My father did not believe in coincidence.
Whenever he had run-ins with petty bureaucrats, dimwitted telephone operators, or terminally dense waitresses, he’d slowly shake his head and sarcastically say, “I get all the winners.”
Dad, who was not the most patient of men, said those words a lot when I was growing up and I confess that I inherited his hostile attitude. Or at least that’s the excuse I give people.
However, I know that this is no way to go through life and I’m making an effort to change.
And change was the theme when I walked into my local supermarket last week--only this type of change was in the form of serious coin.
I was standing on the checkout line listening to Billy Joel on the store’s sound system singing “Tell Her About It,” a tune from way back in 1983 that I always liked and hadn’t heard in ages.
The video for the song was equally enjoyable as it was built around the old Ed Sullivan Show and featured an appearance by Rodney Dangerfield.
A scene had been shot at a bar in my neighborhood of Bay Ridge, giving me an additional reason to like it.
That video was a loving look back to a more innocent time, but now, 30 years later, it’s become a fond memory itself.
I got off the nostalgia train when I noticed that the line hadn’t moved an inch in several minutes, which was odd seeing as there was only one person ahead of me.
And then I saw why.
The woman whom I had chosen to stand behind was paying for her groceries in coins. No paper, no plastic, she was actually dropping nickels, dimes and quarters in front of the cashier who was doing her best to scoop them up.
I decided that was I not going to get annoyed like I usually do. I didn’t want to carry on the family tradition of losing my temper and grousing that I got all the winners.
Pennies From Hell
No, I was going to be a mature, patient adult for once and wait until this lady was done. With no place to go and nothing to do, I had no reason to get angry.
So I waited. Billy Joel finished his number and Otis Redding came on to sing his classic “Dock of the Bay,” another one of my favorite hits.
And the coins kept on coming. It looked liked nothing was going to change; everything still remained the same. If this woman doesn’t hurry up, I thought, I’ll be here when the evening comes.
Now I started to get annoyed. This woman must’ve had a piggy bank the size of an Oldsmobile to hold all these coins. Or maybe she had cracked open a parking meter with a sledgehammer.
Of all the lines to stand on, I picked the one with the human slot machine.
Then I took a closer look at her. She was quite heavy, using a walker, and struggling to keep her balance.
I thought of the trouble I’ve been having with my back and how I’ve been limping all over town. Would I want someone yelling at me because I wasn’t moving fast enough?
Otis Redding did a whistling wrap-up and Nick Lowe followed him to sing “Cruel to Be Kind,” yet another fine tune.
The song tells of an unhealthy situation where an alleged friend claims that abuse should really be interpreted as love.
It sounds a little too much like the relationship I had with my father, but I’ve also stood on the other side of the equation, and I know it’s a lie.
Hurtful words and actions are hurtful and nothing more. If you want to let someone know that you love them take Billy Joel’s advice and tell them about it.
I relaxed while the coin lady emptied her bucket. This could be all the money she had in the world and given her condition, I wanted to be kind, not cruel.
So, listen, boy, it's good information from a man who's made mistakes: losing your temper over minor incidents only makes things worse. Stay calm and enjoy life and you’ll be the real winner.