by Andrea Chilcote
I’ve never liked errands, and do-overs are especially annoying. So I was determined to complete the task of returning a gallon of mismatched paint to Home Depot quickly and efficiently.
As I carried the nearly-full bucket across the parking lot, I wondered when they stopped using a plastic sleeve on the wire handle. This might have changed in the 80’s and I never noticed, but it felt like the thin strip of metal, ready to pierce my hand, was a design flaw. By the time I reached the door, I had enough. I lifted the can to my midsection, cradling it in my arms. Relief.
Halfway between the front door and the paint department, I noticed a strange, sickening sensation. My clothes felt wet from my torso to my right foot. Slowing my pace, I looked down cautiously. Not only was yellow-orange paint running down my body and dripping onto my (new) shoes, I had left a long trail of the same on the floor of the store.
I stopped in my tracks. Even a slight movement would create more of a mess. Almost immediately, a Home Depot associate approached and handed me a small roll of paper towels. The look on my face must have suggested they would hardly do the job, because he said with a smile, “Those are for you. We’ll take care of the floor.” Kindly, he added: “It happens all the time.” I doubt that’s true, but it was nice of him to say.
Apologizing profusely, I began mopping up my shirt and pants. Then, I noticed my shoes – my new shoes! I asked where the restroom was and sprinted there, trying to make it before the paint began to dry.
As I was washing my shoes in the sink, another cheerful and kind employee approached me. She said they had free t-shirts at the contractor’s desk, and would be happy to give me one. I thanked her, but by this time the paint had nearly dried and my shirt was wearable, though ruined. And I had things to do.
By now you might be wondering why the paint can lid was loose. I can only say it must not have been shut tightly when last used (by a painter, not me), though of course I should have checked it. But the bigger question is why I carried a paint can tipped on its side like a baby doll. The way I carry things has been a subject of much examination of late, and highlighted in my January post.. “Here we go again,” I thought, as I sheepishly made my way back to the scene of the incident.
Workers had set up large barricades so that customers didn’t accidentally step in the wet paint. Once again, I apologized and offered to help, but they assured me they had the proper people and materials for this kind of job. I retrieved my can and made my way to the paint counter to accomplish my original purpose.
It turns out the task of trying to match my custom color was going to be a lengthy one. I had originally allotted 30 minutes for the entire errand prior to a conference call, but my delay used that and more. I told the paint associate I would check back, dialed into my call, and began wandering about the store.
With only a portion of my attention on the call, I began to notice things I needed. Soon, my arms were loaded. Another friendly associate approached me and asked if he could get me a cart. (There was probably an alert out to watch for a woman with paint stained clothes who carried things poorly).
“A cart! Yes, that would be kind of you,” I exclaimed, as if he had the most brilliant and original idea. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to mute my call, and now the entire group knew I was shopping. A minor faux pas given this particular call, but it was the second embarrassing moment that hour.
And then it dawned on me. A readily available shopping cart would have been an ideal device for carrying that can of paint into the store, just like an easily obtained backpack would have eased my significant load during a trek through an Atlanta blizzard in January.
What is wrong with me?
Readers of my posts know I have a life-long pursuit of presence, the ability to make the most of the moment at hand. And for at least the last five years, that practice has extended to a present awareness of my body – everything from how I stand and sit, to what nutrition or amount of rest I need.
I suppose I’m still “practicing,” because this morning I hauled my very heavy suitcase/computer case up a small set of stairs. After I had lugged it, I examined why I had not simply disconnected the two pieces, balancing one in each hand. The answer was the same as it was for the backpack and the shopping cart. Time. In an attempt to save seconds or minutes, I risk harm to my body.
A dear friend is suffering from a serious back injury, presumably the result of pushing through activities despite the warning signs of milder, chronic pain. I’m sobered by the realization that in my own haste, I too could potentially do harm.
Mindless speed, or deliberate action – it’s a choice to consider.
This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!