Fantastic Friday: Karma

Last week, I stopped at McDonalds for breakfast on the way to work.

Long story short, a man in a truck decided to cut in front of me in line IN THE DRIVE THRU, going to contortions to pull his truck in front of my car. (If you want the actual detailed explanation for why I think he did this, see footnote at bottom—it’s largely irrelevant to this story).

The “New Yorker” in me (I didn’t grow up in New York, but close enough) immediately rolled down the window. Then my conscious mind took over. What was I going to do? Yell at him? Get out of the car? Pull in front of him and snatch his order just for the heck of it? My mind brooded, and I wished all sorts of bad luck on him.

Flashes of Oedipus Rex crossed my mind—how in an angry rage he unknowingly killed his own father. And how in arrogance he did things far worse. And the famous phrase “turn the other cheek” echoed in there somewhere, too.

It was utterly stupid, both his move and my angry reaction. So I simply rolled the window back up and turned up the Christmas music my daughter was listening to. If this guy’s life was so angry that he needed to cut me off in the drive-thru, so be it.

As I waited in line, I briefly questioned the universe. I took a picture of his truck, making sure I captured the license plate. I wasn’t sure why, but I wanted to have it. I decided, as I pulled away, that instead of wishing bad luck on him, I wished for a positive sign from the universe that being the bigger person was the way to go. I didn’t tell anyone about the incident because I didn’t want to spread the anger I’d felt. I didn’t get the sign I was looking for on the way to work, and I quickly forgot the incident as I went about my day.

The next morning, a Saturday, was the local fire department’s breakfast with Santa. We’d decided to take the two kids there and try to get a cute picture of them with Saint Nick, and we planned to get there as close to the 8 a.m. opening as possible. We’d been there the year before, and the line was quite long.

We arrived around 8:15, slightly missing our goal, and learned that the field where people normally park for the event was too wet. We were directed to park at a local high school and walk or take the shuttle over to the fire department. We would be even later than we thought.

We shrugged, resigning to the fact that we’d be standing in a long line to see Santa, and hoping that the toddler and baby would cooperate.

When we arrived, we were surprised to see that Santa had not yet arrived. The fire department photographer looked nervous. Everyone—probably close to 100 people—stood in a line wrapped around the firehall, waiting for breakfast. Normally, there is one line for breakfast and one for Santa, so neither is terribly long.

But the atmosphere was different this year, without Santa. We heard rumblings from members of the fire company that he was “on the way” and “running late.” Nervous parents made up stories about delays at the North Pole, and eyes speculated, everyone wondering what would happen when he finally arrived. Where would the line form? How would people funnel in? Who would abandon the breakfast line to begin the Santa queue? Would it be a metaphorical bloodbath?

A while later, a flashing ambulance arrived in the parking lot and was immediately surrounded by cell phones and cameras. Santa had arrived. I looked at my husband. At Santa’s arrival, we just happened to be standing at the carpet/couch/tree areas set up for Santa photos. We hadn’t planned it, nor could we have. It was just where the long, long, serpentine breakfast line happened to dump us.

“Could we be so lucky?” I asked.

We didn’t move or push. Santa came in and waved, then sat on the couch. The fire department photographer, there only a few minutes earlier, had disappeared. Parents immediately swarmed Santa, asking if they could start their pictures.

Santa nodded unsurely, and parents started placing children on his lap, snapping pictures with their cell phones.

“The photographer should be here soon,” I mumbled. “But maybe we should just follow suit and get pictures with our phones to avoid a line?” I wondered.

We took a single step to the right, getting ready to visit Santa, when the people next to us frantically asked if they could see Santa first since they were trying to get to their kid’s basketball game. We shrugged. “Sure,” I said.

As they were taking their shot, the fire department photographer materialized, pointing to me. “Alright,” he said. “The line for Santa starts here!”

We were literally first in line. Without moving. Without pushing our way through. I smiled as my kids both managed to sit for pictures without any fuss at all. As we made our way to the breakfast line, I realized I’d gotten the sign from the universe that I’d been looking for.20181201_083144

In line, I told my husband the story of the guy from McDonald’s. I’d forgotten I’d snapped a picture of him, but was reminded of it as I flipped through the impromptu pictures of Santa we’d taken. I smiled as I deleted the picture and all evidence of his brazen maneuver.

I don’t know what he was hoping to accomplish by wedging his truck in front of my car and leaving McDonald’s a full minute faster than I did, but I hope he found what he was looking for. And I hope he has a merry Christmas.



Footnote—Long story long: The parking lot at McDonald’s is a mess. The drive-thru lane basically backs up into the parking lot, so no one can exit the parking lot if there is any kind of drive-thru line at all. In an attempt to alleviate the problem, the drive-thru was remodeled so that there are two order lanes which then funnel into the same pick-up windows. When I arrived, the entire drive-thru queue was waiting at the first order lane. No one had pulled into the second lane. If I had stayed behind everyone else, I would have been blocking traffic in the parking lot. Not to mention a huge sign which announces “use either lane.” The people waiting in line had made a choice to wait where they were waiting. But the truck at the back of lane 1 got angry and seemed to think I shouldn’t have driven into lane 2, since he had been waiting before I arrived. Why he didn’t just drive to lane 2 from the start is beyond me, but to right that wrong, he pulled right in front of my car. It took way more effort for him to do that than just stay in lane 1. And honestly, he wasn’t out any faster than the car he was previously waiting behind.


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