A Smile Or A Snarl


An unsurprising admission: I am easily annoyed. While I was waiting patiently in a crowded café the last time I was in Boston, groups of parents with their children milled confusedly about. This café, a favorite just a few blocks from my place, is sometimes crammed with well-off parents and their over-indulged children. This morning was no different. Parents and children alike acted like lost tourists, unable to work their way through the simplest of transactions, unable to pick out what to order after waiting in line for ten minutes. How difficult is it, really, to pick out your food, then buy it? We were on the verge of a melee, where the decision-making process had turned into some sort of historical summit. I maintain that if you stand in line for ten minutes and still don’t know what you want after staring at the choices all that time, you need to get out of the public space and go into hiding because you should not be around functioning people.

My usual MO for dealing with such things is to give the dirtiest, nastiest look to the offending parties in the hope that it shuts them down sheepishly. (Most of the time, however, if you’re dumb enough to not yet understand how a café works, you are too oblivious to notice any sort of withering glance.) At any rate, that was my frame of mind as I finally snatched up my coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. I was about to break free from the pack of idiots, but a mother and her two little kids blocked the door. (Apparently a door also poses a dilemma for certain people. What to do with a closed door?!)

They stood still, blocking the only way out, but for some reason I just didn’t have it in me to dole out dirty looks or mutter some dismissive ‘Excuse me.’ Instead, I moved back a little and waited while they kept standing there. The mother finally noticed me, and apologized, so rather than giving her a blameful look I simply smiled, looked down at her kids, smiled again and waited until they exited the store. It was a profound difference to choose a smile rather than a snarl, and it made a difference for the rest of my day.

Maybe she was at the end of her rope as well. Maybe she was dealing with things more sad and terrifying than I could ever imagine. Or maybe she was just an entitled jerk who didn’t feel the need to make way for, or notice, anyone other than her own children. It didn’t really matter. I took control over the only thing I could – myself – and I decided to be nice for a change.

It was a good change. I may try it again.

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