Six Dollars PleasePosted: April 12, 2012
Yesterday I went to the little grocery store in our one stoplight town. There are two stores to choose from, I usually choose the one my cousins owned until they retired.
I picked up a few things and came up to the single checkout line, my milk getting heavy as I waited. A woman in a red sweater, youngish with no ring on her finger, stepped out of line and headed back into the store to get one last thing. Her friend moved her half gallon of milk so I could put my gallon of one percent on the conveyor.
“Don’t want to squish those cakes,” she said and smiled.
She had two six packs of beer and a large bundle of asparagus. All she was missing was a good steak.
A cop from another town joined the line. A sergeant who had already done nine hours that day. Behind him came a man and his daughter.
The woman in the red sweater came back and the line parted for her before she asked.
The girl behind the register was young, twentyish and really filled out her baggy Children’s Hospital sweatshirt. Her jeans were snug and slim and as I checked out the stud in her cartilage, I realized she wasn’t moving and looked ahead to the front end of the line.
An older woman saw me and said, “Hi. How are your parents?”
I had no idea who she was though her face was familiar. Such are the hazards of living in a tiny town where your family has been for over a hundred years. Everyone knows me even though I’ve been gone twenty plus years. They know I write books, have two kids, and am recently divorced. “They’re great. How are you?”
The cashier held up a lottery slip and told the woman she needed to pick a Powerball. She took a minute to comprehend, looking around.
“I can type it in for you,” the hot cashier said.
I didn’t mind the wait. As you can tell by this post, I was doing what I always do, taking in the people around me. The crowd was building behind me, but there was no tension in the line. No rush.
The woman colored in the number even though it took longer than asking the girl to punch it in.
The girl operated the machine quickly, spun, and handed the the lady her tickets. She said, “That’ll be six dollars please.”
The woman fiddled in her purse. The two women ahead of me, the cashier and even the sergeant saw her fiddle and waited for her to pull out a five and a one or maybe a ten, but she folded her pocketbook shut.
“Hey, remember me,” she said to the woman behind her.
The woman with the beer was confused.
She said, “We used to ride at Country Stables. We did a lot of shows.”
“Oh, yeah,” the second woman said. “I used to have a horse for every event.”
They kept on talking. The cashier, the red sweater, the cop, the father, and I all waited. No one said a word. The owner came over and shared something about a winning lottery prize with the woman in red. At that point I was really glad I set my one percent down. I shared a smile with the cashier even though she was way too young for me.
The cashier said again, “Six dollars, please.”
The woman went on with her conversation. She was the only one in the store who didn’t realize she was holding up the line. She was old enough to forget, but not so old it was likely to be a serious affliction. Standing there, I was thankful to live where I do. Six people were willing to wait for the woman to eventually realize it was her holding everyone up. No one got rude. No one embarrassed her. When the girl asked again, she finally dug in her purse and this time came out with two bills and the line got underway.
When she was gone and it was my turn in line I said, “You had a nice little break there,” but the cashier wasn’t interested in my overture.
Like everyone else in town she knows where to find me if she decides she’s interested. And there is only one other store in town, so it’s not like I won’t be back.
Do you have the patience to live in a town like this?
Would you hold up the line? Or would you go ballistic on someone like this who was ahead of you?