I left home early on Wednesday. I was planning to drive down to Captain Cook to run some errands, which is almost two hours away. As I drove down the mountain towards town, I noticed I needed to fill up my tank, so I pulled into the Minit Stop.
The air around the gas station was ripe with the smell of freshly deep fried chicken.
I heard a rumor from a friend that this gas station had amazing fried chicken that a local prepared and brought in each day. Since moving to the Big Island, I have been on a mission to find the BEST southern-style fried chicken I could. Funny how a yankee could become so die-hard over southern fried chicken. Even funnier that the best fried chicken chef on the island lives in my town!
I was a vegetarian for a number of years, and fried chicken was one of the food items that caused my inevitable fall off the proverbial wagon. I don’t eat meat all the time, but eat it when my body requires that additional animal protein.
I looked around the gas station; it was busy. People were pumping gas, chatting and talking story, going to work.
I thought to myself, “I better pull out of this stall, so other people in the queue can pump their gas.”
So I pull forward to what I perceived was an oddly positioned parking stall. I thought,
“hmm, this is odd how will people get out of the gas station if I am parked here?” So I pulled forward so more.
“hmmm,, I think they can make it by me with their cars, no problem.” I turned off the car’s engine, leaving my part dachsund/ terrier, Amita trembling in the car as he listened to all the chatter outside.
“This is it, Amy! You are finally going to get some good fried chicken! You deserve this. You’ll take this fried chicken and after your appointment, you and Amita will go to the beach and eat the fried chicken together. It’ll be a perfect day!”
I’m so excited, so I go into the store, and do an initial awkward sweep around to locate the source of that delightful smell.
The fried chicken sits, back lit, under warmers behind the counter, I think to myself, “Hmmmm, okay, I guess I’ll need to go order some,” I was feeling awkward and a bit self-conscious, ordering fried chicken at 750 AM, so I grab a tin of mints and head for the counter, as if that will make the purchase make more sense…
“Hi, I-” I start-
“Is that your car over there?” The cashier blurts out quickly before I can place my order.
“Yes,” I respond, taken off guard.
“You can’ park there. That’s not a parking place,” She stands resolutely behind the counter looking expectantly at me.
“Oh,” I say sheepishly, “I’m sorry. It looked like a parking place.”
“No, parking stalls is behind the building. Over there!” She motioned behind her head, and waits for me to respond.
“Ok… should I move my car then?”
“Yeah, you can’ park there.” She repeated. She repeated it another time, like a record that is stuck looping, as I say thank you, and leaving my mints behind, go outside. By the time I get to my car, my emotional tune has changed,
“Well, if you’re making me move my car, where this is clearly a parking spot, I guess you just lost my business.” I get in my car and instead of pulling around, I pull out into traffic and begin my journey south towards Captain Cook.
But, I am so angry. As I drive, I notice, I am furious at this woman. This level of fury is a bit too much; I mean, given the circumstance, fury is not the appropriate emotion.
So, I ask myself, “Why am I so angry?”
My answer: “You’re angry, because you wanted fried chicken and didn’t get it, Amy.”
“Okay… but that’s not really why, is it? I ask again.
“You’re angry, because you feel that the cashier assumed that you did not consider others in your choice to park where you parked. You always consider others before your self, Amy; it is part of your nature, and you resent that woman for not seeing that. Had you known there was more parking around back, you would have parked there from the beginning. So you’re resenting her for denying you easy access to your human desires.”
I laughed, and wiped away some rage-induced tears and asked myself, “Have I always felt this angry that people do not see how much I care and consider them?”
“No, but you have felt this way for a long time, and in your life, you are learning about how to balance your care and your desires right now.”
“Balance- what? How?” I asked.
“This woman is showing you that not everyone is going to pick up on everything you send out. Your consideration for others in the way you do, is accessible to anyone who can see and wants to see that in you. This woman did not see it in you; so she did not treat you accordingly.”
“But, what’s the point of all of this? What’s the point of my caring if they don’t see it? What’s the point of moving towards unconditional love of all beings if they just assume I am an asshole who parks where is convenient for her to park and doesn’t consider others?” I said to myself, exasperated as I drove down the coast.
“This cashier was showing you detachment and compassion in a new way. Detachment, because you cannot be all things to all people; in this instance, this woman did not see you as considerate, so you are learning how to release your feeling of being obligated to care and consider those who do not want your care and consideration. You are learning how to choose how you direct your care, and have discernment about when to do so. And you are learning compassion, because this woman did not see your consideration, and for you to see her flaws or faults or issues and love her anyways, is what being a buddha is about.”
“I just wanted fried chicken, and I created so much drama for myself. I denied myself the fried chicken; she didn’t do anything other than tell me to park somewhere else…” I sighed.
“Well, in this instance, Amy, your human desire to get fried chicken and have that human experience outweighed your desire to be a walking talking buddha. Because of that, you were not able to buy your fried chicken this morning. Your ego’s need to have fried chicken ate your buddha self, Amy”
I sat with that for about twenty miles. Then I hit gridlock traffic. A police officer, after about an hour, told us to reroute to the mountain road. All of the western coastal traffic got reouted to the mountain, which had a lane closure due to construction, so traffic was backed up for miles.
I later found out there had been a car accident in which 3 people died suddenly. Had I not stopped to get gas and talk to the cashier, I would have been driving in the exact location when the accident happened. Perhaps it could have been me who died.
On the Big Island, there are no short cuts when it comes to driving; you’re on the road until the next turn off. Amita puppy and I were in the car together for four hours.
I had a lot of time to think about this fried chicken thing.
On my way back, I decided I would stop at the gas station and get fried chicken for lunch. I was nervous though, nervous that the cashier would yell at me. Nervous that I would be rude by accident. I even called, my fiance, Corey, to ask him if he wanted fried chicken- in some last ditch attempt to make my motivation to get fried chicken about HIM instead of going to get it simply and only because I wanted to eat it and enjoy it. He didn’t answer his phone.
This choice was all me. And I knew Corey wouldn’t answer the phone, because I had to take responsibility for my own desires, my own wants, and be accountable for how I show up in my reality to achieve that desired result.
I parked in the appropriate stalls this time and walked into the gas station to order my chicken.
I realized a few things that day:
1) There is a timing for everything. My desire to have fried chicken in the morning was an intuition that I would get fried chicken, but it just came early. Conclusion: always ask “What is the best time for ____ to take place?”
2) My desire to be a human and have a human experience, enjoying fried chicken ate up my desire to be compassionate and a buddha on earth. How cool! I actually WANT to be here on this planet; I actually want to be alive and have a human experience! This is a big thing; for years, I felt obligated to stay, for others. My desire to eat fried chicken was MINE. Only I could take credit for that yearning, and it felt nice to acknowledge it.
3) Life and time are precious; don’t waste any more time doing, saying or being anything other than what is true to your self.
4) It is okay to have wants and have them be met.
5) It is okay to care about others, even if they don’t see or receive it.
6) The minit stop in Hawi, Big Island, as of right now, has the closest thing to Southern Fried Chicken I’ve been able to find on the Big Island thus far.
7) Being a living buddha comes with constant opportunities to choose how to experience the other living buddhas around you.
8) Everything you experience in your life- good or bad- happens for a reason. Never underestimate the power of the woman or man behind the counter. They may be the buddhas who just save your life.