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Slow Down

December 6, 2020

When I go to the commissary for groceries, I am very methodical. I go down each and every aisle. Yes, I have a list, but often as I walk down an aisle, I remember something that didn’t make the list. Due to the Corona Virus, the commissary still has directional arrows on each aisle in an attempt minimize cross traffic and unnecessary interaction. I love the arrows!

For the most part people at the commissary comply with the arrows. What this also means though is that one can get sort of “stuck” with the same crowd as you traverse the store. Going to the commissary in the morning, mid-week I know that the store will be primarily retirees. I don’t mind that at all. I can meander the aisles with the best of them, usually. Last week presented a tricky situation.

The crowd I was stuck with was a tough crowd. When I first entered the store, the couple in front of me was bickering from the get go. First, he picked the “wrong” cart so she was annoyed with him. Then he went toward the queue area that has been established since the pandemic began. She clearly wanted to go straight in the front door. He told her she had to get in line. She got annoyed with him. I just lagged back and let them work it out before we all got into the queue.

I didn’t need too much in the produce section, so thankfully I escaped their chaos as they, I imagine, continued bickering over which tomato was just right. I was now in the main aisles of the store. First couple in my crowd was a wife using a mobility scooter and her husband pushing the cart behind her.

Now I don’t know these people from Adam, but I made a few assumptions. The mobility scooter seemed to be a new adjustment. She was very frustrated with the cart and her body it seemed. He was trying to be supportive but everything he did made her more frustrated. She was desperately trying to maintain her independence by getting items from the shelf and placing them in the cart’s small basket. As she reached for a higher item, her arm bumped several boxed items on lower shelves that came tumbling to the ground. He sighed, she tensed up and then attempted to back up the mobility cart to clean up her mess. Only her husband was too close with the shopping cart so she crashed into him. This made them both angry. He kept saying, “I’ll get it. Don’t worry about it. I’ve got it.” And she kept attempting to clean up the items. Finally, defeated she left the items on the floor, but then decided to stand up to reach what she was originally trying to get. This made him snap at her, “SIT DOWN! Let me help you!” To which she glared at him before finally relenting and sitting back down with a sigh. It made me sad. So many different emotions. I totally understood her frustration and his.

Before you go thinking I was awkwardly staring at their exchange, I was sort of stuck. There was another woman in our crowd who kept stopping in the exact middle of the aisle and then wandering off to find a necessary item. There was no getting around her, so I was just looking at random items on the shelf waiting for a moment to pass them both.  Finally, middle of the aisle lady returned and moved to the side so I got around everyone.

Just as I began freely moving, I was foiled by a younger woman who was barreling down the aisle the wrong way. She was coming straight for me, no slowing down in sight. There are BIG RED arrows on the ground showing the proper traffic flow and this woman had no regard for it. Startled by her brazen speed, I squished over to the side of the aisle so she could press on. I was worried about the others in my crowd but wrong-way driver was pretty agile and made it around them all. And then before I knew what was happening, mobility scooter and her husband breezed past me. Bummer! I was now behind them again.

We turned to the next aisle, they stopped again right after rounding the corner. I didn’t need anything at this end of the aisle, so I made my move around them. Free at last. Ahhhhh it was glorious for about three seconds.

WAIT! WHAT? Wrong was driver was coming at me again. What the heck lady! If you are going down every aisle, have a little courtesy and follow the darn arrows.

I moved again to the side to let her pass. As I did, middle of the aisle lady blew past me again. Why is this happening to me???  I cannot escape my crowd today. This cat and mouse game continued for three more aisles. I admit I kept trying to get ahead of them, only to somehow be overtaken again and again.  

At this point I realized I had forgotten something several aisles back. Normally I wait until the end of the aisles to go back and retrieve the forgotten items. This day, I knew what I needed to do. I made it to the end of the aisle and retreated back to the very beginning of the store. Truth be told, the item I needed was on aisle #2, but I was at the wrong end to go down aisle #2 so I went to aisle #1 to assure that I was following the arrows. (YES! I have issues!)

As I turned down the aisle, I realized I was alone. There was nobody in the aisle. No scooters, no middle of the roaders, no wrong way drivers. Just me and all the glory that comes with a completely empty commissary aisle. After locating the forgotten item, I could have skipped ahead back to where I was but honestly, I was enjoying the emptiness. So, I actually walked every single aisle again to avoid the chaos. It was wonderful.

Often when we are surrounded by chaos our instinct is to speed up. We try to jump ahead. If we can just go a little bit faster we can get out of the chaos. Often though all that does is cause more chaos.

I am encouraging you today, to slow down. Let that chaos get in front of you. Backtrack and start again if you need to.  Yes, you may end up a few minutes behind everyone else. I probably added about 10 minutes to my shopping trip, but the peace that I experienced being away from the chaos was time well spent.

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