Pickles and Beef

A March 26th snow squall unexpectedly graced my windshield. It was a mere hour ago at a signal light where the red Toyota next to me was barely visible. Glancing between the sideways snowflakes, I made a squintiant, valiant effort to connect with the driver who, perhaps, may have been as surprised as I was at the less-than accomodating weather. No go.

Actually, my left turn arrow was a go before making any contact. That driver plowed forward, presumably, minutes after I pulled into a local grocery store to basket up some pickles and beef. Head down to avoid the high, white wind, I passed through double doors only to face faces in line at Starbucks. A long line of kiosk anticipators who, by all accounts, weren’t having their “best life now” …

I am not a coffee drinker, but there’s a rumor going around that some folks need their “fix” in the morning. This was a small convention of them. I may be a little grumpy paying around $48 per gallon, too, but can’t say I blame them. I pay the same for my green tea and when it’s not available? Look out!

There’s no need for displeasure in our lives, but all of us have to accept it. There’s no escaping the pull toward, “Really, why?”, or “I’ll just hang with this situation now until things get better …”. Life has a way of being more than we can handle at times.

…Thus coffee and green tea. The little cups of liquid that help the bitter stuff go down a bit easier.

I pondered this while deciding between 80/20 and 90/10 beef. Knowing Starbucks would probably sell more in fifteen minutes than I – during three hours at my stand in 40-degree weather – … the beefy decision came down to price vs fat content during grilling. Being an average guy, I split the difference and carried away one pack of each. With those, and a jar of bread & butter pickles, checking out was easy at one of nine self-service kiosks. Past the Starbucks, again, as those last were edging their way to first, I exited out into the wintry stew.

Walking through the lot, I noticed a middle-aged man in his car, head back against the rest, eyes closed. Almost positive he was waiting for someone as the blue Mazda was idling (presumably for heat). With nothing to offer but raw meat and pickles, or possibly nice conversation, I felt it best to be on my way. No medical emergency was apparent and this is very much and ordinary sight among us, right?

I wondered, however, was he thinking the same thoughts as us needing our green tea, and coffee fixes? Was he simply hanging out in the windy late-March flurry of laughable, languishing snow? “My companion went in for bread 45 minutes ago and hasn’t come out yet … ” like-sentences may have been parked in his third-to-last nerve space. Could someone inside be a partner whose face was contemplating a sugar-free latte and WAS, by extension, holding his hand? Without being extremely rude, potentially arrested, and late opening my trailer (definitely in that order), there really is no way to know.

I am truly happy not knowing.

… and was glad to be back at the same signal light to re-enter a busy highway.

Forward is a great direction. Whether it is toward a place we expected or not, we are still headed from somewhere to somewhere – with others beside us. This is my takeaway from the past few hours as I sit here watching traffic go by … While serving a few customers now and then.

The driver next to me in the snow, customers in line at Starbucks, and Mr. Mazda rester all have somewhere to be and a story in their March 26th day. They are doing their day now … as I am. We’re participating in life together, yet apart.

They made a small impact in my life, during a variation of March madness, without knowing it. By extension, I am sharing part of my day with you.

We all share the highs and lows. Our heads lean back on so many headrests. We lean back on friends, family, and yes … coffee & tea. Communities support us. Strangers reflect our thoughts and feelings even during unexpected snow squalls.

My left into grocery lot enlightenment was the right turn after all. I’m glad to be reminded it’s ok to stop, close my eyes, and rest.

Sure hope nobody walks by with beef and pickles, however.

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