Note to My Older Self, Part 1

This is Part 1 of a new series of Blog posts I’m writing to my future-self begging myself not to do certain things or become the type of person I would hate. I picture myself a wise, charming, clever old man who listens more than he talks and no matter how old I get, I’ll still be curious, optimistic, and constantly learning things. Maybe I’ll learn a language. Maybe I’ll learn piano. Maybe I’ll teach myself to write left-handed. Maybe I’ll get a job at a Thai restaurant and work in the kitchen and learn how to make new, delicious dishes. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll become a master chef.

Point is, I vow never to be a grumpy old man. I want to enjoy life rather than hate it and everything in it.

Occasionally, like at the store last weekend, I’ll run into “old people” that make me shake my head. I went into this adorable little corner market by my house to buy a few things (pizza sauce, block of mozzarella cheese, and this amazing spinach artichoke dip). I saw freshly baked loaves of bread, so I picked up one of those, too (still had leftover Thanksgiving turkey and thought the bread would make for an amazing sandwich).

As I approached the  4 checkout lines, I assessed the line situation and saw a woman, standing alone, with a box of cereal in her hand and the person in front of her was almost done checking out. Yes! One person checking out, a woman with a box of cereal and, then … me and my 5 things. 

71nzhfWCTsLBut when I got in line behind this old woman, while doing my best to resist putting these orange-chocolate candies in my basket (chocolate and orange are terrific flavor combination and it made me think of the Brach’s orange sticks my Dad used to bring home and they were such a treat …I would do anything to find ’em). I was jarred from my daydream about Googling “Brach’s orange sticks”, or maybe it was Sander’s chocolate-orange sticks (UPDATE: Sweet’s makes a milk-chocolate version, but I’m remembering a dark-chocolate orange stick) ….where was I?  Oh, yes … I was jarred awake from my daydream by the old woman in front of me (with the one box of cereal) talking to a man in the aisle next to us. She was motioning him to steer his jam-packed cart into our checkout lane because, it seemed, the woman checking out in my lane was just about done and then this old woman, and what I was now realizing was her companion, could jump into my line and be “next” (see diagram if the scenario isn’t clear). 

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Yes. This old couple got into two lines with the plan to push their full cart (it’s important to point out how full the cart was …easily 40 things in that cart) into whichever cashier became available first. I realized I was about to go from third-in-line behind a person almost done checking out and a woman with one thing, to the second-in-line behind an old couple (in their 70s?) who would probably take forever, argue about a price (and ask for a price check), and very possibly pay by check. 

One minute, I’m less than a minute from checking out, and the next minute I’m about 10 minutes from getting out of the store. 

During the minute or so I was standing in line, every checkout lane became three deep, all with full carts, and I didn’t have an option to jump lines. 

And then it happened …the old woman made the call …she grabbed her husbands cart and pulled it over to our lane and I was stuck. Stuck behind two old people that ignored line etiquette. That etiquette being, you pick a line, and you live with it. It’s the “law of lines”. You, and I, will always be in the slowest line. Of course, sometimes you get lucky and pick correctly, but mostly, the line you’re in (or I’m in) always moves slower than the other lines (similar to lanes of traffic on the highway in a traffic jam). 

I was mad. I think I sighed loudly. As I mentioned, this couple was in their 70s and I know they couldn’t hear my sigh. I took a deep breath. I grabbed the holiday bag of orange-chocolates, ripped it open, and ate one. It calmed me.

Then I thought… I could be mad. For how long? 10 minutes? The next half hour? All they way home until I can vent to my family about these, “horribly rude old people?” Should I have said something? Should I have looked and tried to make eye contact with the woman behind me, or someone in another lane and too-loudly say, “can you believe these people?” And then me and my new friend can stare daggers into the back of the grey-haired heads?

Maybe it was the dopamine from the orange-chocolate, but I decided, no . . . I won’t be mad. Life’s too short. Plus, their lives are too short and winding down so saving time, what little time they have left, probably is OK. I felt bad thinking that.

Instead, I took a deep breath and decided, OK, here’s another thing I won’t ever do when I get old. Instead, I hope when I’m old, and I look behind me and see a young guy with 4 or 5 things in his hand, and looking at my 40 things in my cart, I’ll say, “hey …you just have those 5 things …why don’t you go ahead of me?”

Then I’ll add, “I see you eyeing those orange-chocolates …go ahead, young man …life’s short. Here. Let me buy those for you.”

Two takeaways …don’t ever do this. Pick a line. Roll the dice. Deal with whatever happens. Don’t line-gamble …or double-down on lines …I don’t even know if what they were doing has a name (it should).

Second, and better takeaway …let some things slide. Had I said something or had I sighed even louder …nothing would change. Except maybe my mood and, worse, probably their mood (even though I didn’t detect much joy in their shopping trip and line-jockying …yes! That’s it. We’ll call it “line jockying”).

When I get old, I hope I don’t sweat the small stuff.

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