I prefer to do my grocery shopping at unusual hours, usually around 4AM. My reasons are simple: I hate waiting and I loathe crowds. But, due to a hectic work schedule and a great deal of procrastination, I was recently forced leave my cocoon in the middle of the afternoon in search of sustenance.
What I found instead was chaos.
I ended up in line behind a harassed looking young woman and what I assumed was her son. The kid couldn’t have been more than three or four but, boy howdy, did he have a set of lungs on him. The good news was that our checkout aisle had just opened, so we were the first two customers in line. The bad news was that it was one of the candy aisles.
The boy asked for a chocolate bar. The mother refused.
And then all hell broke loose.
Now, as sorry as I felt for the poor mother, I felt even sorrier for myself. She had obviously learned how to tune out screaming tantrums, but not having any children, I have yet to develop that superpower. I tried to back away and find another checkout station – and damn the short line – but then a woman with not one, but two carts, both overflowing with food, pulled in right behind me. There was no escape. It only took about ten minutes for the mother to pay for her groceries and cart her son away, but it felt like hours. I left the store that day, vowing never to return during daylight.
I never threw tantrums when I was a kid, especially not in public. As I’ve mentioned before, my mother is 6’4”…and she had no problem with corporal punishment. If I acted out in public, she’d not only smack me in the middle of the store, she’d spank me again when we got home.
It was double jeopardy, folks. And I was smart enough to know that candy wasn’t worth it.
Shopping with my mother taught me a lot about patience. I had to time my requests just right. Ask too soon, she’d get irritated. Wait too long and she would be too tired. The best time to ask for a treat was near the mid-point of the shopping trip, and then only if I had been extremely helpful and quiet. But sometimes, even the best behavior wouldn’t help. If she didn’t want to buy me anything that day, then she wouldn’t. That was it. Case closed.
Asking again would only get me into trouble.
But if I kept quiet, chances were I’d get the next thing I asked for as a reward.
I’m trying to apply the same principles to my writing. I’ve learned to accept refusals and move on to the next thing. Eventually, if I’m patient, diligent and persistent, I know I’ll get what I want, whether it’s a publishing contract or a candy bar.
I just have to wait until 4AM to pick them up.