The parking lot of the Whole Foods Market in Boulder is a crowded, cart-swerving, bumper-crunching paved path to insanity. But somehow, a spirit of congeniality prevails, or at least it does when I’m there during off-peak hours. I never go there during the post-work rush hour or weekends, so I can’t vouch for a lack of road rage within this parking lot’s tiny borders when it’s truly busting at the seams with organics-seeking Boulderites.
I like to park in a garage off to the side of the building. It’s nice to park in the shade, and I can always find a spot there. That’s where I parked today, later in the afternoon than usual, but still within a reasonable hour to avoid the insanity. I came out of the store, wove my way through people and cars and jogged after my cart down the little hill into the parking garage, nearly home free, when a car zoomed around the corner in front of me, into the garage. The driver yelled out his open windows:
“Get out of my fucking way!”
I was stunned. First, I hadn’t been in anyone’s fucking way. I was definitely out of the fucking way. Second, this violated the unspoken rule of having good manners in Boulder’s most crowded grocery store, the pact of civility shared by every denizen of Whole Foods. Whether we wait inside at the seafood counter for our non-dyed salmon or wait outside for a Subaru to pull out of a spot so we can pull our own Subarus in, the patrons of Boulder’s Whole Foods Market maintain an outward semblance of Boulder mindfulness. Any frustration we might feel, we keep to ourselves.
Angry Guy tore around to the far corner of the garage where I couldn’t see him, but I knew he would have to walk past my car to get back out. I loaded my groceries into our Subaru (yes, we have one, too), and just as I turned around to return my cart, Angry Guy rounded the corner on foot. Jeremy wasn’t with me — he doesn’t like it when I create a situation — so I felt free to express myself without causing my significant other any embarrassment or distress.
Watching him, I started pushing my cart to the return, right behind him.
“Hey, are you the one who told me to get out of your fucking way?” I said, even though I knew he was.
I’m sure other people in the garage heard this and wondered what sort of a road rage incident they had missed. Angry Guy, though, gave me a furtive sideways glance — I knew he heard me — and then darted his eyes back to his cell phone to send either pretend or real text messages.
“That’s what I thought,” I said as I reached the cart return. He continued up the ramp, and I put my cart away and walked back to my car. I was proud that I’d publicly humiliated him. He deserved it; his words were uncalled for and incredibly rude, especially considering the pact and all. He should be embarrassed for his bad behavior.
As I drove home, I remembered something Anyen Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist lama I met over the spring, had said during teachings I attended. This is the condensed version, but it’s all about me. Everywhere you go, everything you do, it’s always all about me me me. I’m stuck in traffic but I’m in a hurry. I’m waiting way too long for the waitress to bring my water. I want to be in the shortest line at the grocery store. We only think about ourselves in these situations, he said. Me me me.
Angry Guy was all about him, I decided, but I knew immediately that I was wrong. It wasn’t just Angry Guy who was thinking only of himself; so was I. I took that one little sentence we exchanged personally, so I decided he should pay for his transgression on me. I made his moment about him all about me when I confronted him. I could have easily let it go, but I made a choice to make it all about me instead and even congratulated myself for it.
I don’t want to get all after-school-special on you here, so I’ll conclude with more of a Zen koan instead: if it’s not all about me, and it’s not all about you, then whom or what is it all about?