The Inefficiency of Kindness
Today I took my post-surgical self out on the town. The plan was to fill out some paperwork for summer teaching, and then go to the eye doctor for a checkup. The reality was: steady pouring rain. Even though I spend a lot of time cultivating the sense that I am going to be OK and nothing is unsurmountable, I was aware of: no change for the meter, no umbrella, and three flights of stairs to the bureaucracy-office. Hmm. The car in front of me pulled out just as I was floundering my parallel parking job, and it turned out the driver had left 25 minutes on the meter. Sweet. The stairs were no real problem. I finished the forms just in time to scoot away for my appointment & as I exited the building, back out into the rain, I startled a small woman in a hooded raincoat, standing right behind the door & looking very much affronted by the world. I apologized lavishly. Why not?
Again, in front of the optometrist's office, a car pulled out just as I needed a space, but this time - no luck with the meter. I thought about just sticking a couple of dollars under the wiper & then realized the new pirate-meters in town have credit card slots. Still in the pouring rain, I tried to swipe my card, first one way, ineffectually, and then the other. It stuck fast! No budging it. Hobbling drippily into the office, I told the receptionist that I was there for an appointment, but needed to take care of my meter woes. Can I borrow your scissors to try to get my card out? Smiling, she said, No, there's a better tool right over there. And you're going to need an umbrella. Here. I'll come with you. You won't be able to hold the tool and the umbrella at the same time.
The outside halves of each of us got pretty wet, but it didn't matter so much, because I was delighted to have this kind stranger's company in the rain, and she was delighted to help me out. The credit card came right out of the slot using her perfect flat-pronged pliers; then, I turned it around, and it swiped right through. Our short walk under a too-small umbrella converted my simple de-fubaring mission into an experience of being welcomed back to the family of humanity. She told me she'd gotten rained on earlier in the day, and I felt less foolish.
It was sublime, but it wasn't efficient. Efficient would have been: the credit card works the first time, or if not that, I pull it out myself, or if not that, the receptionist sends me back out in the rain alone, while she fires off some emails. Efficient would have solved the problem, but it wouldn't have healed my heart. Efficient would have seen my floundering as a proof of weakness, and averted its gaze.
Instead, I felt looked upon kindly by the world. Later, eyes dilated and watering, I listened to the old man in the store when he said the bright-red frames looked nice on me, and ordered new glasses. May they help me to see kindly, if sometimes inefficiently, in the months to come.
6/16/2015 01:40:12 pm
Who needs efficiency when people can be enough? And blue sky, too?
6/16/2015 03:07:27 pm
indeed! it is enough.
6/18/2015 08:19:11 am
My mom encourage me to get the red glasses right before I went off to college for the first time. I became known as Annie Red Glasses to people I hadn't even met yet. In the strangeness of the strange Southern campus, those glasses helped me feel known and at home. May your red glasses bring you happiness and good vision(s)!
6/18/2015 12:09:55 pm
hi Annie, I can just imagine you in those red specs. they were maybe the ancestors of your great red boots? thanks for your kind wishes. they matter! Love, J.
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