I've got Helpful Face. When strangers are lost, lonely, sad, chatty, bored, have tricky cuff links or are in need of directions, they undoubtedly turn to me. There's some kind of invisible bat signal on my chest that does the opposite of the Scarlet Letter -- it draws people to me. And I usually accept them with open arms and an iffy sense of direction I'm more than willing to share.
Case in point: The other day three American newcomers who neither spoke nor understood English asked me through a series of hand gestures and a weathered notebook where a particular address was. At the time I was walking Miles my pug while balancing a month's worth of dry cleaning. The four of us were crowding the sidewalk, I knew -- but they needed help, and the language thing was making the whole situation tough. I figured the easiest thing to do was get them where they were going as quickly as possible.
After about two minutes of fake sign language they were almost on their way. That's when an especially miffed neighbor barrelled through our huddle, hissing, "Pick a side!" as she wheeled her bike to the super busy superhero conference she was clearly late for.
Thankfully the folks I was helping didn't understand her, but I did and felt the need to apologize for her behavior.
"Some people are just rude," I said and they nodded as if understanding before walking in the opposite direction of where I told them to go.
What pissed me off the most about this woman's rush hour-induced rudeness was how much I recognized it in myself.
I am probably the most closeted impatient person you've ever had stand behind you in line at the grocery store. It might look like I'm smiling sweetly as you wait until your entire cart is scanned before you swipe your debit card, then reswipe because, despite living in 2013, you did it wrong. I might appear to be perusing the trashy mags as you study the receipt like an ancient papyrus scroll and ask the cashier for the third time if she got your discount card. But I am not smiling or perusing, my friend, I am secretly putting a hex on you so that you'll never hold up another line again!
I try not to be one of the passive aggressive impatients who sigh really loud as if your lollygagging has sucked the life right out of them. But I'd be lying if I said I hadn't taken a few deep, "Yoooo! Is she for serious?" breaths while waiting for someone to figure out the automatic movie ticket machines at Regal.
But what exactly am I in such a rush to get to? Sure we all hate missing the previews, but it's not like it'd kill me to stand around for an extra 10 seconds. Add to that the fact that while I'm silently seething, nothing is getting done any faster. Actually the opposite applies. The more impatient I become, the longer things seem to take. And while I might think my face is telegraphing serenity, I'm sure the people around me can tell just how much fun I'm not having.
So, really, I want to thank the lady who was not very nice to me and my new friends that morning on the sidewalk. If anything she showed me how ridiculous I look whenever I announce to all the people who don't care how very busy and important I am by huffing and puffing with impatience.