Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Deep Breaths

Mindfulness skills are key to daily life here: just noticing, accepting, and not judging are essential to survival. To illustrate, a couple of scenarios in which the aforementioned skills (would) have been greatly helpful recently:

- Going to Dexia to withdraw some cash from an ATM (not even the infamously slow one in Place Châtelain, which wears out even the Europeans standing in line - not just impatient Americans). Only 2 out of 5 cash machines were working, so the line went out the door. To add insult to injury, everyone kept on trying to cut the line.

- Going to Prémaman on Chaussée d'Ixelles to register for an upcoming baby shower in the States. It was mid-day during the week; the store was completely empty. I was kindly informed by one of the three salespeople that it was "far too early" to register for a baby that's due in late October. In all fairness, Europeans do not have showers and tend to buy gifts after the baby is born. So I explained that my shower would take place in early August, which led a greatly pained expression to form on her face. Well, she said, if I really wanted to, I could register for some essentials, as the seasonally appropriate clothing (for babies?) would not arrive until later in the summer. "Great," I said, "Could you help me with picking out some essentials?" To which she replied by placing a catalogue and checklist in my hands, telling me to take it home so that "we won't waste any of your time, and you won't waste ours." 
- Dropping off my dry cleaning. For the first time in my life, I noticed that the dry cleaners were actually selling unclaimed items for 5€ apiece. (I'm aware of the threat on the ticket that they will do so, if you don't claim your dry cleaning within, say, 90 days, but I've never actually seen the policy actively put into practice.) The woman at the counter was quite nice, but informed me with a smile that, while I could certainly drop off my items, the dry cleaners to whom they outsource were, in fact, en congé, and I would not be able to pick them up until the end of the month (i.e., about a month from now). After a moment's hesitation (i.e., I was actually considering waiting a month for dry cleaning), I told her I would go elsewhere. She smiled and agreed that was a good idea.

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