Small Sweet Satisfaction

You probably all now the feeling: Something small happens, a tiny little nastiness, and you think “Why are they always getting away with it? Why is no-one watching?” Well, today, someone was.

I was sitting in my car, driving home. Rush-our had passed, so the streets were rather quiet, traffic feeling was calm. I came to a traffic light, where I needed to turn right. On the side of the road was a bike path, so I needed to watch out for bikers (where I live, you always have to watch out for bikers – from any direction, at any time: they can appear out of thin air, and they are fast!). As I was approaching the lights turned yellow. I probably could still have proceeded, but I had to let some bikers pass, and while I waited for them, the lights turned red.

Fine, I thought, staying put in front of the red light. Not fine, the car behind me must have thought – because he suddenly passed me on the left side, driving through red and sped on.

I blinked. I let out a very modest honk – the type saying “what?”, not the one screaming “you idiot what do you think you are doing here?”, and exchanged a look with a very startled pedestrian who had just wanted to cross the road.

Then I heard the sound. A very nice deep “vroom” sound, coming out of the engine of the motorbike that sped past me now. Sitting on it was 1 policeman.

So I guess the driver who could not stand to loose a minute will now have lost a couple of more minutes, explaining his behaviour to the policeman . Plus he probably will have to part with some Euros.

I must confess I drove home with a smile on my face.

(I mean, seriously: Probably everyone has driven over a traffic light that was not really yellow anymore… more like very dark orange…. when you approach a traffic light and you think you can just make it and later realise it would have been better to have stopped. But actively overtaking someone who is already stopping at that light? That tops my previous number one in startling traffic light behaviour: Watching someone waiting at a traffic light, who then after a while seems to think he had enough and just starts driving while the light is still red. I have seen that two or three times already and I never cease to wonder what goes on in these people’s heads. – Oh, am I ranting now? 😉 )

Strangeness in a queue

Sometimes you wonder what makes people tick like they tick.

A few weeks ago, during the October break, we spent a day on an apple farm: picking apples and pears, enjoying nature, running around (the kids), chatting on a bench in the sun (the grown-ups). “We” being three mums with their kids of various age and height, enjoying a relaxed day, everything being easy and running smoothly (except maybe for the youngest girl, who was still tired from having started school 6 weeks before and therefore found life in general hard to bear).

At one point I got up from the bench and ventured into the cafe to get us some hot chocolate. Inside it was not very busy, but there was a small queue at the coffee bar, where you also had to pay all your other food and drinks. While I ordered our drinks from a nice young man I noticed two things: One was that the woman at the front of the line had some trouble with payment (card not working properly or something like that), that probably being the reason for the queue. Second was a woman hovering slightly behind us, carrying a tray with apple pie and obviously waiting for someone. “Someone” turned out to be her two teenage daughters (or maybe even granddaughters, I am horrible with age estimates) who apparently had needed some extra time to choose their food. The mum/grandma said something to the girls rather coldly, put their plates on her tray and moved closer to our queue.

Now you would have expected her to step to the end of the line, in this case two people behind me. But she didn’t. I did not see her move, but suddenly she was standing between the woman first in line (still trying to pay) and the woman in front of me, but still in second row. She ordered a cappuccino. A few moments later, a cappuccino arrived, actually belonging to the woman in front of me, who had ordered it minutes ago. At the same time, the woman at the front of the line finally won the fight against her card, took her tray and left.

And with one fluid movement , the woman from the second row took the cappuccino, stepped to the front of line, put down her tray and made herself ready to pay.

The woman standing in front of me seemed to need a few seconds to realise what had happened. Then she said something like: “Sorry, but that actually was my coffee?” She did not even mention the fact that it also was her place in the line. The other woman turned her head half way, just looked at her in complete calm, turned her head back and proceeded with paying. Then she took her tray and left.

The woman in front of me just stood there. Then when a puzzled expression on her face she took the second cappuccino, which had arrived in the meantime. The cashier had either not noticed the whole gambit at all (being maybe still stressed out from the payment trouble before) or chose to ignore it. I turned to the woman behind me and made a “did what just happened really happen?”-face. She shook her head in disbelief. “Well”, she said, “maybe not everyone can be nice.” Which I thought was a remarkable sentence.

When I got back to my friends with our mugs, I could see the strange woman sitting a few meters away. She was one of those immaculately dressed middle-aged(?) ladies who look like the impersonation of politeness.  I told my story to my friends, to share my puzzlement. One of my friends said: “You know what I always think when I meet someone like her? I am really thankful that I am not like this. And that I am raising my children not to be like this either.”

So, why I am putting this here? Because it is still on my mind, after a couple of weeks. It was not the rudest thing I have ever experienced, but I think what bothers me is this: The complete calmness, coolness of it. This woman acted not in a stressed-out, being-in-a-hurry way of someone who has waited too long and suddenly cannot bear it any longer. She looked like she just decided she wanted that coffee, she wanted to pay now. And had the right to do it. Without any trace of guilty conscience. And managed to make the woman whose coffee she took look small and lost and defeated.

And so I walk around wondering how it must feel to be such a person. And at the same time I remember the words of my friend (be thankful you are not like this) and the words of the woman behind me. Maybe not everyone can be nice.