There is a restaurant downtown that has a sign on the side of its patio, “Free Air’.
The first time I saw it, it made me laugh. I didn’t ask ‘What’s up with that?” I assumed I knew. You’re sitting outside on the patio of a restaurant. The air is free. The food isn’t.
Because of that sign, I created a story in my mind about the owners. Quirky. Ironic. Self-deprecating. Perhaps a little less ‘the road well travelled’ and more ‘let’s chart our own course and see where it takes us.”
I have walked past that restaurant many times during the winter as it is on the route to my Chiropractor’s office. That sign always makes me smile. I also happen to really like their breakfast sandwiches and breads —Alforno is a take-out and sit down French bistro. And yes, the breads are delicious!
The other day, when I stopped to pick up a couple of latte’s and breakfast treats on my way to my youngest daughters, I walked past that sign and saw a man filling his bicycle tires with Free Air.
Yup. Free Air didn’t mean the air we breathe. It meant — free bicycle tire air fill-up!
I laughed out loud causing the bicycle tire filling man to look up. I gave him a friendly smile, all the while shaking my head in fascination at my foibles.
Of course, in defense of my literalness, up until the weather warmed up, the hose for the Free Air was not attached to the valve under the sign. Which means, I saw the sign only in the context of its relation to the outdoor patio, and its literal meaning.
It still makes me laugh to think of my ‘ooops! You’re not being ironic, as in, “Free Air on the patio — all you have to pay for is the food.” You actually are applying a much more practical application of Free Air – and trying to induce more exercise and urban living via the bicycle.
Which, in that context, changes the story I made up about the owners. Now, they’re environmentally conscious urbanites encouraging healthy, greener living. (Though I will tell you that when I asked the server behind the counter if they had any ‘healthy’ breakfast choices, she raised one eyebrow, gave me one of those ‘you’ve got to be kidding looks?’ and let out an emphatic, NO!)
Which brings me back to the point of this post.
We make up stories about people and happenings all the time. The stories we create can only be in context to what we see and hear, from our perspective, our viewpoint, our beliefs, feelings, understandings, experiences, ideas and assumptions.
Often, we make up our stories based on limited information. Like me with the sign, until the hose was added to the valve beneath it, I was only focused on the words, not the words in context to their application in real life.
How often do you hear or read something and make decisions about that person or situation based on a quick scan and assume you know what’s going on? What if rather than taking your assumptions as truth, you chose instead to delve deeper into the context and substance of what’s happening by stopping to be curious and ask questions of yourself, and others?
How often do you make up a story about ‘why’ someone is saying, doing, or being the way they are, without getting the whole picture?
We are story-telling, and story-making people. We have the capacity to make up stories that shine light on the brilliance and magnificence of ourselves and those around us, or on their limitations.
Which story will you choose?
I don’t know the owners of that restaurant. I do know that the story I made up in my head about Free Air on the patio made me smile — even before I discovered my misconception.
I also know, on a deeper level, that I have many stories I’ve created about people and happenings, that are not so benign. They are limiting in their scope, and my interpretations of their value in my life. These are the stories I need to put in context to that Free Air sign. Like air, I can’t see what’s really going on behind the scenes, or beneath the surface of someone’s behaviours, or my own, without first stopping to ask the question, “What’s up with that?”
But I will admit. I still think my Free Air assumptions are kind of funny! And make a good story about ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Truth”.