Sometimes I wonder what my barista, waiter, salesman, telemarketer, doctor, mechanic, repair man, receptionist,  pastor, acquaintance,  friend, would say if they were asked why they are being less than friendly, professional, or nice.  We’ve all experienced people who make us feel like an inconvenience.

I remember walking into an average restaurant for lunch with a friend and the waiter/host got mad that we walked around the “please wait to be seated” sign that was blocking the entrance.  The place was empty.  We walked behind a sign that was blocking the small entrance so we could actually stand inside the restaurant so that we would be seen so that he would know we needed to be seated.  He was so irritated with us that we said, “Forget it.  We will go elsewhere”.  And we did.

His Problem?  I have no idea.

I remember going to a grocery store after a night in the ER during nursing school.  I think I’ve shared this before but at the grocery store I was asked if I wanted “paper or plastic?”  A normal question.  No big deal.  However, I was irritated and blank with such a question this one time.  Why?  Because I had just spent an hour holding the hand of a mentally handicapped man who was clutching a big white teddy bear.  Half the man’s face had been blown off with a rifle by a family member.  The doctors were frantically trying to keep him alive and stabilize him enough to get him flown to Harborview trauma center.  I have no idea if he lived or not.  And then I went to the grocery store.  “Paper or Plastic?  Who flipping cares about ‘paper or plastic’?  I just spent the night in an ER.  I’m so tired I could sleep right here on your floor.”  The bag boy didn’t know what I’d just been through.  He didn’t know I’d been awake for the past 18 hours and I wanted to punch him in the face for such a petty question.

Why do people get annoyed?  Angry?  Forgetful?  Why do people who are usually professional start acting less than cordial?  Why do people who usually say ‘Hi’ and act friendly, stop being so nice for a day?

Maybe their dog died.  Maybe they are on antidepressants that aren’t working.  Maybe their car broke down and they have to take the bus.  Maybe they lost their health insurance and their kid needs surgery.  Maybe collectors have been calling and their credit cards are maxed out.  Maybe they are in the middle of a custody battle.  Maybe their brother just died from a drug overdose.  Maybe they had a fight with their boyfriend.  Maybe their back pain is acting up.  Maybe they ran out of narcotics.  Maybe it’s that time of the month.  Maybe they are having hot flashes.  Maybe they are wearing an old prescription of glasses and can’t see as well.  Maybe they just got diagnosed with cancer or arthritis or gout or allergies or Crohns or ADD or dyslexia.  Maybe their wife just had a miscarriage.  Maybe the adoption fell through.  Maybe the police were called last night for the domestic violence in their home.  Maybe they need teeth pulled and can’t afford it.  Maybe their boss just yelled at them.  Maybe the mountain pass is closed so they can’t go home for Thanksgiving.  Maybe they are lonely.  Maybe their best friend died.  Maybe no one has said “I love you” in years.  Maybe they live at a shelter.  Maybe they are mentally ill. Maybe the electricity just got shut off at home.  Maybe their kid isn’t doing well in school.  Maybe they just got back from fighting in Iraq. Maybe their car got broken into.  Maybe their girlfriend just dumped them. Maybe they haven’t had a date in years. Maybe they are addicted to drugs.  Maybe they have told so many lies that no one trusts them anymore.  Maybe their sister won’t talk to them anymore.  Maybe they just moved here and don’t know anyone. Maybe their political party lost.  Maybe they have a PC. Maybe their 30 page research paper got an F.  Maybe Grandma died last night.  Maybe they are just sad.  Maybe they have lost hope.  Maybe they are tired because they were up last night with roommate drama.  Maybe they have insomnia and never can sleep much.  Maybe they don’t know Jesus.  Maybe they do know Jesus but are feeling overwhelmed and burdened and alone.  Maybe their daughter just ran away.

With all the disappointments, burdens, confusion, misunderstandings of this life, I’m surprised people act as pleasant as they do.

So, next time they forget your Ranch dressing or send you the wrong size dress or overcharge you on accident and you have to swipe your debit card twice, before you overreact, remember…maybe, just maybe, they aren’t having the best day.