There I was in a Walgreens parking lot at 8:13 AM on a Tuesday morning driving the sharp end of a car key into the airtight, nearly impossible to open plastic packaging of an electric beard trimmer. You know the kind with no way to open them but cut through?
It was one of those moments of clarity that you experience only a dozen or so times in a lifetime. The ones where you know exactly where you were and what you were doing when your journey took a turn, if only internally. These are spiritual moments, unexplainable, yet full of meaning.
“I am 36 years old and I am trimming my beard in a Walgreens parking lot with a $9.99 beard trimmer,” I thought to myself as I watched the big hand on the minivan console clock move ever closer to my 8:30 interview time.
Earlier that morning I had gotten up early to trim my beard, as I often do when I want that clean cut look that plays so well in corporate culture.
Only one problem. The $14.99 rechargeable beard trimmer I had purchased nearly three years prior was busted, the blade attachment wouldn’t stick to the base. It was useless.
“Can I just go like this?” I wondered aloud as I looked at my mangled facial hair peppered with grey throughout.
“No way!” I exclaimed internally, “I’m meeting with a bunch of 50-something accountants, I can’t look like I just walked in from a cabin in the woods.”
I did the math in my head, I am freakishly good at predicting how much time things will take. I knew if I left the house at 7:15 on the nose I could get the kids to summer camp by 7:37 and arrive at my interview by 8:07. This left me 23 minutes, or 18 minutes if I get there the requisite 5 minutes early.
A few bowls of Lucky Charms and I had the kids in the car ready to go at 7:15.
What could I do in 23 minutes that would fix my beard? It was too early to swing into a haircut place. I didn’t have enough disposable razors to shave it all off.
“Worst case scenario,” I thought, “I can go just like this and hope it plays.”
I really want this job, it is close to home and would save me 60 minutes of commuting time each day. That is a major change to my quality of life.
“Anyway, if it wasn’t meant to be it wasn’t meant to be,” I said to myself realizing I hated phrases like that with a passion.
About halfway to my interview, I remembered there was a Walgreens just outside the company entrance. I thought if I could quickly get in and grab a beard trimmer I could shave in the parking lot and be on my way.
I rushed in at 8:07 as I had predicted. Turning right I found the electronics section. Nope, no shavers. I spotted the “shaving” aisle across the store and darted over.
“How much am I willing to spend? $10? $20? It doesn’t matter, the job is what matters.”
I spotted one for $9.99 but you had to have a “card” to get the discount. I thought, “Fuck, I don’t have a stupid card, I hate those things, and filling out the form for one is gonna cost me time, maybe some old lady in line will let me use hers.”
I approached the register and no one was around. Shit. I gotta go. Cashier arrives and talks pleasantly. In my head I am thinking, “Shut up! Just ring up my shit.”
I am able to punch in my phone number and get the discount, apparently, I have taken the time to get a “card” before, much to my dismay.
I grab the trimmer and bolt out to my car only to find it is in foolproof packaging. You know, the kind you cannot find an edge to grab to rip open as if they wanted to perfectly secure that $10 piece of electronic garbage for all of eternity. “How does something so cheap have such good packaging?”
I grab my key and stab at the bendable plastic recklessly. Anyone passing by would think I am stabbing a small child in the front seat of my van.
I finally get an opening where I can tear the package in two directions. I pull hard and it splits right open, attachments flying everywhere.
The batteries fall out, they are wrapped tightly in plastic. “What the hell?”
The batteries take longer to open than the plastic. I scrape feverishly trying to get an edge to grab while I think about how cheap these batteries must be to come free with a $10 beard trimmer.
Finally, I drop the batteries in and flip the switch. It works!
“Do I trim the beard outside and look like a jackass or do I do it here in the car and get covered in whiskers and dry skin?” I decide on the latter.
“This $10 trimmer is better than my last one,” I think as it slices through my beard like a knife in butter.
I look down and see the whiskers covering my crisp interview suit. I step outside and they all brush off surprisingly easy.
I recognized why I was there, and why I was doing what I was doing. I hated this rush, I hated not having time to allow for things to go wrong. I hated all of it.
My life has been scheduled morning until night for five years now. I rarely have a moment to spare and even a bit of traffic throws the whole day into disarray.
I am minutes away from a job interview that could change all of that. I could go from a 45-minute commute to one under 10 minutes. I could make it see all of my kids’ activities. I could find a few moments to rest each day.
I knew I was doing the right thing. I had my reservations about interviewing as my current job is top notch, one of the best in my industry. I wasn’t sure if I was on the right path until that moment in the Walgreens parking lot.
I knew I needed to slow my life down. Not so slow that I get stagnant but slow enough that my focus and energy could be on bigger projects than just trying to arrive on time to my obligations.
This moment renewed my focus on slowing down. I had let stress and hurry replace my normal feeling of peace. I was unwilling to let that go any further. I could envision my life slowing down, I could feel the peace returning in that moment. I knew the path was clear.