Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Are you using this chair?

I go to Starbucks to write. I try to work at home, but always get either interrupted or sidetracked. I love it when the larger tables are available, but usually end up at a small, round table with two chairs. One for me and one for my paraphernalia.

Recently, a group of three - mother, daughter and granddaughter, perhaps - came in. They were actually ahead of me in line. Since there was someone behind them and my laptop case was heavy, I set my things on one of the two remaining tables for two. By the time they came to sit at the table beside me, I was set up - laptop on the table, butt in chair, case and purse on the "extra" chair at my table.

The middle woman - the mother, I suppose - asked if was using the chair - the one I wasn't sitting in. My things were on the chair. She was standing behind it. I thought the answer was obvious, but also thought that a person trumped "stuff."

At the table for four beside me, two other people sat with their "stuff" and at least one empty chair. I glanced at their chair and remarked aloud that I didn't know where I'd put my
stuff. I guess I was supposed to dump it on the floor so I could give the woman the chair.

Had it been the last chair in the coffee shop, I'd have given it up. Reluctantly, I'll admit, but without hesitation.

"I guess I'll just stand," the woman said.

"No, that's silly," I replied, standing, and wondering why the woman didn't appear able to
scan the small space for an empty chair.

So, I did it. I asked the people at the next table if they were using their empty chair. They
were not. Problem solved, seating conundrum resolved.

So why did I end up feeling petty and selfish? Well, at first, anyway. But then I felt
manipulated. "I guess I'll just stand"??

Perhaps I should have suggested she ask someone else. Perhaps I should have told her where to put the chair.

Admittedly, there are bigger problems in life than putting my stuff on the floor so someone
else can guilt me into giving up my chair when there are others available. So why is this such a big deal?

Because I am tired. Tired of stupid, thoughtless questions, of people who think their needs
trump someone else's. Of people too impatient to look beyond the solution that immediately presents itself to find one that benefits more than just them.

The group didn't stay long. When they left, guess who returned the chair and thanked the couple at the next table?

They were very nice, by the way.

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