Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers. Head over there for information and links to more Slicing!
I notice the drama first, since I am facing the Wegman’s cafe entrance. We are close enough to hear the whole thing, and E and I are unable to pull our attention away.
The man isn’t able to get through the automatic door. He walks with a cane, slowly and with an unsteady gait. He complains, sounding mildly annoyed but not distressed. “The door won’t let me walk through. It keeps closing on me.” I watch as the cafe worker notices him and listens to him. She smiles, as you do when a stranger starts talking to you and you are trying to make heads or tails of what they are saying.
The door is closing on him, again and again. I have a fleeting thought that I should maybe run up and hold it open for him. I am worried though, that it would be almost insulting to jump to the conclusion that he needs my help. I know I have been known to complain out loud in a grocery store. I’ll laugh and say, “I can’t control my cart, or “Wow, I’m in everyone’s way in this aisle today!” I say these things with a smile, hoping to smooth over any annoyance of my fellow shoppers.
Suddenly the man is yelling. “Open the door for me, sir! You idiot!” He directs his anger to the female cafe worker, who is just starting to figure out that maybe this man does need help. She startles, and jumps over to help him, muttering a sincere “I’m sorry.” He yells again, “Don’t be sorry, idiot! Jesus Christ! What’s your problem?”
She helps him get through the door, with her head hung and her eyes embarrassed. He walks away, still muttering, and she cleans the nearby counter. I watch her out of the corner of my eyes, as my 4 year old asks me why the man was so mean.
“He was having trouble getting through the door.” I explain. “How else could he have asked for help?” I ask my son.
“He could have asked nicely… He could have said please.” E answers.
“He must have been having a bad day, or been embarrassed that he couldn’t get through that door. But I wish he hadn’t treated that lady so sharply.” I say, trying to make his unkindness into a teachable moment.
I watch as the worker picks up some trays and heads to the back of the cafe. She still has that shamed face of someone who just got yelled at. I notice her name tag as I try to catch her attention. “I’m sorry that happened to you.” I say. I’m not sure if she hears me. I’m not sure if her day is ruined, or if she will be able to shake it off. I know it was painful to watch the opposite of pay it forward play out in front of us.
As E and I leave the cafe to start our grocery shopping, we pass the man, and I cross my fingers that my son won’t blurt out anything remotely close to “There’s that mean man!” I feel sympathy for this man too. How hard to have the door close on you while you are trying to keep your head held high and walk into the grocery store. I hope he finds some peace in his day without yelling at anyone else.