I was walking to my truck in a fairly busy parking lot the other day. While on my phone, I noticed with my peripheral that directly ahead of me was a large friendly looking individual with a bright red shirt and a tan backwards hat. When I was about ten feet away from the man, I glanced up from my phone to look directly at him for the first time. We happened to make eye contact and both smiled at each other as he greeted me with a cliché, “How’s it going?”
The moment my preprogrammed response finished the guy flipped a switch and his expression went from friendly and casual to gloomy and serious.
The sudden change in tone of his demeanor forced me to stop mid-stride. This dude got me dead to rights, I mean if a stranger engages you then tells you he’s doing “crappy” you are clearly obligated to talk with him about his problems. I see no way out of it…
I wasn’t expecting this interaction to happen, but maybe God brought me here in this moment to be here for this man who is dealing with something so bad he felt compelled to reach out to me, someone who was a total stranger!
“I’m sorry to hear about that”, I said as if talking to an old friend. “What’s going on?” After I finished the query, I braced myself for the worst. He was just diagnosed with cancer, his wife left him, a loved one passed away …. What could it be?!
“Well … I’m outta weed.”
I stood there, staring at his dumb face for far too long, waiting for the rest of the problem. However, after awhile of zero change in his facial expression I realized the problem had been fully disclosed and he was waiting for the counsel of this new stranger that fate had brought into his life.
“Dude, it’s 2018, we’re in California, I’m pretty sure you could buy weed off a cop! Or you could walk two blocks in any direction and find a dispensary! You could probably get a baggy delivered by an Uber driver cheaper than you could get Thai food! This is the epitome of a first world problem, in fact, I don’t even think it’s a first world problem because that would require it to be an actual problem!”
Of course, I don’t say any of that, but I thought it SUPER loud and I wrote it on my face with every ounce of my soul. I tried instead to muster all of my strength and respond with as little obvious condescending mockery as possible.
“I’m SO sorry, that must be … soul crushing!”
Alright, I probably could have done a better job with that. I waited to see if he was going to get upset with me not taking his problem serious at all…
“Thanks man!”, he said with a voice that almost seemed … choked up.
This is too much, I started looking around for the cameras. I was obviously getting punked and Ashton had to be around somewhere, probably bringing his old show back in between seasons of The Ranch.
No cameras …
Then I looked up. I was standing in front of a 7-11. Of course! Now it all makes sense, I’m in my own personal 7-11 twilight zone!
As I come to this realization, Big Red started to open his arms for an anticipated embrace. I hesitate for a moment, but just a brief moment.
“Bring it in, buddy!” I said, fully accepting the situation. “Good talk!”
On the upside … he was a good hugger.