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“What’s that smell? Bacon… is that.. Maple bacon?”

“Good guess. We had it with breakfast this morning.”

“Eh. I really don’t like maple bacon. Too sweet.”

A distant relative had come by, and as was his custom, he was spreading his own brand of “joy.”

I wanted to say, I wasn’t offering you any maple bacon, pal. Here’s your hat; what’s your hurry?

Making the most minute small talk the world had ever known, I offered this original bon mot:

“Nice weather today.

“Not really; too cold for me,” he countered.

You see, I was visiting with a Genuine, Bona-fide, Dyed-in-the-Wool Contrarian.

No matter what you might say, his modus operandi is this: to disagree. To show you these two indisputable facts of life: he’s right. You’re wrong.

Seeing my copy of Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” on the table, he said “Oh, you’re reading that? Why didn’t you ask me? You could’ve borrowed my copy.”

Yes. That’s what I’ll do. Anytime I want to buy a book, find a recipe, or look in the dictionary, I’ll put Mr. Know-it-All/Dr. No (perhaps Dr. No-it-All?) on speed dial. “Do you have this book? Do you know how to knead dough? Is there an “h” in maharaja(h)?!?” I’ll ask, in a frenzy.

All sorts of things run through my mind when faced with someone who wants to tell me what I ought to know (but obviously don’t). Over time, I’ve learned to keep a lid on those uncivilized thoughts.

What I usually say is, “Drop us a line now and then. We’d like to know how you’re faring.” What I don’t add is, “Because we’d like to know it from afar!”

In days past, I would suffer through such obligations on a regular basis, but now it’s very rare. Think of this: what if they dread the visit as much as you do? What if we’re all doing what’s expected and not a one of us gets anything positive out of it?

I’ve learned two things that I’d like to leave you with:

  1. Life is short, unless you’re sitting with Dr. No-it-All and he’s brought pictures of his Sales Conference in Vegas.
  2. Discretion is the better part of valor.

At the store last week, I noticed that a big SUV was parked across three handicapped spots – laterally.

I started to walk by, having had to park farther away than I’d wanted. No point in confronting someone who obviously has no consideration for other people. If somebody does something like this, clearly, this is a person who doesn’t give a flying fig about anyone else.

But something stopped me and I walked over to the driver’s window, which was rolled down.

“Excuse me, Miss, but I have to ask you.  Why are you parked across three spots?  Now nobody can park here!” I said.

“Oh, sorry, baby,” she said. “I was just trying to get the shade from this tree. I’m waiting for my disabled aunt, who’s inside shopping. All you had to do was ask and I would move.”

Ask? These are handicapped spots. Perhaps her aunt was disabled, but this lady seemed able-bodied. I’d just come from the infusion center, where I’d had my monthly dose of medication for MS. I had a gauze bandage wrapped around my arm. My feet were hinky and I was really limping that day.

“Grace,” I said to God. I had to walk away, because I was about to unleash on her, Jersey-style. I was about to ask her what the bleep was wrong with her. And what kind of idiot she was. I had to bite my tongue, literally, so I didn’t release this venom into the world.

Waiting for my prescription took about a half hour, and I went back to my car. I noticed that the SUV was now parked correctly, in just one spot.

The lady waved me over and apologized again, profusely. She said that after I spoke with her, a man had come over and yelled at her for taking up three spots.

“I was just trying to get the shade,” she said, looking wounded. “All he had to do was ask. No need to get upset with me.”

I realized that sometimes we may not realize how our actions impact others, and worse still, how our words are heard.

She kept saying, all you had to do was ask, as if saying this would make it better. It would make us understand she’d meant no harm.  But we received it as a slap in the face.  We’re dealing with disabilities here. Why should we have to ask to park in spots reserved for us?

It reminded me that even when we all speak the same language, we may not understand each other at all. As I left the lot, I said a prayer for her and thanked God for helping me to restrain myself from saying things I’d regret. I’m glad grace came right on time and realized that it was true what I’d heard: all I had to do was ask.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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