One woman was looking for moose, scouring the map for a place called “Moose Junction.” The other let me know, as she rubbed sanitizer into her hands, that the door on the tiny bathroom didn’t lock.
“Eh. They’re all together anyway.”
I was referring to the five-person line that Ron and I were solely responsible for outside that bathroom, each of our little humans hoping the person in front of them would make it quick. We had been driving for a bit, leaving Yellowstone National Park, and had come upon the entrance to Grand Teton National Park.
We wanted a photo, like most people do. The kids needed a bathroom. And somehow the universe thought I needed that interaction with those women – because, it stuck with me.
As we walked toward the sign, trying to gather all of our ducklings for a fun photo at this epic park, we noticed the two women were taking individual photos of each other at the sign. Ron offered to take one of both of them. They were thrilled.
And then the one who warned us about the bathroom offered very specific instructions. She wanted the photo sideways, which we would do anyway, and she wanted Ron to hold the button down for a long time to get as many quick photos as possible so that she and her friend could jump down from the sign.
“We’ve been doing it at every park we’ve been to.”
They jumped. Ron got a few dozen frames. And then they offered to do the same for us – which is MUCH more difficult with seven people than two.
And when she asked us to take a look and see if the photo worked, I remember waving her off. She had done enough. We didn’t need to check. We didn’t need to redo anything. If it worked, it worked. We didn’t need to ask any more of her.
And since that moment, I’ve been struck by the ease she had with asking total strangers for exactly what she wanted. And she did it without fumbling or stuttering or being sheepish IN THE LEAST.
She didn’t just ask for a photo. She asked that it be taken a certain way.
Totally direct. Totally specific. And she got what she wanted, because she was direct and specific, but also because what she wanted wasn’t wild and crazy. We weren’t put out by it at all.
So why the hell can’t I be more like her? This jumping-sanitizer-stranger? About everything?
Why can’t I tell the person behind the deli counter that no, I didn’t want a pound of turkey when I asked for a half-pound? No, we won’t be able to eat all of that mistake? No, I don’t want to pay twice what I had planned on paying because you didn’t stop slicing?
Because, that person was probably busy today and just didn’t hear me. Or maybe that person can’t hear at all? So, why be that one extra thing that makes their day kinda crummy?
Why can’t I take a second, even when someone offers, to check to see if a photo worked? Or ask the person taking the photo to get closer? Like, why?
Because, they probably have to go….somewhere. They probably want to get into the park and not spend two extra minutes taking a new photo of us, in a moment we might not ever be in again.
That seems to be a perpetual conversation for me with myself – which I realize as I’m writing could absolutely come off as a weakness. And maybe it is, this pleasing thing. I do speak up when I need to, but I also choose my moments with precision – so those on the other end know the gravity of it.
Is it because I was raised in the Midwest? Is it because I’m a woman? Is it because there’s a section of my DNA that only allows for pleasing and explicitly prohibits any sort of self-focused need from others?
Or, is it just practice? And age and comfort. Or some mix of all of those ingredients that eventually blend together to become my personal, emotional cocktail.
Also, I will never see those women again. Ever. Like, it would be crazy if I did – and even crazier if we recognized each other after a five-minute interaction at a national park entrance. So why not just check the photo?
Why not tell the person you only wanted a half-pound of turkey? Why not tell the person the beer they brought to the table is flat? And then, why not be forward about what it is you need or want – right then?
Practice. It must take practice, especially if you’re not built that way. Emotional training, I guess? I think I might need to add some reps to the workout.