It’s been a very sad day. The news of my uncle who broke his neck last week after slipping and falling (something that could happen to any of us) hasn’t been as positive as we’d originally hoped. It’s been a day of sadness, and disbelief, and introspection.
This afternoon I found myself with time on my hands and no idea of what to do with myself. I’d been meaning to get to Barnes & Noble for weeks and decided it was the perfect afternoon to go grab some inspiration by way of books. When I arrived I needed help to find one particular book. I went to the info desk and waited for someone to see me and finally, lucky for me (THICK sarcasm here), a man I’ll call W sauntered over. With an air of superiority he asked me if he could help me find something. I told him what I was looking for and he didn’t respond, just tapped the keyboard, and then began walking away quickly. “It should be over here” he called over his shoulder as he was almost out of sight. I hustled to catch him and as I reached his side he was handing me the book I’d requested. I thanked him and he walked away.
I found the other book I wanted and headed for the register. In and out trips to stores was all I had in me today. I handed a lovely girl my books and as I dug out my Barnes and Noble membership card told her that I was a member. She took it and looked puzzled after sliding it through. “It looks like your membership is expired.” I shook my head and said “I actually renewed it the last time I was here. When they looked me up by phone number they realized I had two memberships, both expired, and the woman who helped me said she would get rid of one and renew the other, and I paid the $25.” The girl did some typing and said “no, it says you’re expired.” I asked her how I should proceed given that I’d renewed it a mere two months ago, and paid for it. She looked up and said “W? Can you come help me for a second?”
Re-enter into the picture the man who’d helped me find one of my books. He too typed furiously and said “I’m sorry, your membership has expired.” I explained the situation to him and he said “yes, well, it says it’s expired.” I asked him how, from a customer service perspective, he would suggest I proceed. To which he responded “well, there is this number on the back of your membership card, you can call them and if they can figure it out…I don’t know how they would…but if they did they could refund the 10% you will spend on this purchase today without your membership discount.”
This my friends? This is when I lost my sh-t.
I set all of my stuff down and put my hands on the counter gently and I said “I’m sorry. I have to be honest with you. This? This is too much. I have a relative who is gravely ill and this? This is the one thing that I cannot deal with today. Not today. I’m sorry but this is just the one thing that will put me right over the edge.” I said it not in an aggressive tone, not in a loud tone, but in a quiet, defeated, and “HELP A SISTER OUT” tone.
This my friends? This is when W lost his sh-t.
He started furiously typing and said “fine. We’ll take care of it. I will pay for it myself.” And then it went like this…
Me: Sir, that is not what I’m asking you to do. I’m simply saying that I paid for my membership renewal two months ago, I have the credit card I used to pay for it, I can tell you the books I bought at the same time, is there nothing you can do?
W: I said I’d take care of it. I don’t want THIS to be the ONE THING that puts you over the edge today. I want you to leave here and have a GREAT day.
Me: Well…umm…my relative will still be gravely ill so…
W: Don’t worry about it. (to me) RING HER UP! (to the lovely girl who was watching in horror)
Me: Really, I’m not asking you to pay for it, I’m asking what the action steps are. How do I proceed when I’ve paid for something and you’re telling me it’s not paid for?
Girl: (almost in a whisper) That will be $15.06.
At this point W was pulling cash out of his own wallet and pounding it on the counter dramatically. I was mortified. He then put it all down and said “$25 dollars. Membership paid.” And he walked away in a huff. The lovely girl said “I’m so so sorry. About this and about your relative. I’m so sorry.” Flabbergasted, I paid for my books, looked at the girl and another man who’d come over to see the commotion, and walked out.
I sat in my car for a couple of minutes before calling Eh, and Cousin A, and my husband to tell them what had just happened. All of whom were incensed at W’s ridiculousness and totally amused. By the end of the third telling of the story I was laughing too. It was just too ridiculous. I’ll be calling that manager tomorrow.
As for today, however, it’s never easier to take a hard look at your life than when you have devastating proof of how fragile life can be. I can talk the talk about being the best version of myself, and what iffing, and doing this and that to make my life amazing, but until you have an experience that jolts you and makes you sit up and take notice, the talk doesn’t mean a damn thing. It is, after all, just talk.
I came home and made a list of things that have to happen this summer in order for me to really live the best life that I can. Because at the end of the day you can either a) live the best life possible, or b) don’t. All of this heartache can’t be for nought. It has to spur action. It. Just. Has. To.
And yes…I did color the title of this document with my little girls’ markers. And yes…while some of it is big heavy stuff (forgiveness and patience anyone?) some of it sounds trivial and little. But to me? These things have to happen in order for this summer to be the beginning of a different kind of life. One that is purposeful, deliberate, and incredibly well-lived. And honestly, if my uncle is anything he is a man who is incredibly joyful, with a loud and hearty laugh to show it. That is the way to live.
TODAY: What if instead of talking about, planning out, and thinking about changing my life I shut the eff up and do it? Without fanfare or analysis or discussion. What if I make JOY my goal? What if I laugh more? And what if the a-shole at B&N was really just the universe giving me a small laugh in the midst of an otherwise really tough day?