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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Guilt prevails after impatient interlude

By Dick Hirsch

Guilt has driven me to admit my most recent wrongdoing. Although the deed itself would probably be classified as innocent and forgettable, after I realized what I had done, I was ashamed.

Let’s identify it as the case of the navel oranges. I stopped at my favorite neighborhood grocery store one day recently with a single purpose in mind: I was going to buy some navel oranges. They can be readily found, examined and purchased in supermarkets and most grocery stores, but these were special oranges. What was so special about them? They were being sold at a very attractive price, four for a dollar.

Inasmuch as I was on my way from Point A to Point B and the grocery store was just a few blocks out of the way, I detoured with that specific objective. I had eaten oranges from that store in the past and I knew them to be juicy, tasty and generally of excellent quality. They are not as large as some navels, but, among oranges, size isn’t that critical a consideration.

The mission started on a high note. I found a parking place right outside the store. The oranges were displayed along with other fruits and vegetables on the sidewalk display. I grabbed a plastic bag and as I did so I remember looking at my watch, because I was expected at Point B at a precise time. I mention that because it must be factored into my pattern of behavior.

I assessed many of the oranges and selected eight, secured the bag with one of those wire closures and proceeded inside the store to pay for the oranges. I didn’t consider any other purchase and avoided browsing. There was one cashier on duty; usually there are two. I walked toward the checkout counter and then discovered there were nine customers already in line, many of them having shopping baskets brimming with a variety of items.

I looked at my watch again. I could not afford the time to wait in line; I had an important destination.

I was clearly impatient. Patience is an important quality, a quality well worth cultivating. I believe I am generally regarded as a patient person, and I usually qualify for that description. But I do have my dark side. I do not react in a positive manner when lines are involved. I made a closer inspection of the customers already in line and tried to estimate the time it would require if I joined the line at the end. I couldn’t complete the purchase and still make it on schedule to the all important Point B. Yet I wanted those oranges.

It was then I perpetrated the act of an insufferably impatient person. I turned for assistance to one of the owners who was having a casual conversation with another customer. I had seen him many times before and exchanged a nod and a brief greeting, but he didn’t know me. He may have recognized me as an occasional customer and he must have detected that I was for some reason disturbed. I held the bag of oranges up for his inspection and spoke. I can’t remember the exact words that I said:

“The line is too long. I can’t wait.”

His response was immediate and understanding.

“You have eight? I can take care of you.”

What a kindly act it was. He went to the other register, took my money, recorded the sale, and sent me on my way. I was happy with the result but later, on reflection, I realized how badly I had behaved. I had required special treatment, interrupted the proprietor and refused to follow store policy by joining the line. That was a real snub of those in line. Yes, it is my favorite neighborhood store, but it is probably their favorite store, too.

I make this admission in the hope that my homely story can convey the potential ills of impatience. Physicians often warn of the dangers of being impatient, citing it as a cause of stress which raises blood pressure, strains the heart, irritates the stomach and can weaken the immune system. I haven’t noticed any ill effects from that one episode, but I suppose the damage is cumulative. The experts say lack of patience is not an inherent characteristic. It is a habit that was learned. They say it should be unlearned, which is why I am considering looking for lines in which I would be welcome to practice patient waiting.



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