I had an extra 20 minutes today and decided to treat myself to a car wash. A real one where you drive up and actual people take the care to wash your car with their hands. I pulled into the parking lot and quickly realized I was seventh in line just to get out of my car and hand over the keys. Someone swiftly pulled in behind me, so there was no changing my mind. I was stuck. I had to sit in my car and wait.
For a split second I got frustrated about the amount of time this was going to waste. I started scanning my house thinking of work to be done, laundry in the washer, are the dogs lonely? As I slowly inched my car forward, though, I decided to spend the time daydreaming instead of panicking. I looked at things on Pinterest. On Amazon. I dreamed about winning the lottery. It ended up being a lovely 20 minutes waiting to get out of the car.
I got out of the car and walked across the parking lot to the area where people were working hard to dry and detail cars already at the end of the line. I sat and watched them playing frogger across the lanes of cars, bouncing from one to the next, each with their own specialty: tire shine, drying with special cloths, detailing the windows. I saw a young man crouch down next to the car in front of me and begin cleaning them with a small brush. An older woman who also worked there walked up next to him and began complaining. I only caught part of her complaints, but her body language made it clear she was displeased with where they’d been put to work that day: on the tires. She spoke clearly, but not loudly. Her facial expressions indicated to me that she had no trouble communicating, and her tight, blonde pony tail looked barely-salvaged from too much bleach. “It’s not fair,” she said, pointing her rag at the tire he was cleaning. As she hovered over him, she continued her quiet ranting while he remained focused, not looking up.
I wondered how she got this job, or how she ended up with this job. I wondered about her past and if she was a mom trying to bring home an income or a former felon just trying to get back on her feet (or likely somewhere in between). What happened to make her so angry and so bitter? Why did she feel like such a victim?
Soon, a manager called her to a different car. My eyes followed her. She walked to the next car and began her conversation again, this time with a few woman standing near the back of an SUV with rags and spray bottles. She reached down to clean a tire and stood back up to finish a sentence. Her manager seemed to catch up and continued refocusing her until she finally began cleaning one of the cars.
My car crawled down the lane and made it to the finish line in time for someone to shout, “Black Mini Cooper?!” (That’s me.) I stood up and raised my hand, walking toward my car.
A young, black man stood like a tree compared to me in front of my car. I could tell immediately something wasn’t quite right about him. Perhaps he had a brain injury or a speech impediment. His smile suggested maybe he’d even had a stroke at one point. An older black man, shorter, stood next to him. It felt like he was the younger man’s keeper, or maybe his father. They were waiting for me to show them my receipt, which I pulled from my pocket with a smile.
“Black Mini Cooper?” the taller man asked me. His words came out slowly. I held my receipt in the air. “You?” he asked.
“Me!” I smiled.
“Black Mini Cooper!” he announced, “You’re the next contestant on ‘Your Car’s Clean!'”
I laughed and jumped up and down like I’d just won a prize. He cheered and took the receipt from my hand and waived it around while the older man next to him chuckled a wise chuckle and opened my door. This entire experience took 15 seconds, but it made up for waiting almost an hour in the middle of a busy day to get my car washed. As I got to my car door I turned around and high-fived both them men and thanked them for the fun. They both smiled and leaned down to my window once I closed the door to say goodbye.
Both the older woman with the blonde pony tail and the young man who may have experienced some kind of physical trauma in his life were working at the same car wash. One of them complained, found inequities, pointed out the problems. The other worked so quietly and fervently that I didn’t see him until he literally celebrated my arrival at my own car.
One was a victim of her circumstances.
One was throwing a party.
Both were in the exact same place on the exact same day doing the exact same thing.
You have a choice to be a victim of your circumstance; and you have a choice to throw a party. You want something different (a different person, a different job, a different house, a different anything) because you think you will be happier in the having of that thing. But wherever you go and whatever changes in your life, you will still be there. You are the only common denominator.
“Yeah, but, my situation is DIFFERENT because…”
No. It’s not. You cannot change your experience overnight, but you can learn to create the positive aspects of it now. Right now.
I focus/struggle to keep an eye on the positive aspects everyday, too. It’s not a destination. I haven’t arrived at “positive aspects.” I practice it. And slowly, the parts of my life I don’t like…change. Almost like magic sometimes.
Find a way to throw a party tomorrow, people. Even at the car wash.
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