I worked late, and knowing that I didn’t have any food at the house, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. Eventually, I stepped out of the car and began toward the Whole Foods, when a voice said “excuse me” with a distinctly foreign intonation. I turned around to see an old man — Japanese, I think, and dressed like he’s been working in the garden. He then told me, “You are a man who does not know how to make up his mind.”
I attempted to process this but decided that I must have misheard him. “Excuse me?”
He repeated: “You are a man who does not know how to make up his mind.” And then he just stared at me, as if the statement of his judgment should have been enough. Realizing that no one has ever told me this, much less a stranger in a grocery store parking lot, I fumbled for a response and eventually arrive at “Why do you think that?”
His explanation: “I saw you pull into that parking spot right there, but then you pulled out and went over there. And then you waited there for a while and then you pull in here. I told my wife that I had never seen anyone do this before and that you must be a person who cannot make up his mind.”
His account of events was accurate. However he could not see that I had sensible motivations for pulling into three spots. And, for some reason, I thought he’d be interested to know these. So I told him. “Well, that first spot wasn’t actually a parking spot, it turns out. So I moved. And then in the second spot, the truck next to me was so close that I wouldn’t have been able to get out. So I called my parents, because I told them I would. But when we finished talking, the truck hadn’t moved. So I decided to pull into the third spot so I can finally get groceries.”
He didn’t care about my sensible motivations, it turned out. “You should learn to make up your mind. If you always think you can do better, you never move ahead. You should make a decision and reconsider only if you must.” Or something like that.
I was halfway tempted to point out that I had essentially done that, but I realized that this old man was more concerned with giving than taking. So I took it. “That’s actually good advice. Thanks.” He nodded slightly. And then I turned around and went into the store.
Granted, he didn’t understand the situation, but he nonetheless had a point — and certainly more of one than most crazy old people who give me unsolicited advice.