No not the movie, or even the adult diaper, the concept. Most of us have heard (or invoked) the following prayer:
“Lord grant me strength to change that which I can control, the serenity to accept that which I cannot, and the intelligence to know the difference.”
Or something like that. I am broadly paraphrasing, as my wireless connexion is FUBAR and I’m composing this without the luxury of looking it up on the ‘net.
I do some serious hanging out at the Amante coffeehouse up on North Broadway. I go there to be semi-antisocial: to read, make notes on blog topics, do research, postprocess photos, avoid my roommate, and generally waste time.
I am loyal to Amante for the quality of their product and their atmosphere; the highest praise I can give in that regard is that they are Comprehensively Not Vic's. Amante's crowd has a functional mix of students, creative types and hipsters, not to mention the baristas are friendly, extremely skilled, and very easy on the eyes.
Wednesday night I’d planned to do some budget work, pay some bills, and perhaps write a paragraph or 2 of content. At 7.30 I had a consultation planned with my collegiate racing student.
The gods of Chaos had a different plan. The café was a little crowded so space was at a premium for my typical M.O. of sit down, spread out. I’d just gotten hooked up with my headphones on to do some serious composition, when the gentleman sitting next to me got up to leave… and accidentally hooked a corner of my casefile with his coat, causing, in a Rube Goldberg-esque chain reaction, a hot chocolate tsunami. Momentarily bewildered (who am I kidding, it's my normal state…) I froze, and failed to save the impending disaster.
I try to live life by the credo of the Hitchhiker’s Guide: I don’t panic, and I ALWAYS carry a towel. People rag on me for hucking round a metric ton of crap in the trusty Chrome Metropolis, but when you need a towel, particularly in situations like this, you really need one. I rescued the offending file folder (drenched for its pains), my laptop, my mp3 player, and the various peripherals to set them out of harm’s way.
It’s a fact: if you work with electronics in an environment in which spills can occur, at some point you lose the lottery. I’m good with that, hell I’m a klutz too, my main concern is to get anything that’s powered on out of the floodplain. This poor guy was mortified and I felt really bad for him. By the time I thought to hit Pause on the m:robe and removed the headphones, he had probably apologized ten times, and was on his knees trying to mop up the mess using the sadly inadequate foodservice paper napkin method.
I told him not to worry and set to work with my towel to catch the worst of the spill while he chased down a barista for a damp rag with which to wage de-stickification manouevres.
Here’s the thing: this guy got wound up into a hand-wringing fluster about a simple accident. It bugs me that in this society, the inference is that a random occurrence like this always has to be somebody’s fault.
As a notorious scatterbrain, I willingly own my end of this misadventure. I sat down in a packed café and hauled out a bunch of electronic gadgetry without first casing my surroundings and a wreck resulted. I mean, seriously, let’s examine the evidence:
Item 1) Someone sitting there prior had shoved the tables around such that his table and mine didn’t allow him (a tall, athletic fellow) adequate room for egress.
Item 2) In my haste to set up, I thoughtlessly set my plastic casefile on the edge of the table where it could (and did) catch on unsuspecting passerby.
Item 3) I have NO excuse, none, for having 20 ounces of hot chocolate sitting next to my laptop without a lid on. As my (ex Army) manager at Lockheed would say in his nearly impenetrable Louisiana drawl: ‘fastest way to learn how to do something right is to fuck it up real bad once.’ Old soldiers are positive gold mines of pithy maxims.
So disaster was (mainly) averted, the poor man went on about his business, no geekware was harmed in the making, and the worst of the mess was corralled and dealt with (honestly that was my concern; Amante is in a brand new building with elegant Italian decor). A new drink materialised and all was right with the world. Of course by the time everything got sorted, my student had shown up, and the chance for working on content was gone. C’est la vie.
Here’s the thing. Well, two things, actually.
I would gladly have just paid for another drink. Aside from any entitlement issues and the simple fact that when an extra $3.00 is gonna break me I’ve got worse issues to worry about, as I said above, I was at least 50% culpable in the affair. I know dude was being gallant, and I respect that. Still, I don’t expect.
The other thing is the comment the barista made to me later on. My student and I were lingering over some sports psychology issues, and I’d gone to get a refill. The barista actually made a point to thank me for being so calm. It’s messed up, when you think about it, that someone in this day and age has to be thanked for plain not flipping their wig when things go pear-shaped.
For Pete’s sake. Time was manners were the norm, not the exception. I passed off his thanks with some lame observation about 'well, I'm not an asshole', when, as we all know, I have at least as much propensity for being an asshole as the next person, and considering that I'm a bike racer, most likely twice that.
The difference is, I've struggled to gain and (mostly) won, over the years, the ability to take a deep breath and reach for the serenity in the situation. It has very little to do with manners, really, and a whole lot to do with treating others as I'd hope they'd treat me.