It was during a trip to the garden store last weekend when I realized that I might not be the person I thought I was.

I had spent the previous day lamenting, to pretty much anyone who would listen, the severe shortage of patience and general decorum I’d seen on display in recent weeks. In a 24-hour period, for example, I had seen an elderly gentleman snap at a fellow shopper at my local grocery store for getting (inadvertently, it appeared) too close to him in the canned food aisle, and then witnessed another verbal dust-up in the parking lot. This was followed shortly thereafter by a Facebook thread on a COVID-19-releated topic that descended into a virtual brawl.

None of these things, or course, were as stomach-turning as the photo that came out of Michigan last week, featuring an enraged protester screaming into a stoic young state trooper’s face as that trooper stood at his post at the state capitol building, as if heaping abuse on our first responders is an even remotely appropriate way to air grievances with your state’s government. Hint: it isn’t. But I digress.

I had headed out early on Sunday, intent on picking up a few plants and beating the inevitable rush. But I also had grossly underestimated the number of people who would have exactly the same idea, and arrived 10 minutes after the store opened to find the parking lot already two-thirds full and not a spare shopping cart in sight.

I managed to snag a rickety old trolley, but soon realized that one of its wheels was out of whack. Still, intent on making the trip count for something, I managed to half steer, half shove the thing through the store to the area where most of the outdoor plants were kept.

Did I mention that it was already getting hot? I also hadn’t eaten breakfast, and it was quickly dawning on me that the amount I had budgeted for my small garden project was going to be woefully inadequate. The trolley was jerking and shimmying all over the place. And did I mention that it was hot?

All of these are excuses of course, and none of them good ones, but I wish I had something to account for what I almost said to a young woman in a sundress who, for whatever reason, made the decision to stop and have a lengthy debate with her companion about the merits of choosing zinnias over marigolds while standing directly in the middle of the aisle that my decrepit old plant cart and I needed to pass through to get back to the register.

There’s a chance maybe she just didn’t see or hear me — and I could have just asked her to move — but after waiting what felt like forever for her to let me by I found myself having some very uncharitable thoughts about her, the guy with her, and pretty much everyone in the entire store.

I wanted very much to tell her my thoughts on what she could do with those marigolds and those zinnias, and to ask her if she had gotten up that morning expressly intending to ruin my entire day.

And then, of course, like a ton of landscaping bricks, it hit me: I was pretty much as low on patience as all of the people I had been kvetching about.

Right there in the greenhouse, I was forced to reckon with my glass house.

I eventually made it to the register and then back to my car, thankful for the fact that I'’d kept my temper in check but also, perhaps, a little more tuned in to the fact that sometimes all it takes is one too many stressors, particularly these days, to push any of us to the edge. 

A trunk full of impatiens and a lesson on patience — I can think of far worse ways to spend a Sunday.

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