Dear Sunoco Service Station Guy in Devil’s Crotch Virginia:
I’m sorry I was an a**hole. Let me explain:
We set off Tuesday morning for Georgia, from Brooklyn, with my small family in two cars. I was driving a rental car with kiddo and kitty cat in the back seat.
The day was warm. No, the day was already stinkin’ 90-something degrees by 9am. Immediately it became clear we had made a mistake not to sedate the cat (something we have done every other time she has traveled). By Metuchen, NJ (35 miles into our 800-mile journey), she had pooped, peed, and passed out in her carrier. Not to mention she was howling the whole time.
So we stopped and took care of her for an hour or two, then got back on the road.
Due to the earlier delays, we reached Washington D.C. at rush hour. Traffic was heavy, and inching along at 20 mph for dozens of miles. I had made the unfortunate choice to have an Oreo McFlurry for lunch.
By 5pm or so, I was dehydrated, glucose-challenged, (oh, and I forgot to say that the total number of hours slept in the 3 days leading up to this journey totaled probably 15). I was completely out of gas. And the car had about an eighth of a tank. So, even though we hadn’t seen one of those easy-off service areas in many miles, I pulled off to fuel up.
The first station we saw was a Sunoco. Quite crowded, but with a few pumps miraculously empty. I drove up to one, and saw a sign:
Pump credit card reader does not work. Please pay inside store or use another pump.
I tried another empty pump. Same message. Well, the store was a good 400 yards away across the hot blacktop, and kitty was starting to drool and pant again, so I waited (a LONG time) for a different pump to open up.
Long story short, that pump also couldn’t read my card, and neither could the next one (even though neither had the out-of-order card on them), and I was in and out of that store six times while the kid and the cat baked in the car, and after pump number two didn’t work (by this time it had been almost an hour since we had left the freeway for a fuel stop that would ordinarily have taken a few minutes), and you behind the counter were trying to say something, in a pretty hard to understand accent, about did I lift the nozzle, I just lost it.
I didn’t swear at you or call names or anything, but I was . . . well, an a**hole. The three people I cut in line who were buying cigarettes, or Slim Jims, or 42-ounce sodas (Mayor Bloomberg would NOT approve) looked at me with disgust as I demanded you return my credit card, stomped out of there, got in the car, and drove off without my gas.
Now it is two days later, and I am thinking of you, working in that convenience store, in that godforsaken Virginia town. You probably have a family, too. Probably a kid, or maybe a bunch. Pets. Problems. Likely a good deal worse than mine. I am sure you encounter many rude people every day.
I didn’t want to be one of them!! I kinda think it doesn’t matter how many hours I spend in my pretty yoga room doing poses, if I charge ungracefully through the social interactions (large and small) that make up the rest of my life.
There was a video circulating on the internet a while back. It showed people acting like jerks, then it went back and showed all that was really going on in the backgrounds of their lives. The guy who cut you off in traffic? Maybe he was rushing to the hospital to get to his sick wife. The woman who scowled at you in Starbucks? Maybe she just had eye surgery. I think the point was: never assume that someone is just an a**hole. Maybe there is another explanation.
Obviously you didn’t know, sir, what was going on in the background for me, and neither is it an excuse for my bad behavior. Maybe what I need is not your compassion, but self-compassion. I think that day I just needed to get back to basics–enough sleep, proper food, and that would have been a start . . .
In that moment of complete nervous system overwhelm, I could not even remember any more sophisticated tools. Did I stop and breathe consciously? Did I pray? Chant OM? Did I use any of the helpful tips Yoga Journal sends me in emails?
I did not. Instead I cried and cursed to myself and jumped up and down like Rumplestiltskin on the steaming asphalt.
Forget about advanced pranayama, awakening energy centers, pretzel-y postures, or any of it.
I just would like to be able to be a kind human being most of the time.
And to you, man behind the counter at that Sunoco station in Virginia, I was not.
I would like to have met you, whom I know as a soul with fears, needs, struggles, joys, just like my own, from a different, clearer, more peaceful part of me.
Tuesday afternoon, I could not.
My sincere apologies,