Darn my stubborn streak!

Most of you know the story of how Neil and I met the first time in the Emergency Department. You may not know the rest of the story, but it’s a good reminder about how stubborn streaks can get us into trouble.

The second time Neil and I saw each other was at a wedding. His restaurant manager was marrying my daughter’s nanny. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding, the bride glowing, the groom ecstatic, and my sweet daughter having the time of her life as the flower girl. After the ceremony, while the bridal party was taking pictures, I wandered over to where Neil sat in the bright sunshine.

I said hello and asked if he remembered me, and he admitted that he didn’t. His version of the story was that next I asked, ‘Would a hypodermic needle up your nose remind you?” I don’t think I ever said the phrase “hypodermic needle’ in my life – only TV doctors do, so I am sure he was wrong.

My version of the story is that the bright sun was in his eyes and he didn’t recognize me at first, so I politely re-introduced myself. Even then, I’m not sure he knew who I was, but we chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, until his ride was ready to leave. “I’m working at the restaurant tonight, if you want to come by,” he said as he wandered off with his friend.

What did that mean, I wondered? Was that an invitation or a casual remark made to a potential customer? It left me oddly disquieted, and since I already told a girlfriend I would go to a party with her that evening, I tried to put it out of my mind.

Unfortunately, even though the party was fun, I was too distracted by Neil’s words to enjoy it. “Are you ok?” my friend asked. “I really want to go to his restaurant,” I told her. Kathryn was a great friend, so without a second thought, she said with enthusiasm, “Me, too. Let’s go!”

One we got to the restaurant (The Bone, if you’re interested in the historical details), Kathryn and I found a table and sat down. I didn’t see Neil when we came in, but within two minutes, he showed up and asked to take our order. Is this a coincidence, I wondered? Is he actually waiting tables or is this his way of getting to talk to me? Like a crazy middle schooler, the questions jumped around in my head.

When our food was ready, Neil brought it to the table himself. He said it was time for his break and sat down to join us. We spoke about the beach – we both loved the ocean. We debated about books – we both loved to read. We discussed exciting things about which I knew nothing like kayaking and spelunking and water skiing. I was hooked.

In an uncharacteristic moment of bravery, I asked if he wanted to get lunch sometime. Someplace besides his restaurant so he could relax. “I’d like that,” he said, smiling his lopsided grin. We made plans to meet at another local restaurant two days later.

“Oh girl, you’ve got it bad!” I remember Kathryn laughing as we left. And she was right, but I almost let my stubborn streak ruin everything. You see, there’s another part of the story Neil and I disagreed on.

To this day, I am certain we agreed to meet at Harb’s at noon. I got there right on time, excited to see him again, and told the waitress I would wait to order until he arrived. I waited. And waited. The clock ticked by as the first hour slowly passed.

Embarrassed, I ordered a cup of coffee and a glass of water. Did I get the time wrong, I wondered? Fortunately, the restaurant wasn’t crowded so I didn’t feel bad taking up a table. The waitress was sympathetic, and checked periodically to see if I needed another coffee, but otherwise left me alone. Gradually, I started to get angry. I have plenty of other things I could be doing, I whispered. I stewed and steamed through the second hour, but I didn’t even want to go to the bathroom for fear I would miss him.

Finally, at 2:30, after two and a half hours, I gave up. Marching back to the car I mumbled all sorts of things to myself. How dare he waste my time like this? How rude and inconsiderate – what a jerk! By the time I got home, I was ready to tell him a thing or two, so I called the restaurant to complain. “Sorry, he’s out for the afternoon,” said the waitress who answered the phone. “Actually, I think he’s on a date.” Furious now, I retorted, “Well tell him he missed his doctor’s appointment and I require 24 hours for cancellation!” As soon as the words blurted out of my mouth I was mortified. I slammed down the phone, as much embarrassed as mad.

Meanwhile, around the corner from Harb’s, Neil sat waiting at Travelers. Also angry, but more patient than me, he finally left after three hours. When he got back to work, his manager said, “Your doctor called. You missed an appointment.” Neil was confused for a second, until he remembered I was a doctor. “What is she talking about? “he yelled. I waited for three hours!” Still thinking he was talking about a medical appointment, Jamie said, “Wow that is a long wait. I wouldn’t go to that doctor again.”

That could have been the end of the story. Anger and embarrassment and pride make us do all sorts of things we later regret. For the first week, I held on to my righteous indignation. In the second week, the questions kicked in. Did he stand me up on purpose? How cruel to go on a date with someone else when we already had plans. Or did he forget he was supposed to meet me? Eventually, my heart kicked in. I really enjoyed his sense of humor. I liked that he read books, and was brave enough to go spelunking and waterskiing. So, in the third week, with a little gentle encouragement from Kathryn and a few deep breaths, I called the restaurant and asked for him.

This time he knew who I was right away. “Why did you stand me up?” he asked as soon as he came to the phone. “And why did you leave me that obnoxious message?”
“What are you talking about?” You stood me up!” I exclaimed.

Within a few seconds we realized what had happened. We agreed to disagree about who had the restaurant right and decided to meet at a completely different place the very next day. This time, we both showed up early, and the rest, as they say, is history.

That wasn’t the last time I swallowed my pride, nor was it the last misunderstanding Neil and I ever had. Imagine what I could have lost if I hadn’t given in and called that day. At a wedding this past weekend, I wanted to shout life advice to the bride and groom:
Be humble. Give in!
Swallow your pride. Its ok to be the first one to apologize!
Being “right” doesn’t mean anything if you have to prove someone you love is wrong.

I wonder how many things I missed out on over the years because of foolish pride or anger? What opportunities have I missed because of my stubbornness and my incessant need to be right? I can’t go back and undo past mistakes, but I sure can try hard not to repeat them. So bye-bye darn stubborn streak!

            Dear God, please teach me to be humble.
                       Help me overcome my ego’s need to always be right and
                                        show me how to conquer my pride.
Train me in what is important and teach me to let go of what is not. Amen.

6 Comments

  1. Oh, man, that EGO – probably the biggest battle most of us face in life! And so many times, it leads us right into a humiliating moment.

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