Six Dollars Please


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.

I hope you enjoyed this real life portrait of the tiny town I live in. Sin and Vengeance and Addicted To Love both feature little towns that remind me of home.

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?




12 Comments on “Six Dollars Please”

  1. neicia says:

    I grew up in that kind of little town. Lived in towns like it most of my married life. Raised my five kids like I was raised. Moved back to my home town. In the Catskill mountains when I got divorced. Was diagonsed with terminal lung cancer three years ago and had to stay with my daughter. She lives in Maine.. How ever I am doing better and can live on my own again with some help doing certain things. My greatist wish is to go back to the Catskill mountains to live
    But I have no place to live there so I can’t go home. But I know what small town laid back living is all about and I miss it.

  2. lashumway says:

    I’m from a small town, so yeah, I’d wait and wait and wait and gossip and wait. It’s not a bad way to live. You do have to be careful what you say, though, because the whole town will know in under five minutes:)

  3. Angela says:

    I do live in a small town like that, and there are times our local “one stop shop” has a line to the back coolers but none of the customers get upset, irate or mouthy. In fact the parking lot is the morning before hitting the fields and the evening after work meeting spot for many. It’s a pleasant change from where I grew up in the city :o)

    • cjwestkills says:

      If you want to be treated like a person, with respect and kindness, there is no better place than small town America.

      • Angela says:

        Amen, and no better place to raise children. We spent the first 10 1/2 years of our son’s life in the city…..overcrowded everything full of crime, drugs, guns and bad attitude and he hated it. We moved to a small, rural community in MO for him to finish school and he flourished and became a respectful and kind Man… he and his family are in a city setting raising two children and he longs to get out and back to a small, rural community so they too can know what that peace is like.

  4. Heidi Hines says:

    That was a great real life portrait! I grew up in a small town like yours and I really miss it. I live in a big city now (and have for 30 years). I’m more patient than most people when standing in line. I wouldn’t necessarily hold up a line, but I certainly wouldn’t go ballistic if someone else did. I have seen people get angry when the line moves too slowly and it makes me wonder if they’re not shortening their lives by stressing so much over something they have little to no control over!

    • cjwestkills says:

      Couldn’t agree more, Heidi. People stress over the stupidest things. That’s what is so great about living here. Everyone has time to say hello. Okay, maybe a little too much time.

  5. Jo says:

    I still strike up conversations in line whether I know people or not. At the very least, I say “Hello.” Life’s too short not to enjoy the people you share it with, even just by coincedence.
    Most times, people are receptive and warm up pretty quickly – I grew up in a very small town (graduating class of 32-of which we have lost one, a fireman)
    You can take the girl out of the country, you just can’t take all the country out of the girl. 🙂

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