Yesterday, on a blistering 90 degree day in Portland, my son and I decided to visit one of the local pools. It was packed as I had expected but I had never been there when nary a chair could be found. After cooling off in the pool, I wandered the deck to find somewhere to sit and read while my son and his friend continued to play in the water. I saw four lounge chairs together, three had towels on them and one had a book. So I figured perhaps the owners were in the pool and I could sit on the chair with the book until they returned. Yes, perhaps I have chutzpah (yiddish word that means audacity) for sitting in an unoccupied chair that someone had already “claimed”. I just figured while folks are swimming they can’t occupy the chair anyway and my only other choice besides an unoccupied chair was the cement. Not really a very comfortable or viable option for very long. I knew when they came back they would either make some space for me or get irritated. But I wasn’t expecting downright nastiness. When the women came over whose chair I was in, I said, “Oh I know I am sitting in your chair, are all of the four of you coming out of the water right now?” “Yes, she snarled “these are our chairs and they will be out of the water soon.” She huffed at me while I said, “Okay sorry I’ll try to find another spot.” I hovered a bit more and about ten minutes later another family was vacating three chairs and the father said I could certainly have their chairs. From my new seat, I was able to see that the women who’d been saving chairs was actually waiting for people who had yet to arrive at the pool, they came about 45 minutes later in street clothing and changed in the locker room for swimming.
What I later realized about this situation, is that none of us “own our chairs” at a public pool. We don’t own the table at the park, the spot on the parade route or any other public locale and yet we sometimes forget this and get territorial when someone wants to share our space with us. An attitude of giving and sharing may be harder to have when we are crowded and space is at a premium. But reminding ourselves to be kind and polite and to share what we don’t really own anyway but are merely occupying for this particular period of time is absolutely essential. This is the very essence of what’s important in life. These small opportunities to do unto others as we would like to have others do unto us.
Wishing you time and presence of mind to enjoy your Labor Day!