I had twelve minutes.
I was missing one ingredient for the frosting and I needed to run to the store. The cake was in the oven and I had twelve minutes before it would be done. (Not sure why, but I decided) I needed to go to the store right now. I couldn’t wait the twelve minutes. I could do this.
The store was literally one minute away. I quickly found what I needed and headed for check out. Two lanes open. Both occupied by women who were clearly cooking for fifty. I asked if they could open the Express lane. No, they couldn’t. I chose one line and tried to wait patiently. Soon there were 4-5 more people behind me. All with ten items or less.
The woman checking out in front of me was older. I offered to help her unload her cart. While I was doing that, another lane opened and the new cashier asked for the next in line to follow her. That would be me, but since I wasn’t quite finished helping to unload this woman’s cart, someone else sailed past me.
In my head I started complaining: that’s not fair. I was next! If I hadn’t been nice and finished unloading the woman’s cart, I would have been first in the new lane and by now I would be easily out the door headed back to my cake. I needed to get home.
And then I paused and remembered to ask myself the first thing I ask my clients: what do you want? My answer was obvious – and actually very simple – I wanted to pay so I could leave. I wanted to be next. So I asked the woman who took, what was supposed to be, my place in line, if I could scoot in front of her and pay cash for my one item. Whether her dirty look was real or imagined, she allowed me to pay ahead of her. I made it home with 15 seconds left on the timer.
Even when I finally realized I had the power to change it – simply by asking for what I wanted – I was still tempted to lead with my story: I was there first, I was just helping this woman unload her cart, I needed to get home because my cake was in the oven, etc. But really, none of that mattered. Four short words, were all I needed. May I go first?
When was the last time you found yourself in this position – of complaining and editorializing in your own mind about something you thought to be unfair? And? Did you fret and stew they way I started to? Did you let yourself make up all kinds of stories to validate your feelings and stay rooted in your victimhood? Or did you simply ask for what you wanted? I’d love to know below!