Walk the Walk - Spaghetti

Mike McGough
November 2021

Her day started off well.  The coffee was hot, the donuts were fresh, and she enjoyed the company of the four other drivers in the breakroom.  The weather was clear, so she was looking forward to another pleasant day on the road.  Over the past 31 years, she had had dramatically more pleasant than unpleasant days.  That was in large measure because of the type of person she was.  She was optimistic, thoughtful, and she had great compassion for others. 

It didn’t take much to make her happy, and conversely, it took a good bit to anger her.  She was always able to find pleasure in simple things.  For example, on her return route this particular day, she would be driving past one of her favorite restaurants.  They have the best meatloaf in the world, at least she thinks so. That would be her dinner and a most pleasant way to end her workday. 

Shortly after she left the terminal, she hit a construction zone.  Traffic was all but stopped. Normally, the dispatcher knew about road work and made the drivers aware. This day he didn’t.  She was stuck right in the middle of it.  The trip to her first stop should have taken about a half and hour.  It took more than an hour, and she was late.  When she arrived at the loading dock, she apologized and tried to explain.  The dock foreman made it clear that he was upset and would be letting her supervisor know that she was late.  After her load was cleared, he came back to her and said, “If this ever happens again, I’ll see to it that you’re off this route permanently.”  Between the breakroom and her first stop, her day had taken a bad turn.  She was going to be late the rest of the day, so this unfriendly encounter was going to linger with her all day.

To try and catch up, she skipped lunch.  That helped, but even so, she just wasn’t going to make up for the time she had lost.  As the day progressed, she could feel herself stressing a little more with each stop.  Although no one welcomed her late arrival, no one else made a big issue out of it.  They accepted it and worked through.  Nonetheless, by the end of the day, she was frustrated, tired, and hungry. And try as she might to forget it, the encounter at her first stop had hung with her all day. 

When she arrived at the restaurant, she saw that meatloaf was the special of the day.  It was served with scalloped potatoes, green beans, apple sauce, and coconut cream pie for dessert.  That put a smile on her face.  After the day she had had, this meal was going to be a welcome treat. 

The restaurant was busy.  That wasn’t unusual.  Because of its location, the type of meals they served, their prices, and the folks who worked there, it was a popular spot for truckers, travelers, and locals.  When she eased into the booth, she was happy to be there.  It hadn’t been the best of days, but it was behind her, and the day was going to end well.

When her waiter approached, she didn’t recognize him.  Even before he shared his name, he told her he was new.  He told her he was a college student home for the summer.  She asked about what he was studying, and they had a brief conversation.  When he took her order, he said they were running a bit behind, because they were short two waitresses.  She told him it was no problem, and asked if he could bring her coffee, while she waited for her food.  He never did.

When he brought her food, it was a small house salad and a plate of spaghetti. That was clearly not what she had ordered.  The meal she had been looking forward to all day, had turned into one that was not among her favorites.  Her first impulse was to snap at him.  He hadn’t brought her coffee, and when her order finally came out it wasn’t even close. But just as she was about to unload on him, the face of the dock foreman at her first delivery of the day flashed into her mind.  She recalled how he made her feel and the negative impact he had on the rest of her workday.  That reminded her just how hurtful angry words can be.  She said nothing.

When he returned with her coffee, he said, “Hope your meal is okay.” 

With a kind, understanding, and tolerant smile she said, “It’s really good. I’m enjoying it. Thank you!”

Negative encounters in life can often teach some rich, powerful, and positive lessons!