Let The Other Person Win

A lesson from a grocery store parking lot.

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I pulled into Whole Foods this morning and as expected, there was a long line of people spread across the parking lot waiting to get inside. Despite the limited parking spaces, I found one pretty quickly and zipped in, eager to go get a spot in line.  The moment I parked I heard the guy next to me start yelling.  I looked around and realized the problem. Our cars were parked next to each other and although we were both within our respective lines, he wasn’t able to fully open the doors on one side of his car.  The other side of his car was completely free. 

This guy’s cart was jam-packed with grocery bags which he was trying to Tetris into his car.  He kept yelling “How am I supposed to get my bags in the car?!”. The other side of his car was unobstructed, so I suggested he use that.  But he had a specific plan, and that wasn’t part of it.  This guy was angry. He was swearing, yelling and waiving his arms around.  His face was red hot. I thought he was acting crazy.  The place was packed, there were no other spots, AND I was actually legally parked.  I hadn’t done anything wrong! This was ridiculous. It was cold and I decided to get in line. I started to walk away but something just didn’t feel right.  When I turned around, I saw this man standing there, staring at his cart, just looking overwhelmed and defeated.  He was having a tough time.     

It occurred to me this man wasn’t yelling about the car; he was yelling because he’s had enough.  Of what, I don’t know. Maybe the whole virus situation, the quarantine, maybe something with his family, work, or money.  I have no idea.  It didn’t matter.  He was at the brink of losing control and my car was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

I had every right to do nothing.  It was chilly and I wanted to hurry up and get in line so I could get inside.  I didn’t feel like going back and moving my car.  And again, this guy was being ridiculous.  But when I paused, I realized I wasn’t in a hurry. It wasn’t THAT cold.  And moving my car wasn’t that big of a deal.  To me at least.  To him, it made a big difference.  So, I went back and backed my car out of the space so that he had more than enough room to do what he needed to do. The funny thing is when I did this, he waived me off and told me to forget it.  He finished packing his car from the other side.  After all of that commotion, he got out and calmly called to me, his face back to its normal color, and said, “Ma’am, thank you.”

We are all on edge these days.  Some of us may be having harder times than others, or don’t know how to process the intense feelings and stress that have fallen upon us.  In any situation, there is always one person who is in a “better” state than the other.  But sometimes egos and pride get in the way.  We have to realize that’s all it is.  Ego and pride.  And that, in the grand scheme of what we are dealing with, our ego can take the hit and be fine.     

When we look back at our day, which actions will we feel good about?  Losing our temper and fighting in a parking lot over something meaningless? Or, diffusing a situation and helping another person come back down from a state of total stress and overwhelm?  What is the ripple effect caused by each reaction? How does each person then go onto affect the next person they run into? We can make a big difference in the smallest of ways. Sometimes, it’s just about letting the other person win.      

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