Saturday, July 25, 2015

To the girl at the mall...

I should have studied psychology, or sociology, or anthropology instead of biology.  I love to people watch and see how they interact with each other.  I'm curious about what goes in their heads to make them act the way they do toward another.  Instead, my college career filled my brain with the scientific names of sycamore trees, black rat snakes, and stuff like that.  Things that only nature geeks, like myself, care one iota about. 

Don't get me wrong.  I love all of that stuff...trees, snakes, amphibians, fish, plants...anything of the natural world...but I also love going by the mall, grabbing a cup of iced coffee, walking for 15 or 20 minutes and just watching.  Not in a creepy kind of way.  People are just interesting. 

I love our little mall in Paducah.  It's comfortable.  It's close.  I usually run into someone I know, and that's always good for a quick conversation.  But the one thing I really love about our little mall is that there are no vendors chasing you down, hawking their wares.  Bigger malls...well, they're like some kind of twisted game of retail River Raid.  All I want to do is get through, but I'm constantly having to dodge folks who chase me down wanting to sell me something.  Geez, Louise, folks...just let me walk.

Yesterday consisted of one last family day trip before school started back. We did the zoo thing, and all of us were allowed to leave.  Then after 5.1 miles of that, we headed to one of the local gallerias.  It's too big to just be called a mall...fancy...  I felt like I dropped a social class by simply walking through the doors. 

We walked...and looked...  I spied a coffee vendor and said, "Finally!  Iced coffee!"  So, frosty java in hand, we took off again.  Every few minutes I'd notice a vendor trying to make eye contact just long enough to break into my personal space bubble, and I started hearing that River Raid siren going off in my head. (If you're too young to know what River Raid is, it was only the coolest Atari game ever in the early 80's.  And if you're too young to know what Atari is, google it.)

At least a half dozen times this happened...then there she was...clipboard in hand and I saw her prepare for the attack.  I'm tired.  I've been in the zoo all day.  There were crowds.  And I just want to walk. 

"Hello, sir.  How are you?"

Seems harmless enough, right?  But before I could even catch them, these words came out of my mouth: "I'm tired, and honestly don't feel like being hassled."  Then I walked off.  Alarms started going off in my head.  Lights were flashing.  Sirens were wailing.  Damage control teams were running around inside my brain.  Then it hit me..."Jamie, you ass.  Why did you do that to her?"  My pace started to slow.  My subconscious was kicking into high gear.  I knew what I had to do. 

I turned around, walked back to her with  my hat in my hand, and said, "I owe you an apology.  That was rude and I shouldn't have done it.  I'm sorry.  Will you forgive me?"  The look on her face was a mix of disgust, hurt, and surprise.  She said, "Thank you, brother." and I shook her hand and walked away. 

I'm changing, and I'm not completely sure it's for the better. Maybe I've been like this for years and I'm just now becoming aware of it.  I don't know.  Maybe it's the life changes I've been through in the last couple months.  I'd like to be able to blame it on that.  Maybe I'm just becoming a curmudgeon.  But I think the truth is, I can just be a jerk sometimes.  It's like there's this switch inside my brain that goes from good guy to jerk instantly, but then can go right back again.  Maybe I've just been able to control it better before, who knows?  Is there a psychologist in the house? 

The last couple weeks, though, I've been made aware of it.  I've noticed it happening more often.  I've also noticed that it can be very hurtful.  It's not intentional.  I don't mean to do it.  But that doesn't make it right.

Given my career choice, the words of John Wesley have been ringing in my ears of late..."Do Good.  Do no harm.  Stay in love with God."  While I, or we, may want to do no harm, sometimes we do.  Yesterday, and other times lately, I have...and that sucks. the girl at the mall...and anyone else I may have hurt because my internal filter didn't kick in quickly enough, I apologize.  Perhaps if we all became a little more aware of the power our words and actions have on others, life on this spinning ball would be a little easier to tolerate.

Just some early morning thoughts as the coffee begins to kick in.