Left to Right? Right to Left?

The store was empty and I let out a pent-up breath, almost as if I had been holding it all day.  “Whew, young man!  Let’s close up.  Why don’t you turn out the lights for me?”  The oldest grandchild had stayed with Grandpa at the music store while, just moments before, his siblings had tagged along behind their grandmother to get ready for supper.  The bright young man headed eagerly for the row of light switches that line the wall behind the cash register.  I knew I wouldn’t have to tell him which ones to flip down to the off position, and waited expectantly near the rear of the store.  Some days just beg for the store to get dark fast, before another customer can come to the door and realize that there might be a chance to get that last, last-minute item.  This was one of those days.  But, the lights stayed on.

“What’s wrong?” I queried the six-year old, now standing pensively before the switches, finger tapping his lips.  He thought for a moment.  “Well…I was wondering.  Do you turn them off from left to right?  Or is it better to do it from right to left?”  I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I suppressed with difficulty, the guffaw that threatened to erupt at the notion.  I assured him that the direction did not matter at all, but that what was important was to extinguish the lights as quickly as possible.  Still he stood, awaiting the instructions which would determine which levers were slid downward first and which were last.  I thought about just calling out a direction, but then thought better of it. While I wanted the darkness to descend soon, I also think that little lessons learned early can sometimes head off issues later on.  It would serve no purpose for him to believe that one way was correct and the other wrong, so I prodded him to choose for himself.  “Why don’t you decide if you want it to get dark from the front to the back, or from the back to the front?”  Ah!  That did it!

Before you could say, “Business hours are over,” the lights in the back went dark, then progressed to the front until the store was dark.  I let out another pent-up breath, content now that I really was done with the day.  We headed home, the boy-who-wants-to-do-things-right and I, ready to enjoy some pizza and relaxation.

Sometimes, the choice before us doesn’t involve right or wrong, good or bad.  It’s just a choice.  If we teach our children that every choice they come upon is about those things, we set them up for problems in life.  Often, we just choose in the dark.  There is frequently nothing wrong with flipping a coin, or saying “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo”.

Day after day, they come in…the people on errands.  It used to be slips of paper, now more often it is a cell-phone, screen lit with the list of necessary purchases for someone at the other end.  Frequently, the list is specific, right down to brand, size, and chemical makeup.  Usually though, there is one last item on the list.  I’ve seen the words written.  “Picks.”  “A few picks.”  “A handful of picks.”  I am not encouraged when I see that item, especially without the specifications.  There is a plethora of styles and dimensions of guitar picks.  Teardrop shape, triangular, offset…tiny, large, huge…with plastic grips, cork grips, or no grip…extra thin, medium, heavy, extra heavy…the array of options is dizzying.  The customer is usually frozen in front of the display, tapping their lip with a finger.  “Which is the right one?”  There is no good answer.  All of them.  None at all. One of these, one of those.  My answer is standard by now.  “There is no right and wrong.  It’s a personal choice.  Most people pick the thin ones, but some prefer the extremely rigid ones.”  Now the customer is frustrated, because I won’t make the choice for them.  Eventually, everyone comes to the counter with some picks.  Invariably, they still ask, “Do you think these will be okay?”  I don’t know.

What is it about our make up that wants a clear-cut answer to every question?  We want black & white, good vs. bad, right or wrong solutions.  And sometimes, there are none–just “this’ll do” options.  For some reason, those answers are unsatisfying and leave us wanting for something better, at least momentarily.  Usually, by the time the customer has paid their bill and headed out the door, the dilemma is completely forgotten.  It is done and in the past, for better or worse, and the stress is gone.

I expect that you are waiting for a life-lesson, an application of the observations I have made.  I’ve got nothing.  Sometimes observations and experiences stand on their own and need no clarification.  Human nature wants more, but at times, the experience is the lesson.  Sorry if that leaves you feeling cheated.  If you need something more, perhaps you can make up your own ending and add it below in a comment.

Now, I’ve got to get some work accomplished.  Which guitar should I start to work on now?  Choices, choices…

“Be willing to make choices.  That’s the most important quality in a good leader.”
(General George Patton~American General in two world wars~1885-1945)

“When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels.”

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