Last Thursday afternoon I sat in a car shop waiting to get a flat tire fixed. My original lunch-errand plan gone askew, I tried to occupy myself in the waiting area full of impatient people from every walk of life, it seemed.
First, I “worked” on my phone, catching up on emails and texts. Then I sort of watched the soap opera blaring in front of me while thumbing through all my areas of social media. I tried to keep from rubbing elbows with the very elderly lady in a fancy green dress and unmatched black sandals who had shuffled over to sit beside me among a room of mostly men.
I didn’t speak for awhile, and neither did she, but I guess when she’d finally had enough of the boredom, she broke our mutual silence.
“The workers here sure are patient!” Her statement was surprisingly kind and her voice intentionally bonding as she leaned close to me. I glanced over at her briefly and lamely offered a polite smile, remaining in my own miseries of driving on a flat the last mile to the shop.
I checked my emails and texts again, and tried going back to the soap opera, honestly, in a shameful, nonverbal, censorious way of saying, “I’m really not in the mood for chit-chat, and our lives are so different we probably wouldn’t have anything to talk about anyway.”
Truth be told, I hadn’t even looked at her gracefully-aged face until she broke our silence again, this time chatting away about her favorite characters from another daytime show, about Emmy awards, her own unfortunate day so far, and her shoes.
Her warmth invited me into her world, and I was hooked.
She’d already been to the doctor that morning, and the dentist, and all that by foot right there in her neighborhood on Hillsboro Boulevard since her car had unexpectedly needed repair. She pulled out her phone to check a text, I guess, and I noticed the ease with which her agile fingers managed the reply. She spoke articulately and laughed while explaining the reason for her shoes looking the way they did. One had broken on her walk to the dentist, and half of it fallen off, which I then saw was the actuality of what I had falsely determined to be unmatched…and unkempt. Oh, wow.
Her fancy dress and crocheted sweater weren’t meant for the car shop, but rather for the medical and dental appointments (you know, how old ladies do). She asked me about my day, what had happened to my car, and about my favorite TV shows.
And then it was time to go. My car was done before hers, and as I walked out, we each wished the other a better day than we’d been having so far.
I got into my car realizing this “very elderly lady” who had shuffled to sit beside me had amazingly become more energetic, resilient, intelligent, fashionable, and for sure more beautiful than she’d been in my limited and blurred eyesight only thirty minutes earlier.
Oh God, teach me to look away from myself and my phone next time and instead see the faces and hearts You’ve placed right beside me.