I shove my debit card into the cash machine at the bank while Jerry waits in the car. My thoughts drift…la, la,la, I wonder why this bank has an armed guard at the front door? Was there a bank robbery here and they now need the extra security? …la, la, la, that has got to be a very boring job, standing there all day, la, la, la, …
I punch the buttons, the machine clicks and cackles, then spits the money out. I hurry back to the car...la, la, la, why does the cash machine give us only twenties. I want tens…la, la, la,
I open the car door and start to plop myself in when I notice a complete stranger, a middle-aged, balding man, seated in the front seat of my car. He seems startled to see me, his dark eyes wide with shock. Well, who’s in shock? He’s in my car. I shoot back an even more startled look. What is this man doing in my car? For a few seconds I hear the screeching violin of Psycho’s shower music theme. Eeeeeeee-eeeeeee-eeeee.
Apparently, this man had decided to get inside my car while I conducted business at the cash machine. To top it off, he also decided to dine on Chinese food out of one of those paper Chinese take-out cartons. Does Jerry know this guy? My shock increases when I gaze over at Jerry and notice his black, wispy hair pulled back into a ponytail. Is he wearing red lipstick? Hey, that’s not Jerry. Who are these people? Where’s Jerry?
Then it dawns on me. I had opened the door to another red car, not my red Buick. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I say. “Your car looks just like my car.”
The man and woman chuckle, which I think means they forgive me for intruding on their quiet Chinese take-out lunch in the bank’s parking lot. I think it also means they have changed their minds and won’t need the police after all.
I quietly shut their car door and find our red Buick parked in a space behind it.
“Why are you laughing?” Jerry asks. “Our bank account can’t be that funny.”
“I’m laughing because I almost sat on that man sitting in that red Hyundai,” I say pointing to the car. “And he was eating Chinese food.”
“What? Huh?” Jerry says. As I strap in my seat belt, I explain what happened.
“Well,” Jerry says, “it’s a good thing you didn’t sit on him if he was eating with chopsticks. That wouldn’t have felt very good.”
I agree that impalement by a chopstick would probably cause pain.
The couple in the red Hyundai backs out of their parking space, probably wanting to go to a less intrusive place for their lunch. As they slowly cruise by our car, the man offers me a Queen Elizabeth wave and a slight smile. He and I are kind of friends now. This happens when you almost sit on someone. He stares at our car with intense observation as he passes by. He must notice my Buick and his Hyundai have the same metallic shade of red and the same rear window spoiler. The cars are practically twins.
Still, if I had paid more attention to my surroundings, if I hadn’t run on auto pilot, I may have avoided the slightly awkward situation.
Sometimes I’m just not in touch with the present. I’m thinking ahead, what I need to do in the future, what I don’t want to happen in the future and where I’ll be in the future. Or I’m thinking back to the past, what I did and want to remember and what I don’t want to remember. And when I’m not thinking about the future or the past, then I’m not thinking much at all. My brain is going… la, la, la, la, la.
The present is the best place to be, because it’s all we have at the moment. So instead of concentrating on the past or future or living in la-la land, I would much prefer to focus my mind on the wonder and beauty around me. Sometimes I stop in awe at the sight of a fiery sunset and puffy, pink clouds, cute Geico-like lizards skittering across our front walk, or the lushness of our fruit-laden grapefruit tree. Actually, we don’t have a grapefruit tree. But if we had one, I want to pay attention to it and of course, taste the grapefruit.
But more often than not, I’m on auto pilot. I have thoughts on things that need to be done, things I want to worry about, things I wished I did differently. Being in the present helps me to be fully alive and to live a more peaceful life.
Living in the present is one of the things I’m working on for this new year.