Oh So Blissfully Inefficient 

My phone rang with a call from an unfamiliar number. When I answered, the voice on the other end explained that I’d left my debit card at Wells Fargo and they could hold it for me for only 24 hours. Oops! I thought back through my day. I’d deposited several checks earlier and then, like the crazy person I am, drove off before the teller had a chance to send my debit card back through that mysterious transport tunnel.  

This kind of stuff happens to me all the time. At least once a month, I’m standing in line getting ready to pay for groceries. I’ve got a cart full of produce, snacks, cheese, and all the ingredients for dinners. After the last item is scanned, I reach into my purse and pull out my wallet, only to discover that my debit card is not tucked into that tiny sleeve. The first time this happened, I was embarrassed. I told the cashier, “I’m losing my mind. I’ve left my debit card at the house. Can I run home and pick it up then come back to pay?” He explained they could place a hold on the purchase and leave the cart of groceries at the front of the store. I could just come back to the service desk to pay when I returned. It sounded easy, except I’d also be lugging two kids back to the house, then back in Kroger, then back to the house again. Grocery shopping had turned into a marathon workout with all kinds of physical and mental obstacles to overcome.

When this situation happens now, it doesn’t even bother me. I know the drill. The cashier is always really sympathetic. They say niceties like, “People do this all the time. It’s no big deal.” But I always wonder if they are merely remembering back to the last time I forgot my card. Once after admitting I had no money to pay for the copious amounts of groceries in my cart, a nearby bagger tried to make me feel better by sharing stories about other customers who were equally incapacitated. She explained, “A while back a lady forgot her wallet, but when I looked into one of the reusable bags she’d brought from home, I noticed her checkbook was tucked right inside the bag. I held it up for her. She was so happy that she wouldn’t have to run back home!” 

I replied, “Yeah. That was actually me a few weeks ago. You found my checkbook that day. Thanks again!” Clearly I have a problem. 

So, the debit card was misplaced again and I was slightly annoyed with myself. How can someone lose that thing so often? Usually, I’d grumble at the inconvenience of it. I’d now have to drive back down to the bank and pick it up, one more thing to do in the day.

But on that day, Jamie had gotten home early from work. The boys were napping quietly upstairs. It was uncharacteristically warm for November. Bright sun. Blue sky. I thought about driving down to pick up the card, but then reconsidered. We live less than a mile from the bank. Maybe I would take a stroll downtown to pick it up.  

A stroll, by definition, is to walk in a leisurely way. I decided that this was what my body needed. Slow walking. Some leisure. So I set out down Virginia Avenue. The sun played peek-a-boo behind towering oaks. With each step, I felt the light cross into my eyes, only to have it hidden again behind a cluster of leaves or a branch. A light breeze flowed. Red leaves rained down into my hair. I walked on. As I turned onto Pennsylvania Avenue, the sun came out in full bloom. I felt the radiant heat on my skin. The warmth. It was savory. I walked on. As I approached the downtown shops, I stopped and peeked through the windows. I saw customers reading magazines while the color of their hair was slowly changing beneath a cap of foil. Kids sat on benches waiting for their shaggy hair to be trimmed. I saw jewelry and scarfs beckon me to come inside shop doors. I noticed the grey and brown stone facade of a corner church. The way a lovely bell hung downward, just waiting to ring out. I walked on.

I walked past shiny firetrucks and then passed Brooks-Byrd Pharmacy. I remembered buying orange limeades there years and years ago. I’d go sometimes after high school and place my order at the front counter. I’d watch as the worker sliced real oranges and limes in half and then squeezed them on a hand cranked juicer. The juice would pour down into my styrofoam cup and then they’d add sugar water and crushed ice. I’d pay them with a few crumpled dollar bills from my pocket and sip on my drink the whole drive home.  

I was nearly to the bank by now. I walked inside and admitted to being the crazy lady who drove off earlier leaving her debit card behind. They laughed and after they confirmed I was indeed, Sarah P. Garst, they passed my card over the counter. I put it back in my wallet, tucked tightly into the empty sleeve, and headed out the door and back into the beautiful world.  

As I walked back home, I thought about all the rush around us. The way we push our bodies to go faster than they are meant to move. Our brilliance in innovation and our commitment to efficiency have left us moving at speeds unimaginable over a century ago. Speeds unnatural. Speeds that we are now chained to, as we run endless errands, drop kids off here and there, and simultaneously try keep up with the day to day order of life. How much can we cram into one day? The answer is, more! It leaves us exhausted and running on empty. This change of pace was a welcome relief. It lifted my spirits to feel the pavement under my feet as I strolled along. To use my body’s natural ability to reach my destination. And this slow meandering had an unexpected gain. I actually noticed the world I live in along the way. I saw things unseen from the vantage point of passing cars. I noticed all the life that is nestled and folded deeply within the act of living.

We have to remind ourselves that sometimes, the least efficient way is better. The slower way can be good for our souls. If I’d driven down to the bank, I could have completed the task in a mere five minutes and checked another task off my list. My stroll took a lot longer than that, but what it lacked in speed, it gained in perspective. And the quality of my experience, the recharging of the mind and body, can’t be measured.  

The next time I had a yoga class, I considered driving over to it. It takes exactly one minute by car. If I drove there, I’d have an extra 15 minutes to clean up my kitchen. I could rinse the dishes left in the sink, load the dishwasher, wipe off counters and still make it to yoga on time. But I chose the least efficient route. I used that 15 minutes to move my legs and open my eyes to the world. I strolled along the stone pathway and soaked in the mountains in the distance, a squirrel scampering up an aging tree trunk. My legs pulled my body along. I breathed in fresh fall air. And I decided, it’s a beautiful thing to be absolutely, unequivocally, oh so blissfully, inefficient.   

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