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Today’s column is an attempt to encourage everyone to have patience in the weeks to come as the holiday season brings us all closer together, literally. My first Christmas shopping venture was a disaster, all because I allowed one rude person to ruin the day.

The sky was blue and the shops were calling my name as I drove to our nearest Costco to buy Jimmy’s birthday present and browse for Christmas gifts.

One look at the crowded parking lot told me everyone else in Northern Virginia had the same idea, but somehow, I managed to get a close parking space.

My luck continued inside the store. I filled my cart with gift after gift and began planning where I would hide everything once I got home.

All that spending left me a little light-headed, but I wasn’t so giddy that my driving was any worse than usual. When I say worse than usual, I mean that in all honesty, I’m not the best driver in the world.

Maneuvering my big ol’ Suburban in and out of parking lots is a daily challenge for me. Usually, I simply park far away from a store’s entrance, where there are plenty of empty spaces.

But as I said earlier, I was lured into a space big enough for even a parking- impaired person like me to handle.

Experience has taught me to take my time backing out. That way, if I hit something, there’s less damage to pay for, and Ron doesn’t get as mad when I tell him about it.

As I backed out of the parking spot, my Suburban blocked any other car from squeezing by. That’s when I noticed a red-faced driver waiting for me to get out of his way.

Henceforth, I will refer to him as Scrooge.

He must have been driving fast because his car had turned the corner and pulled right up to mine so that I couldn’t go forward. He was so close I could see his nostrils flaring.

My super-sized Mommymobile, in the meantime, wasn’t going anywhere until he backed up.

This made Scrooge even angrier, and his hands flew through the air, doing all sorts of rude things. He reluctantly backed up, and I got out of his way.

Obviously, I hadn’t moved quickly enough because Scrooge continued to rant and called me a certain unprintable word as he drove by.

I was shocked. I’ve witnessed my share of public temper tantrums and seen complete strangers confront one another at traffic lights, but having this person’s rage directed at me so suddenly took me by surprise.

And it scared me. I didn’t say anything back to him until he parked and stomped over to my car. I rolled down my window and said, “I’m a woman, by myself here, what do you want me to do?”

I realize how ridiculous that might sound, but I think in my panicked state, I was hoping to show him how crazy he was behaving. Did Scrooge expect all 5-feet-2-inches of me to step out of the car and get into a brawl right there in the Costco parking lot?

He continued to rant his way toward the entrance, and I finally came to my senses and drove away. It was an unsettling experience that put a damper on what had been a wonderful day.

Looking back, I don’t plan to ever roll my window down when a crazy man is stomping up to my car. In fact, I’m not even going to give the time of day to people who throw temper tantrums in public.

During this busy time of year, crowds are unavoidable and unfortunately, so are rude people. But with a little patience and by refusing to give them the attention they demand, the holiday spirit will prevail.A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com

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