SGLY: In the eyes of a stranger

By Tiffany Chartier
Special to the Prosper Press

The Golden Arches have lost a little luster with me over the past month. I have a standard weekly order: a large, plain cappuccino. This is a small treat that I budget for under the not-so-proud line item “coffee addiction.” I barely break stride on my morning commute as I pull into the drive-thru; the location is convenient and the staff friendly. For the past six years, my experience with this establishment has been as smooth as the cappuccino. That is, until this month.

Of the last four cappuccinos ordered, four have had issues ranging from receiving the wrong order to the machine being broken. I am a patient person, but I do not enjoy wasting time or money. Yesterday I greeted the day and decided, despite the rain, I would create my own sunshine. I opted to give the Golden Arches another try. My effort resulted in my patience being tested, and I am embarrassed to admit, I failed the test.

The drive-thru speaker was acting up and the employee could not hear me. With the driver’s side window rolled down, rained splattered like hot grease on a skillet on my inside door panel. I wiped it clean with a tissue, but soon the tissue pulled apart; I resigned myself to the reality of getting soaked. After several failed attempts at ordering, I drove to the first window and spoke directly to the employee. Moving along to the second window, I waited to receive my cappuccino.

“Please pull up to the first sign and we will be out with your cappuccino shortly,” a young girl says to me.

There is no one behind me in line and my order is one drink, so I think this to be an odd request. Curious, I ask, “Is everything okay?”

“Oh, yes, someone will bring it right out to you. Please just pull up to the first sign.” The employee leans forward to point the way, quickly withdrawing behind the screen because of the rain.

“No problem,” I say. At the time, I meant it: no problem. I glance at the clock. Five minutes pass. Looking at my side mirror, I notice several cars come and go through the line, many with orders bigger than mine. Now I have a problem. I am irritated by the delay, the persistent pattern of issues, and seeing the rain wrinkle my blouse and dampen my car. But most of all, I am irritated that I am irritated. I don’t like the feeling — it is like wearing scratchy fabric. I tell myself that I will wait three more minutes. Surely, eight minutes in total is ample time to complete my short order. With this thought, I feel calmer. I shake my head at my silliness as I look at my blouse. Who cares that you’re a little wet, Tiffany? You’re not going to melt.

Three. Two. One. Three minutes is up and so am I — up and out of my car, briskly walking through the downpour and into the restaurant. Inside, a blast of cold air gives me an immediate shiver against my wet skin. I can smell my hairspray and feel my hairstyle relax. At least one thing about me is relaxed.

I wait in line behind two patrons, adding the minutes to my total delay. By the time I reach the employee behind the register, he can tell by my appearance that I am irritated.

“May I have my cappuccino? I have been waiting for it now for more than ten minutes.” Immediately, I hate the sound of my voice. I try always to say ‘please’ and give a proper greeting. Regardless of how annoyed I am, there is no excuse to be rude. And even if I may not have been “rude” by some standards, I certainly did not act up to my standards. So much for creating my own sunshine.

The young girl who initially told me to pull up to the first sign comes quickly around the counter with my drink. “Here you go,” she says while catching her breath.

I take the drink and walk outside. This time, my walk back to the car is slower even though the rain is coming down harder. Much harder. I give up on my appearance. I decide to settle down and feel the rain, hopefully washing away my poor attitude. I notice someone else is getting drenched: an employee picking up trash near my vehicle. He is hunched down, and I can see rain dripping from the cuffs of his pants. He is a much older man, and I feel for him being outside doing a job that is taxing on his body. He is genuinely soaked. I accidentally startle him when I open my car door.

“Good morning,” I say.

He rises, surprised to see someone else in the rain. “Good morning,” he replies. Staring at me, he stands as calm as if he were basking in the sun. I swear I saw his grey eyes turn a silvery blue — like the weather was changing right before me.

“How are you doing today?” I ask, drawn to his presence.

“I can’t complain,” he says. “It’s a new day.”

The smile he gives me is by far the best gift I have received all week. I do not realize I am laughing until I recognize the sound of my voice. I like that sound.

“Indeed, a brand-new day!” I exclaim over the rain. “I hope you make it a great one.”

“You be sure to do the same,” he says, tipping his ballcap to me.

I get into my car, the seat and steering wheel both wet from having the door open. Instead of being irritated, I praise God. I thank God for allowing me to see Jesus in the eyes of a stranger — for humbling me — for showing me an example of creating and sharing sunshine and kindness no matter the circumstance.

Of the last five cappuccinos ordered, five have had an issue. But number five was the best $3.65 I have spent in a very long time.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You.)

Tiffany Kaye Chartier

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.