I met Doris on an ordinary day at Ocean State Job Lot. Moments after our meeting, an ordinary day turned extraordinary.
I was running a few errands up on the Heights after morning classes at the yoga studio. One of those errands was to buy new floor mats for our entryway, so I rolled into Ocean State Job Lot on what seemed like an ordinary Tuesday afternoon. I found a pile of heavy floor mats in gray, blue and black. The pile was as tall as me, and the black ones were on the bottom. I wanted two black mats, so I started peeling mats off the pile and tossing them on the floor behind me.
“Watch it, buddy,” she barked.
I turned around, and there was Doris. I didn’t know her name yet. I did know she looked pretty angry. “I’m sorry,” I apologized, “I’m trying to dig out these black mats, and I didn’t realize you were behind me.”
“Yeah, well, I am. I’m looking for that (expletive) guy who tried to rip me off. I’m gonna bust his (expletive).”
Honestly, at this point, on an ordinary day, I might have smiled, turned away and gone about my business. On this day, I didn’t. I asked her if she was okay. “I’m (expletives) is what I am….” She launched into a profanity-filled story about returning a broken flashlight. The story was a little hard to follow and involved not only the flashlight but a missing store clerk, accusations of wrong-doing and hurt feelings. I had completely forgotten about the mats. She was way more interesting and I was hoping that the store clerk who was the subject of her wrath would not come around the corner any time soon.
“You are some kind of fired up,” I said, trying to lighten things up a little. “I sure wouldn’t want to get you (expletive) at me.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” she said. “I’m tough. I have to be tough. I’m the youngest of four kids, and I have three brothers. I don’t take (expletive) from anyone. Not at home, not at my job, and not today.”
So there we were. The two of us, face to face in Ocean State Job Lot on an ordinary Tuesday. This fiery woman, all of five feet tall, is waving around her flashlight and talking about her brothers, her job, and the clerk she’s hunting for, though her resolve to inflict bodily harm on him seemed to be waning.
“My name’s Mike,” I said, extending my hand.
“My name’s Doris,” she replied. Doris didn’t take my hand, but she did ask: “You want some help with those mats?”
“Sure thing,” I said. “So, did you get a new flashlight?”
“Damn right,” said Doris, and held the flashlight up like a trophy. “You gotta stick up for yourself today. People will just push you around.” We took turns sliding mats off of the pile, got to the black ones, and I thanked her for her help. Doris headed down the aisle towards the front of the store. “See you around,” she said.
About halfway down the aisle, Doris turned around. “Hey, Mike,” she called, “Thanks for listening to me. I just needed someone to talk to. I was pretty (expletive), and I feel a lot better now. Would you mind if I gave you a hug?”
That’s when the ordinary day turned extraordinary. We met each other halfway.
Doris and I gave each other a good, long hug in the middle of Ocean State Job Lot. She got her flashlight. I got my floor mats. We both left with a whole lot more. All it took was a little time to stop and listen.
In the yoga room, we practice listening. We listen to the words of the teacher. We listen to the sound of our breath. We listen to our bodies, and to our thoughts. Sometimes, on an ordinary day, we notice extraordinary things. With practice, we get better at noticing the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of our postures, our relationships and our lives. It’s how yoga works, whether it’s your favorite yoga class or your next shopping trip. If we stop and listen to what’s going on around us, inside us and between us, we realize we are all connected.
Thanks, Doris. We talked about your job, but I never told you about mine. If you happen to be reading this, come on in and take a class on me. And if you’re the clerk at Ocean State Job Lot, that offer extends to you, too. I’ll bet we all have more in common than we know.
See you on the mat.