The annoyances this morning challenged me, and by all indication my attitude needed adjusting. It took a while yanking at weeds to calm my agitation.
Before heading for the retreat center, nearly an hour drive away, I needed to fill the car with gas. The pre-pay pumps were rarely an issue, but this time my debit card would not authorize. The scratchy voice from the metal speaker, just above the ticker screen advertising super-sized drinks for 99¢, said I needed to come inside to the register.
I had pulled up to Pump-8 at the far end for quick reentry onto the main road. It was, of course, the furthest from the cashier. I trudged the distance and stood in line behind six other customers. The name badge of the woman behind the counter clarified why the wait was so long, Elise was in training.
My exasperation grew when I learned that she didn’t know how to override the pump and I would have to pay cash. Money on the counter, I trudged back to the car, filled it, and trudged again to the cashier to wait in line for the change. Heading back across the pad for the fourth time I wondered if I had done my mile walk for the day.
Finally back on the highway and running just a few minutes late, I began making mental notes of how to work the grounds efficiently with the volunteers. Most of the workers were retirees so we only labored for about two hours, cleaned up for thirty minutes, enjoyed lunch and they all went home.
Driving along I saw a silver van in my mirrors coming up quickly. When the vehicle, a Dodge Caravan twice the size of my little Ford wagon, was nearly past it suddenly veered into my lane and slowed. I hit the brakes hard, glanced into the rear-view mirror and saw the cars behind me also start to brake, then my car began to swerve but I quickly regained control. We all nearly collided.
Pulling around the now slowed Caravan I looked to the driver. She was cluelessly laughing into a cell phone held to her head. Twice in less than a month, while I was on the road, a young woman with a cell had aged me by ten years.
Already behind schedule and knowing I had to pick up items to repair the hoses at the center, I exited the highway and headed for Wal-Mart. Shooting into a parking spot, I dashed into the store as fast as a five-foot full-bodied woman could. Nabbing a plastic carrier I moved quickly to Lawn & Garden, grabbed male and female couplings, washers, plastic hose menders and shut-offs. Coming around the other end of the isle I headed to one of the only two registers open in the store.
This quick stop wasn’t going to be so quick either. I waited with my less-than-10-items behind two other customers as the cashier slowly scanned the groceries of an apparent friend of hers from who-knows-where. The next thing I knew a wailing infant pulled up behind me, his screams were deafening. The poor mother, in pajama bottoms, Crocs and daddy’s t-shirt looked desperate with a screaming baby in the seat, a whining three-year-old throwing a fit at her side and a mountainous cart of groceries.
Pity is not a good thing, but I did her, and stepped aside so she would be the next in line.
Things were not much better when I finally pulled into the retreat center. I was nearly twenty minutes late and it was duly noted by those searching for me on-site. The wheelbarrow had a flat, the tool I needed was at home, and someone had blocked our shelving in the pole barn with bins of oil and tractor parts. Eventually things were sorted out, duties assigned and we all headed out to the gardens. I was grateful to be able to work alone a fair distance from the others.
Not long ago I had read a piece by St. Claude de la Colombriere, a Jesuit priest in the seventeenth century, which spoke of turning our hearts to God during the hundred small annoyances we face every day. These aggravations can be created by others or by ourselves and help train us to face those more challenging issues to our morals. This morning that reading hit home. The past few hours were not about mounting an effort for a single heroic virtue. Rather, it was about practicing small charitable acts in the face of exasperation and frustrations. Somehow I had managed to keep the coarse words to myself, my attitude in check and impatience undetected.
Although, I do think I exhibited heroic virtue in not expressing myself symbolically to the driver of the silver Dodge Caravan.