Last week I was dining with my parents at Canter's, an old restaurant with a bar, deli, and bakery, in the Fairfax district of LA. We had a wonderful meal and were excited to pick up some goodies in the bakery to take home.
I made a beeline for the poppy seed strudel to see if they had any in stock. There was a woman being helped and a woman standing next to her. I asked if I might push the stroller by to get in the corner. While I was perusing the strudel, my father came up and started ordering. I saw the woman I had asked to get by pacing around behind us but thought nothing of it. A few minutes later while we were finishing up our order (rye bread, cookies, strudel and the most amazing black and white cookies on the planet), the woman from earlier came up to me and was clearly DISTRESSED.
"YOU!" she yelled. "YOU forced your way by and pushed me out of line with your stroller!" Perplexed, I responded, "Excuse me?" "You FORCED your stroller by me and cut me in line!!!"
She was with a man who added, "…and then YOU (my mother, who now had the stroller) pushed the stroller into me!" "I'm sorry," I said, "I have no idea what you're talking about. I asked to get by to see the poppy seed-" "Yes! …and FORCED me out of line so you could cut!"
Things then reached a fever pitch as I continued standing there like an idiot trying to understand why this woman was SO UPSET when her mate came up to me yelling, "…..you're TERRIBLE!!!! You're TERRIBLE PEOPLE!!!!" GO HOME!!!!!!!!!!" when I couldn't help it. I laughed in his face. It's strudel, people.
At this point my poor father who was finishing up and had no idea what was transpiring behind him turned around and said, "What's going on?" I put my arm around him and, still laughing, told him not to worry.
While my mother was concerned the couple would get violent since they were SOOOO distressed, I couldn't help but keep laughing. This couple, maybe 40-45 years old (so not young and foolish, but far from elderly and senile), had their evenings RUINED by our alleged indiscretions.
This whole exchange got me thinking about perception. This couple got so upset by their perception of events….but did nothing to stop what was happening. The woman could have said, "I'm sorry-- I'm next" when my father started ordering or could have said she waiting. Anything! She just stood there…out of view, STEAMING. She could have said anything at all but chose not to. Instead, she bottled it up and reacted in a irrational melodramatic manner that caused a scene. My perception? It was all a terrible miscommunication. I never saw her waiting, I never intended to cut her in line (obviously), and my mother never meant to intentionally bump her companion with our stroller.
Everyday the choices we make affect those around us as well as our own paths. They chose to be crazy neurotic types and have their day ruined while I chose to look at the situation and move on-- I'm glad I chose happiness and I wish they had done the same. Everything we do is a choice and I'm choosing to pay closer attention when ordering from the deli and continuing to choose joy on an everyday basis.
After all, perception is reality, isn't it?