This week, I had lunch with my high school friends. When we get together, the conversation is never boring. It’s a combination of memories, gossip and current events.
When we had dinner last fall, we were talking about a party we attended back in high school, and one of my friends asked if I remembered giving James Gandolfini, the future Sopranos actor, a ride home. He went to a high school near ours and apparently, we ran into him one night. I had no recollection of this whatsoever, and I was shocked because I have a great memory.
Well, I guess if I am going to be honest, I can understand how it is I do not remember this brush with a now famous person. As the responsible one (my friends will argue this), I was always running around trying to corral them back to the car after parties so I could get everyone home, and I rarely paid attention to who wound up in the passenger seat. Suffice it to say, a great deal happened on that particular night, and my mind was not focused on being formally introduced to some strange kid who needed a ride back across the New Jersey state line.
Even now, I can only share some of the details of the evening because I am not sure if there was or is a statute of limitations. All I am willing to say about this night of fun was that it involved my friend’s pinto, a bonfire and a kid that limped for a week afterwards. Draw your own conclusions.
At this week’s lunch, our focus was more on our present lives. It’s strange that as we have grown older, we have developed a calmer life philosophy. For the most part, we try very hard not to sweat the little things.
That’s a tough lesson to learn, but I am picking my battles much more carefully these days. I am by no means perfect. There are things that still bug me. I don’t like when people cut me off on the road for no reason. I don’t like when I am on time for an appointment, but the person who is providing the service is an hour late, and I hate being behind the person in the express line who has a shopping cart full of food while I am waiting to purchase a loaf of bread. I could forgive someone for disregarding the over 15 items rule, but I do become aggravated when that person turns to me apologetically and says “Sorry, I am in a hurry.”
I want to say back, “Oh okay, I guess my life is not nearly as important as yours, you pompous ass!”
A few years ago I might have said that, but now I just take a deep breath, let the hostility go, follow the express line hijacker into the parking lot and give him or her my famous drop dead stare as I make my way to my car. I have a tremendous drop dead stare. It makes people cringe. It’s one of my best talents.
As I was driving home from my lunch, I was thinking about my conversation with my friends, and I made a mental pledge to become even more at peace with the world and its inhabitants. I have to say that this sounded like a good plan. I’m pro peace. I do meditation; I burn fresh sage to cleanse the aura in my home; I work out everyday to reduce stress and most importantly, I own no weapons unless you count cutlery. I think I’m in good shape.
I was giving myself kudos for my enlightened way of thinking when I came upon a construction zone. One lane of the road was closed, and a flagman directed cars through a maze of cones. The car in front of me was the last car to get the okay to drive through. The flagman directed me to stop, and I waited patiently. Cars behind me were stacking up, but they were waiting their turn as well. After about two minutes, the flagman waves me through, and I and the cars behind me started to move.
Then, I noticed it. The car opposite from me that now had the stop sign was moving toward me. Yes, the woman driver decided that she was not going to adhere to the flagman’s direction, and although I was moving through the only lane, she was moving too, and there was not room for both of us. I slammed on my brake, but she kept coming. Finally, she had found a way to wedge herself between my car and the closed lane lined with cones.
The flagman appeared to be as surprised as I was, and at first he just stood there with his mouth hanging open. Then, he got mad, and he jumped in front of her car and held up both hands commanding the woman to stop.
My level of anger with this woman could not compete with the flagman’s level of anger. I could have easily left my vow of tranquility behind and reamed this woman out, but I was in a generous mood, so I let the flagman have his moment in the sun.
The woman put down her window to yell at the flagman, but he beat her to the punch.
“What the hell are you doing; are you an idiot?” he screamed
“I am trying to get to my doctor’s appointment, and you are making me late. You need to let me through now!”
The flagman’s face took on a rosy hue, and I pretty much knew he wasn’t blushing with feelings of love. I would have moved my car, but I was still wedged in by the old lady’s Honda, and there were cars behind me, so I couldn’t go anywhere. All I could do was watch the show which was literally unfolding inches from my window.
Now, if I was the flagman and not as enlightened as I am now, I might have dragged that old lady out by her blue hair and made her kiss the pavement. But this flagman was amazing. He stuck his head in her window and said – well, he technically yelled,
“You are a selfish, selfish old woman, and I have to tell you that your attitude makes a lot of people, including myself, think that you have outlived your usefulness. Have a good day, Ma’am!”
I was impressed. Having made my way to Philly via the Bronx, I was expecting expletives to fly, but nope, the flagman kept the swear words out. He then removed the cones and let the lady through. The old lady stepped on the gas and took off. The flagman then waved me through. I gave him a nod, a quick smile and continued on my journey home.
I want it known that throughout this entire episode, I stayed absolutely calm. I did not get upset or lose my temper or press down on the horn as the people in the cars behind me did. A few years ago, I might have done all these things, and my emotions, or rather this woman’s arrogance, would have wrecked my day. It is true that life is so much easier when we don’t let the little things bother us. It also helps if there is a flagman around to fight our battles for us. I wonder if I can put him on retainer.