I knew my basket wouldn’t pass for twenty items or less, so, I picked the shortest line available. One with just a single woman in front of me. I disliked shopping at that particular WalMart because despite the thirty cash registers they had, management saw to it that there were never more than five registers open at a time. What’s the point of having so many, I’d think to myself every time I was forced to go in.
The lady in front of me looked to be maybe sixty-five years old. Slightly heavy set with shoulder length, blonde hair. Her fingernails were as chewed on as I’d ever seen and they went way below the ends of her fingers. I was glad not to have suffered with that affliction.
This woman had $271.02 in cat supplies piled in her cart and on the checkout counter. This included three big bags of kitty litter and four bigger bags of dry cat food—the twenty pound ones. Some breath-freshening chew treats and a few soft toys with jingling bells. Several large cans of one type of cat food and even more small cans of another variety. Watching the cashier count them, two by two, I finally quit counting along with him at forty. All appeared to be moving along smoothly.
Then suddenly, all progress came to a screeching halt as the cashier searched for a price tag on a jacket. It was a small town sports team jacket. I guessed no more than $19.99 at WalMart.
The young cashier appeared embarrassed because he couldn’t find the tag and had to call for help. It took a while for the elderly sales clerk from the clothing department to hobble up to the register. She searched for the same tag that the cashier couldn’t find, like he hadn’t even looked at all. Then, the clerk carried the jacket back to her department in an attempt to locate another one labeled with the proper code. She muttered to herself all the way, “Where do these tags disappear to?”
By that time, a few more customers had lined up behind me. Cat Lady tried to make everyone feel more at ease. She didn’t stop talking and smiling at the cashier, “They had those same jackets at Danny’s for $75! When I saw them, I knew the pricing would be better here.”
She went on a bit more then turned to me. The line had grown even longer and people were shifting from foot to foot and rolling their eyes impatiently. Everyone had experienced those inconvenient holdups before.
Cat Lady spotted my half gallon of two percent milk awaiting its turn for scanning. With an expression like she was going to turn my entire life around, she asked, “Have you tried the organic milk?” Already frustrated with WalMart for not having enough cashiers—again, and for not marking their items properly, I just shook my head. She smiled as if she had just told me the biggest secret in town, “It’s absolutely delicious. You should try it next time.”
I smiled and nodded, “Yes, I’ll have to give it a go.” She bobbed her head, now pleased as punch. I hadn’t the heart to tell this friendly, overly-bubbly woman that I didn’t even drink milk and it was for someone else. Somehow, I felt that would disappoint her.
Honestly, there probably would have been plenty of time to run back and exchange my two percent for organic by the time the clothing department clerk shuffled back to the front. “$39.99,” the clerk unenthusiastically told the cashier. I thought to myself, forty bucks for that?
But, that didn’t bother Cat Lady, she just smiled and said, “Great, great.” She called after the clothing clerk, “They were $75 at Danny’s.” The clerk didn’t bother to turn around and just scuffled away.
The people behind me were searching for new checkout lines. Cat Lady beamed as we all watched her pull out her check book and began to write. Did people still even write checks at stores?
The cashier sighed heavily, as we all did, when she commented, “I need to write it for twenty over.” Then, stared at the $292.52 readout on the register for a few moments trying to do the math in her head. I looked too, what else was there to do but figure out what the check amount should be written for. Her brow furrowed in concentration then finally she laughed joyfully, “Oh, that’s $312.52, right?” She looked at the cashier for confirmation. The kid nodded trying to remain patient as he quickly glanced to the awaiting customers who were really irritated. Dagger eyes glared at him and his customer.
It wasn’t Cat Lady’s fault, I thought to myself. How rude and assuming we get when we think things are taking too long. She finally finished writing the check, got her $20 cash back, and thanked the cashier. She turned to me and the line beyond and happily bid us all a wonderful New Years.
I could not help but imagine her New Years Eve with her twenty-seven cats surrounding her on some couch that was probably ripped to shreds and smelled like cat pee. I smiled and replied, “Happy New Years.” She glowed. Then put her back into pushing her cart so that it wheeled straight.
“Fifteen minutes to shop and forty minutes to check out,” the customer behind me commented sarcastically as she roughly unloaded her cart. I was glad that my check out was less complicated.
Believe me, it would have been easy to jump onto that familiar Irritation Bandwagon in that situation. You all know what I’m talking about. The wagon that’s piled high with whining, complaining and annoyance. The one that reveals itself visually with heavy sighs, rolls of the eye’s, and endless head shaking. And, all that extra stress pumping stuff through our systems that lead to stress headaches and elevated blood pressure.
It’s easy to become impatient with people when we are inconvenienced. I’ve done this my fair share of times. Everyone has stress in their lives, it’s how we choose to deal with it that’s most important—so those experts tell us. And, much of our stress is self-imposed. Boarding that bandwagon in a situation that we have absolutely no control over, only adds to our own misery and that of those around us.
We are always in such a hurry. Sometimes it is valid. Most of the time it’s a perceived hurry. Honestly, slowing down a tad won’t hurt any of us. This pleasant woman was a good reminder to not get all bent out of shape over silly stuff.
So, the next time we find ourselves climbing onto that Irritation Bandwagon, may we choose to just relax and chill. Our minds and bodies will be happier.
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