Management stuck a note in the apartment door yesterday morning. A memo laden with typos, grammatical errors and misspellings announcing that in response to the "constant" conflicts about parking, parking spaces will be numbered and each tenant assigned a parking space.
This time last month, I could have tossed the notice into the trash. I didn't own a car. This time five months ago, any such notice slipped under my door would have been the result of a joke or a mistake. But I have a lease and a car now. So, let the fun begin!
When I returned home later in the afternoon, I pulled into a space, got out of the car and started unloading my stuff (except for my backpack, I didn't have any of this stuff either five months ago). As I approached my apartment door with my arms full, the landlady came out of her apartment. "Wait a minute," she said. "I don't think that's your spot." Of course, true to form, I'd chosen the one spot in the lot without a concrete marker sporting an apartment number. Actually, I hadn't even noticed that the markers had been painted. I'd assumed it would be a few days before we received our assignments.
"Oh," I said. "Sorry. Let me lay down my stuff and I'll come back and move the car."
As it turned out, I'd been assigned the spot I would chosen if asked: one of the only two shady spots in the lot. Plus, it's at the end of the row and easily accessible from my back door.
The landlady was still standing in the courtyard as I made my way back to my apartment. I'd stopped by Cane's on the way home and picked up some "home cooking"; I was looking forward to curling up on my bed with food and a Netflix film. "Yeah, we had to go on and number those spots. People are just mean," my landlady began. Like a lot of people here in Mississippi, she loves to talk. Especially talk of the local, semi-gossip type.
Is it politeness or compassion or just social awkwardness that makes me feel I need to stand around and listen for a bit? Whatever, I stood and listened to her report about the paint and what had happened to provoke the change in policy and who got which spot and which neighbors were nasty to her when she asked them to move their cars so her son could paint the markers... On and on. She's a nice person, just talkative.
"Well, Gail, my dinner's getting cold..."
"Um hum. I mean, they had four cars! And then to invite guests over and they've got three more cars..."
"Well, uh, sometimes we just don't think about other people's needs. We forget we have to share..."
"And he had the nerve to get nasty with me. I said I told him to get that broken down car out of here a month ago. He said...."
I began to walk toward my open apartment door. Sometimes I wish I didn't care...wish I could just be rude or oblivious or quirky enough to break free of people... When got about 10 feet away from her, she stopped talking. "Have a good evening," I said. "And if I don't see you, Happy Mother's Day."
"Um hum. Alrighty. "
I lose my spiritual cool in mundane situations like this. I wasn't feeling serenity or joy standing in the courtyard listening to Gail. I was feeling trapped. It is at times like that that I wish I was a nun or that I was back on the road or that I lived in the imagined ease and luxury of an intentional community of, well, of people more like me.
But I recognize that these are precisely the kinds of situations in which spiritual warriors earn their wings. Serenity and joy are much easier to find in solitude. Piece of cake. Walking in the world without being of the world is the taller order and boy do I still have a lot to learn.
To love God and love Gail. That was the responsibility in that exchange. Looking back, I can see I'm making some progress: I wasn't annoyed with her and I wasn't remotely angry. Just a bit anxious and distracted. I think that's an improvement.
The Road still calls me. And New Orleans still calls me. And I cannot deny that I see how important it is to the evolution of Consciousness, that I sojourn a while longer where I am; that I bless the lessons/work before me that are tailor-made for the edification of my Soul.