This week I went from Maui to Pittsburgh to Atlanta (where I am tonight and in the morning) and I return home tomorrow evening. It’s not a route that makes much sense when you think about it, so I try not to. As anyone in my line of work will tell you, the travel is dictated by the clients’ events, not the other way around. That translates into untold hours zipping around on planes, loitering in airports and snoring in hotel rooms.
I admit that all this travel can make me a little impatient. I’ve been working on it. I’ve been trying to catch that little burbling volcano of frustration before it erupts. Patience. Tolerance. That’s what I’m trying to culture in myself. Traveling gives me LOTS of opportunities to practice.
Last week, at a sandwich shop in the Albany, NY airport, I ordered a hot turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. The young woman behind the counter shook her head and said, “Turkey sandwiches are made on white bread.”
“‘Scuse me?” I asked.
“Turkey sandwiches are made on white bread,” she repeated. “That’s the rule.”
“The rule?” And…breathe, two, three, four. “Where,” I asked, “is that rule written? Is it a New York state law?” And, breathe six, seven, eight. “Is it a universal rule? Like gravity? Or thermodynamics?”
“No,” she scoffed. “The boss says so: turkey goes on white bread.”
“The boss…” I caught myself at early eruption. “Okay, then, if you can’t put it on wheat, forget the whole thing. I’ll pass.”
“Okay, fine,” she said. “I’ll put it on wheat.”
“Thank you,” I said, feeling quite proud of my self-control. But then, before I could catch myself, I slipped right into passive-aggressive muttering mode. “A white bread rule?” I sneered under my breath. “Unbelievable! What the hell kind of way is that to do business?”
Apparently it was an audible sneer.
“Jeez,” the white-bread-only sandwich maker crowed. “What’s your problem? I’m doing you a favor.”
This is what I said to myself next:
“A favor? You’re doing me a favor? Listen, toots, I’m doing you a favor by not vaulting over that counter and tap-dancing barefoot in your condiments. I’m doing you a favor by not calling your boss and telling him that his employee has a virulent Ebola-like infection and she’s sneezing on the customers. I’m doing you a favor by…”
Here’s what I said out loud:
Spit-free turkey on wheat was my reward.
And I learned something, too:
On the road to zen-like patience,
Zantac is a wonderful thing.
Eric Wroolie says
Good story. I frequently find myself ready lose it over the stupidity others or the inflexibility of systems. When filling in a form on a webpage, the second time I get the form back saying my chosen password is not secure enough because (a)it doesn’t have enough letters or (b) it has too many letters or (c) it includes a non-alphanumeric character or (d) it requires a non-alphanumeric character or (e) any non-alphanumeric character but that one–I lose and give up. I ‘virtually’ storm away from the web page.
Unintentional dictators make these rules, I’m sure of it. I live in the UK. Do you know how many times I’ve filled in a form where it asks the country and then insists that I put a state? I choose Alaska. Alaska, United Kingdom–that’s where I live.
Commuting from rural England to London everyday is enough to make anyone lose his cool. The first one to lose his cool calms everyone else down. You see everyone standing on the platform waiting for a late train–everyone edgy and irritated. One guy blurts out a complaint and eveyone else looks at each other as if to say, “What’s his problem? He needs to stop taking everything so seriously.” Then the groups agitation subsides.
Timothy Johnson says
Wild, Steve. You and I must have been channeling the same zen channel on Sunday. Of course, let’s hear it for “inside voice”… and Zantac.
Mike Neiss says
Oh Farber…you are so right about the travel and patience. The only exception I have noted is watching less savvy air travelers deal with flight delays. I have learned to be patient with weather (still not there with no crew); your buddy Dick Heller and I were in some metro airport recently and we got weathered in…..people all around us were yelling at the ticket agents…Dick looked at me and said simply “amateurs!”. You know, it really isnt worth getting the blood pressure up…