She was distressed, that much was easy to see just by looking at her. The holiday season can do that to people as they feel the pressure to buy presents for everyone on the list. Christmas day for some becomes a ticking time bomb, an unmoving deadline that looms larger with each passing minute. For some, that pressure can reduce an intelligent human being to a blubbering pile of mush.
She wasn’t to that point yet, but when she looked up at me with that resigned exhaustion in her eyes and asked, “Can you help me?” I figured I could at least try. We were parked beside each other at the outer edge of the mall parking lot in spots that remained empty eleven months of the year and only saw use during the holidays.
“Can you help me?” Her arms were loaded with bags, wispy strands of hair flew from the knot atop her head and a fine mist of rain swirled in the air around us.
“What’s the problem?” The ground was wet and I figured she needed me to hold the bags so she could fish out her keys. But as I stepped around her car I saw that the keys were already in her hand.
With a sheepish smile she pressed the button on her key fob to unlock her car. Nothing happened. “It won’t open.” She pressed harder several times, holding the fob closer to the locked door, pointing it directly at the lock.
For a full minute I just stared at her. “Let me see what I can do.” I took the key ring from her and made a show of turning the fob over and over, examining it closely. “I think I can help,” I said.
Turning toward her car, I slipped the key into the lock and turned it. The lock popped up and I opened the door for her. We stood there staring at each other, silently acknowledging the absurdity of the situation, and then she burst out laughing. Steadying herself on the car, she released all the stress of the season in her great gale force laughter. When she looked at me, there were tears streaming down her face. “Thank you!”
I went to my car and drove away, filled with Christmas spirit and chuckling softly to myself.