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Two Distinct Ways to Go Through Life

volvoThe other evening I took my little Volvo C30 to my favorite car wash.  Strangely enough, it’s something I really enjoying doing.  Some people like woodworking, others like knitting, I enjoy cleaning the car.  But I digress.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, the attendant had pulled barrels across the entrance and closed for the evening.  As it turns out, the car wash is owned by the proprietor of a very popular restaurant, located just across the street.  He closes the car wash on Saturday nights in order to use the space for overflow parking, because diners quickly fill the restaurant parking lot.

barrelsHaving made the drive to the car wash with my fistful of quarters, I was a bit disappointed to find it closed.  So, I parked the car at the curb, got out and politely asked the attendant if he might accommodate one more car.  He looked around to see that the restaurant parking lot wasn’t yet full, said “sure” and moved two of the heavy barrels, marked “CLOSED”, that blocked the entrance.  I pulled in and, as the attendant put the barrels back across the entrance, I happily set about cleaning my car,

Moments later, a large 4X4 pickup screeched to a halt in front of the barriers.  Despite the car wash being closed, thetruck driver jumped out, wrestled two of the orange “Closed” barriers out of the way and drove quickly up to one of the vacuum cleaners.  The attendant came sprinting over and informed the driver that the car wash was closed.  The man became angry and an argument instantly ensued.

The confrontation became heated, with the madpickup driver shouting; “You can’t just close the F*&#IN’ car wash!”  To which the attendant replied, “Of course we can, we own it”.  Things went downhill from there; the attendant yelling and threatening to call the police and the driver, getting menacingly close to the attendant, shouting insults and absurdly meaningless threats, such as “I’ll NEVER come back to this car wash again.”  Finally, the driver (perhaps belatedly recognizing the foolishness of his position) sped out, in a roar of dust and diesel.  A strange silence hung in the air.  The attendant seemed stunned.

I couldn’t help pondering the incident.  It was stupidity of massive proportions for the pickup truck driver to create a life-threatening confrontation over something so utterly trivial.  It could easily have resulted in a shooting death, as has become so tragically common these days.  Just a few weeks ago, for example, a very popular and well-known Denver area bartender was shot and killed, in a Denny’s parking lot, for the apparently unforgivable offense of trying to calm two men who were engaged in heated argument.

I also couldn’t help reflecting on the difference between my experience and what had just happened.  If the pickup truck driver had simply asked nicely to use the car wash, rather than rudely (and illegally) entering the obviously closed car wash and helping himself, not only would he have been able to wash his truck, but a potentially life-ending incident (for both men) would have been averted.  Not to mention the fact that there are other car washes available in the city — one only about 5 blocks away.

Witnessing this, it occurs to me that there are two distinctly different ways to go through life.  The first way is to be so aggressive and angry that you are spring-loaded for confrontation.  Living this way, you will suffer frustration after frustration, even if you manage to avoid getting yourself killed.  This is an extremely uncomfortable way to live — for you, and for those around you.  Frankly, it diminishes the miracle of our humanity.

taoThe other way to live is strive to keep things in context — in other words to think about the relative importance or unimportance of every situation — and to act with kindness and respect, whenever possible.  You’re life will be much smoother and enjoyable this way.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t times when you should stand up for yourself. I’m simply saying that getting into the carwash — or not — just isn’t something to risk one’s life over.  For that matter, it’s not even worth getting angry over.  Even if you don’t get shot, it’s not worth the constant aggravation and poor health that is likely to result from this kind of approach to life.

Soon, I contentedly drove my clean Volvo out of the carwash, now beginning to fill with the parked cars of diners headed for the restaurant.  As I did, I waved to the attendant.  Seems like a pretty clear choice to me.  Just sayin’

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3 thoughts on “Two Distinct Ways to Go Through Life

  1. Sarah Rae

    To be honest, sometimes I think I could use a bit more aggressiveness in my life. I tend to let things wash over me and rarely push back. I suppose it’s all about balance

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