It’s her least favorite time of the day: the preschool pickup.

She’s not sure why. Is it the ear-splitting din of all those clucking moms and nannies lining the hallways, comparing toddler milestones and extra-curricular schedules? Sometimes she hears snippets and it makes her blood pressure rise. “Did you register Tyler for T-Ball yet?” “All the best summer camps filled up weeks ago.” “Oh, I’ve heard terrible things about that teacher.” “Are y’all doing Swim Team again?”

She always tries to time it so she’s the last one to arrive and won’t have to wait in line with the other women. She knows this is wrong, and it makes her feel even worse about it.

Yesterday she decided to put on her big girl panties and try to be social.

She went early, got in line, said hello. The woman ahead of her wouldn’t even turn around to make eye contact.

The rejection made her feel bad.

Her mind went right to the dark place. “Is it my breath? Did I say something offensive at the Christmas party? OHMYGOD, does she know about my blog?”

So she pulled out her phone, pretending to look busy.

A random Facebook status catches her eye:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

And she realizes…you never know.

Maybe that lady’s dog just died.

Maybe she’s suffering from a horrible bout of IBS, or alcohol withdrawal, or mild to moderate vaginal itching.

Maybe she just found out that her husband is cheating on her.

Or maybe she was sexually assaulted by someone she trusted.

Maybe she has a sick parent or a child on her third round of chemotherapy.

Or maybe she hasn’t slept well in 12 years because her husband snores like a fucking freight train.

Maybe deep down inside she thinks she’s ugly and is extremely self-conscious about her facial hair.

Or perhaps she has social anxiety and trust issues stemming from her parents’ hideous divorce decades ago.

Who knows? She might just be having a bad day… an overslept, burned the toast, forgot the coupons, stubbed a toe, got poop on her tampon string kind of day. That could explain the vaginal itching, at least.

And most likely, that split-second lack of courtesy has absolutely nothing to do with her.

She has three choices:

1. Just ignore Ms. Nasty Pants.

2. Mirror the negative energy right back in her bitchy face.

3. Be kind.

So she puts her phone away and smiles. And maybe, just maybe, her smile will remind the other women in line that there is good in the world. And even if that woman did accidentally put her thong on sideways, a smile might just be the lifeline she needs to get through another shitty day.

Yes, she will hold her head high and smile anyway.

And that’s when she notices: the woman in front of her is wearing hearing aids.

Maybe tomorrow she’ll tap her on the shoulder before she says hello.

Originally published by In the Powder Room, January 24, 2012.