Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Ever Happened to Compassion?

No spots are available when I pull into the gas station on a busy Saturday morning—none with a pump to my left, anyway. The gas tank on my car resides on the left side. I need a pump to my left.

I only wait for a couple of seconds before a spot opens up. A spot on the other side of the station. A spot with a nozzle to my left.

My spot.

I drive around the perimeter of the station, throw the gear into reverse, and prepare to back into my spot.


A car has pulled up behind me, blocking my path.

Gas stations are notoriously hard to maneuver. Each aisle has only enough room for the cars pumping gas. There is no room for a car to drive in between. A motorcycle, maybe. But definitely not a car. That’s why I had to go around the whole station. And now I’m waiting to reverse into my spot, and there is no room next to me for this car to pass. I’m stuck.

I am hoping the driver will back up so I can pull into my spot and get out of her way.

But that’s not what she does.

This woman who sees that I’ve targeted this spot, who must know that she is the only obstacle between me and the pump, who has not waited patiently for a spot to open up like I have—pulls into my spot.

My spot!

Surely she will realize her mistake. She will look at my car, see that I am poised to pull into the spot, and she will place her hand over her chest, say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” and hightail her car out of my way.

But that’s not what she does.

This woman gets out of her car, removes the nozzle from the pump, and starts filling her tank. From my spot.

My mouth gapes open. I call her names. I curse her.

But now she’s got the pump from my spot in her gas tank, so I have no choice but to move to another spot, one that has just opened on the other side of the gas station. I drive back to the side where I started, do the three-point turn all over again, and plant my car next to another pump.

I am still cursing her under my breath as I swipe my King Soopers card to secure my 10-cents-per-gallon discount. I am still cursing her as I swipe my credit card for authorization. Approved. I remove the nozzle.

Suddenly, the lady working the booth comes running towards me.

What now? The booth lady never leaves the booth.

Did I drip gas on the asphalt? That’s illegal in some states. When driving through Maryland last year, I saw a sign at a gas station: If you drip gas on the asphalt, you are responsible for cleaning it up. And you are fined. (Or maybe you’re just fined if you spill and don’t clean. But still.) I wasn’t aware of any such law in Colorado.

Booth Lady positions her face to within a couple inches from mine. “What ever happened to compassion?” she asks.

Oh. That. She thinks I have cancer. I get that a lot. Not so much: What ever happeend to compassion? But a lot of people tell me they’re in remission or in treatment or that their sister or aunt or best friend is. They say one of the following:

a) “You’re going to be okay.”

b) “I’ll pray for you.”

c) “Can I buy you lunch?”

Personally I prefer c) “Can I buy you lunch?”

I wait to see which option Booth Lady will choose. Probably not c) —I only get c) in restaurants.

She continues. “I can’t believe that lady just cut you off. It was clear what you were doing.”

Not: Calm down. Not: You’re overreacting. Not: Get some perspective. Not even: Everything happens for a reason or She’ll get what’s coming to her or Maybe she didn’t realize what she was doing.


Suddenly I don’t care about the spot stealer. I no longer feel the desire to curse her. Once someone acknowledged I was wronged, I could move on to wrapping up my transaction and getting on with my day.

It sounds so simple.

At a recent alopecia support group meeting, we discussed some of the responses we’ve gotten from people when sharing the news about our hair loss for the first time. The one most people preferred was “That sucks.” Because it does. Losing your hair sucks. And noone telling you that you’re overreacting or that it happened for a reason will help you accept the situation any faster.