Today, my husband and I were driving home to Long Beach from our lovely vacation in San Francisco, when a confusing thing happened: I found myself completely lost and alone in a parking lot, without any money, ID, or a phone.
This may be perplexing on many levels, such as: how big could that parking lot have been, that you were lost? Where was your husband? Who gets out of the car without money or identification? And seriously, what normal person DOESN’T have their cell phone glued to them at all times?
Though the story is a bit embarrassing, I feel like I need to tell it in order to get to my point. And yes, there really is going to be a point!
We had exited the freeway for a lunch/bathroom break, and found ourselves craving In-N-Out, which only had 4 cars in the drive-thru! (Usually, there are at least 8.) [If you don’t know what In-N-Out is, please let me know because I will dedicate an entire post to it and my many adventures with the establishment. Hah.] The In-N-Out just so happened to share a parking lot with a Chevron, so we thought ‘Perfect! Food first, then gas right next to us and we’ll be on the road again!’
Not. Perfect. At. All.
As we’re sitting in the drive-thru line, Mike (the husband) suggested that I make efficient use of our time, and use the restroom now while he waited in line and ordered for us both. Assuming I’d just be “in and out” (hah! get it?), I left my purse in the car and walked into the restaurant. Less than 5 minutes later, I came back out, walked around to the drive-thru, and could not find our car in line. I walked to the other side, where cars would be exiting with the glorious food, and could not find our car in line. Confused, I decided to walk through the parking lot to the gas station, thinking “maybe he went through the line already and is being even MORE efficient with our time, pumping gas while he waits for me.” He wasn’t there.
Panic began to set in. Here I was, in a town off the highway somewhere in Southern California, and I had somehow lost my husband. Or, I should say, he lost me. I walked back to the parking lot, walking around in circles looking for him or the car. Panic grew to irritation. I went into the gas station and politely asked one of the women at the desk if I would be able to use their phone. She looked me up and down, asked one of her associates who proceeded to also look me up and down, and they told me that there was a pay phone outside the door. Which. I had seen, but with no purse, I had no coins.
Irritation grew to frustration. I asked a few people at the gas station if they would please be so kind as to allow me to use their phones for just a minute. These were their responses:
- Man #1: *stare* “Why?” *look at me as though I’m a criminal mastermind hiding in the body of a 5’6 asian woman”
- Woman #1: “No, sorry” *doesn’t look at me at all, or perhaps thinks I’m laying on the ground*
- Man #2: “Sorry, my girlfriend has my phone right now.”
- 3 people just ignored me.
At this point, I had cycled through various emotions of confusion, panic, irritation, frustration, out-right-anger, and had now melted into a perfectly simmering stew of rejection and fear. No money, no ID, no phone. No one would help me, and I was still seriously, seriously baffled as to how I could lose an entire man and a car within some kind of parking lot black hole.
I walked across the parking lot again, feeling embarrassed and a high level of dumb while this strange stream of hot water started to run down my cheeks. People eating in the restaurant, sitting in their cars, and filling gas watched and stared at me as I walked back across the lot a few more times. By the way, I saw Man #2 pull his phone out of his pocket as he walked into the In-N-Out. That B!
At some point, one of the workers in In-N-Out so kindly went to the back and brought me her cell phone so that I could call my husband, who told me he had parked in the parking lot and was looking for me!
When I got into the car, I burst out crying. This was not a little blubbering, sniveling, or whimpering kind of crying. This was a full-out, hyperventilate, snot dripping everywhere, sobbing type of crying. My issue wasn’t that I had been some weird kind of silly and gotten lost in a parking lot. My issue was the way I was treated in those 25 minutes, when all I needed was someone to be kind enough to lend me their phone for less than 30 seconds. Instead, they judged me, declined, lied to my face, and even acted like I didn’t exist.
The strangest thing was, in the midst of my uncontrollable release of emotion, these thoughts raced through my head: This is how homeless people are treated when they ask for help; this is how those families you see asking for gas money feel. This is how people, who already live far less comfortable lives than we, are treated. They are ignored, scorned, turned away.
75% of the time, I do the exact same thing to those less fortunate people. I felt so guilty.
When I got home, I went online and found a website called JustGive.org, which offers a way for people to make donations to charities and causes that they believe in. On their website, I found an article on 35 ways to help the homeless. Here are some of the ones that stuck out the most to me:
- Understand and educate yourself about who the homeless are: don’t bundle them all into one giant stereotype. Some of these people are homeless because they lost their job and fell down the wrong path, were abused and ran away from home as a child, or have a mental illness.
- Give them the same courtesy and respect you would like to be treated with if you needed help.
- Bring extra food with you sometimes, a meal bar, or a sandwich.
- Donations help. Donate clothes, donate groceries, donate those extra canned foods that sit in the cabinet for months at a time. Donate toys.
- Volunteer. Period.
There were so many other things on their website: some take more time and commitment, others take maybe an hour or less of your life. Some of them just tell you how to be kind and open-minded towards those not like ourselves.
When it comes to seeking harmony and happiness in life, I believe that sometimes it’s the things you do for strangers, and the things that strangers do for you that truly make a difference.
There are 35 suggestions on that list. I’m going to try to do 5 of them in the next few weeks. Ooh, and blog about it! :].
Thanks for reading, and I welcome any thoughts or comments!
– Christine :].
*To see my progress based on this topic, click on the link below!