the cashier and receiving it back with a receipt. I fumed even more. Why did this lady have to be in my way? What possessed her to pull in front of me? Was her time that more important than mine? My mind was spinning with anger and frustration (I’m certain due to the condition of my moods and such lately, as explained in this previous post.
I rolled my car window back down as I pulled up to the payment window. As I was about to ask about a discount, the cashier interrupted me to say, “That lady before you paid your ticket.”
I was gobsmacked. That lady, the one I was busily insulting in my head, the one I was certain was entirely without manners, the one who cost me a few more precious seconds at the drive-thru during my all-to-brief lunch hour, had paid for my lunch. I didn’t know what to do other than ask how much was the order of the person behind me.
I got off easy…$1.07 for a sweet tea (which tells you what restaurant I was at). While my order wasn’t much more than that, I was still paying less than I would have. With limited cash in hand, and the bewildered looks on the faces of the two young women running the register, I was afraid to ask how much the order for the car two back from me was, so I paid for the sweet tea, gave them a big smile, and drove off.
As I pulled onto the highway, I had to both laugh at and berate myself for being the “jerk in the room”, because even though I had not said anything out loud, or made any rude gestures, or indicated in any way that I was upset, I had still excoriated that woman in my head. “She was the worst!” my angry brain told me, until she obviously wasn’t, and I was.
It’s funny how things happen sometimes.
Taking a deeper look at this incident, I have to acknowledge that it happened on purpose, for my benefit. I think the message is clear. God put me there, at that time, in that spot in line, behind that woman, to remind me that things are not always as they seem, and that I need to work on my love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Extra time should apparently be spent on patience, peace, and kindness. Since there is no law against these things (Galatians 5:22-23), if I can allow the Holy Spirit to develop these in me, I’ll have fewer instances like this one.
I can’t imagine the embarrassment, shame and disgrace that might have overwhelmed me if I had vocally or physically responded to this woman with the thoughts that were rattling around i my head. How terrible and awful a situation that would have been, because I would have immediately regretted it, even if she had not bought my lunch. It was only God’s grace that kept me from misbehaving.