Sunday, April 5, 2009

What's the Rush?

I think my mom would say I was born to worry and hurry. I've always put too much pressure on myself to overachieve, whether or not there is a payoff. For some strange reason I've felt the need to go faster and try harder. I left work on Friday afternoon with quite a few errands to run, all before a dinner party which was to start at 5:30 p.m. In my typical fashion, I had the post-it note in hand and the two-hour time window to finish four hours of running around. The rest of the valley must have all felt the same way, because everywhere I went there was a traffic jam, from Costco, back to the school, to the post office, then the grocery store and home to get ready and make a special salad for the party.

Maybe you had a relaxing afternoon on Friday. If so, send me some pointers. At Costco, I felt trapped in the parking lot due a blocked intersection and pedestrians in the middle of the lane. I was twenty minutes late to pick up the girls after choosing to go the wrong way--right into a construction zone on the main drag. I dropped off the girls then tried to quickly finish the errands, but of course, more traffic. By the time I made it to the post office, I realized I only had one hour to pick up mail (after waiting in line!), purchase supplies at the market and make the salad, and then freshen up for the party. A wave of anxiety washed over me. There was no way to succeed this afternoon; I had once again taken on too much in too little time.

As I quickly leafed through the mail stack, several others waited to use the new "APC," or automated postal center, the self-service machine for mailing packages. There was a woman who seemed uncomfortable with this new method and she needed to ask for help. She and I both sensed the next customer breathing down her back, ready to leap at her turn. Then the confused lady surprised me in a very kind way, reminding me that life doesn't need to be so frantic all the time. She stepped aside and looked at the hurried woman with her bundle, "Why don't you go ahead? I can tell you're in a hurry and it's going to take me awhile." She wasn't giving the second customer a guilt trip; her sincerity was apparent. The lady sounded a little uneasy but replied, "Are you sure? Well, thank you very much." She processed her package and was out the door in minutes.

There were at least three people affected in this instance between the two customers and myself. It slows us down when someone gives us their place in line, even if we are being a little less than polite. And those in the room notice both behaviors for better or worse. The gentle woman changed my demeanor from frantic to subdued, as I contemplated how many of us often go faster than we should during the day.
Feeling as if I had just taken a muscle relaxant or something, I proceeded to the grocery store in search of shrimp and avocados

I neared the intersection before the market, and an elderly couple shuffled through the crosswalk, the woman's arm linked through her partner's as if holding him up. I stopped to let them across, and a white Yukon revved it's engine behind me suggesting, "Green light, let's go!" I felt a sense of awe and reverence for this couple while pausing to observe. As I inched forward, the Yukon screamed through the light to let me know I had held him up. I didn't care, I had switched from hyper-speed to stop-and-smell-the-roses.

Thankfully, the sense of anxiety I had felt earlier did not return as I grabbed the groceries and returned home. All in good time, the salad was made, makeup reapplied, clothes changed, and I picked up my co-worker to drive to our party. She had a hectic afternoon as well, so we arrived a little late. As our hostess opened the door to greet us, I thought of the APC customer who gave way to another, and of the sweet ninety-year-olds crossing the street. Instead of feeling stressed out at being late again, I could not help but smile as I joined my friends in a carefree celebration of a pending baby's arrival. Thanks to one small act today, my outlook was changed. Life is good.

Cool Service Tips:
Want to switch from hyper-speed to stop-and-smell the roses?
  • Leave a flower on a friend's car or doorstep. (Important: never tell who did it.)
  • Make a conscious attempt to hold the door open for the person ahead of you or behind you, even if it takes an extra few seconds. (Remember to smile, or this will backfire.)
  • Go ahead and give the other car plenty of room to merge in front of you. (It's not a race.)
I'm not an expert, but these things all worked last time I tried them... Bina

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