The other day I had to go into Walmart to get a few things that either I’d forgotten, or that my local Walmart doesn’t carry. I’m pretty sure they don’t carry my son’s favorite sourdough bread (that all the other Walmart’s in the area carry) simply to mess with me.
I was not in a good mood. I had several reasons for being grumpy. For starters, apparently for some, Spring break is still going on and the wildflowers are still stunning, which means people are driving even worse than normal- hard to believe that's even possible. When you’re local and trying to get somewhere on time, it’s a huge inconvenience. Also, I had been going to an outing with my son to meet some people, but the address I had was incorrect, so after driving in circles for half an hour, I gave up. I was feeling disappointed and much like a failure. Also, I’d already been to Walmart (my “local” one) twice this week! And I’m currently going through some sort of medical thing that is making life more difficult than normal and I’ve been trying to not go to the doctor about it, but I’m running out of options, and I really hate the doctors. So yeah, I’m a bit cranky.
My mood was not improved when I discovered that of the four things on my list, the Walmart only had two of them. They did not have my son’s sourdough. Ugh. At least they had my favorite brand of bubbly wine. We can deal without the bread, but if they’d been out of the wine this story would’ve ended in handcuffs and my one phone call instead of typing it on my computer. Like I said, very bad mood!
So I took my three things (I remembered a third while we were wandering the store) to check out. I’m a terrible introvert, so I tend to choose the self-checkout lane. The Federal Government attempted to kill me when they made their ridiculous ruling that you can’t take alcohol through the self-check. Most of my “emergency” trips to the store are because the wine ran out too quickly. I think we have a fairy infestation, it’s the only explanation! Anyway, the express line had five very old men, all with full baskets (at least the maximum of 20 items) all lined up. Nope!
So I went to the next regular checkout. There was an older lady already paying, and another who had her things on the conveyor belt. If she hadn’t space her items out like my son separates the food on his dinner plate (honestly, sometimes it’s nice when food mixes together, not the poison he swears it is), there would have been plenty of room for my small purchase. I’m standing there, getting more and more annoyed because my hands are starting to hurt, and my son is rabbiting on about everything in the checkout lane, and I just don’t want to be there anymore! When the woman paying starts.
All her items have been rung up and are in her cart. She then slowly, painfully, gets out her wallet. Seems confused about how to open it for a minute. Finally, after much agony, pulls out her debit card. “Now,” she begins, “my bank just sent me this and said I can use it instead of a check.” Oh no.
This is the part where I finally looked at the cashier. The crossed eyed, special cashier. The slight sheen of drool at the corner of her mouth was like a giant flag- go to another line! But just at that moment, the woman ahead of me in line turned around and apologized profusely, struggling to move her items up on the conveyor belt so I could set mine down. Then she started talking.
She lives in the area, has for 20 odd years. But now her kids are grown up, her youngest has been living in the area, not with them of course, but in the area, but now he’s moving to Austin. They’re oldest lives in Kentucky, and her husband is thinking about retirement so what’s really keeping them there? “You know, sometimes you just have to pull up stakes and let God take the wheel. God moved us here in the first place, and it was definitely the right move at the time, but now I think it’s time for a change. Trust in Him and he will open doors!”
I desperately glanced over her shoulder at the payment process that had put me squarely in hell. “What does that mean, ‘swipe your card’? Is that even a word?”
“Yeah! Pay!” Now, you have to fully appreciate this checker (believe me, there’s a good reason to have this image). She looked to be in her early 20’s, possibly had Down’s Syndrome by her appearance, but seemed unable to fully communicate. She couldn’t really give directions to the lady on how to use the card machine, and just kept looking at her register with the most pathetically confused face. I was shocked that they didn’t have a helper assigned to come to her rescue when something like this happens! Poor girl looked like she was trying to remember who to call. Every time she’d glance at the register, one of her eyes would sort of wander across, then she’d look back the woman and they’d snapped crossed again. It was a little disconcerting.
Meanwhile, I heard all about how my new best friend had turkey on toast with cranberry sauce for breakfast because her son wanted turkey for Easter. Her husband said that wasn’t a proper breakfast, but it filled her up just fine. Still, turkey isn’t really an Easter meal, is it? She’s thinking about doing a ham this weekend, once all the turkey’s been eaten, because it’s just not the same! Her husband will probably laugh at her for it, but he’ll enjoy ham and eggs for breakfast next week.
The woman at the payment thing had finally managed to swipe her card, and now was trying to remember her pin. “Is that those numbers they sent me? They sent it in a different envelope! I didn’t even know what that was about! I knew I should’ve brought it with me!”
Then she started banging on the key pad! The poor checker looked scared and fluttered her hands over the machine, “NO! Nice!” She lumbered as she pet the side of the machine. “Nice!”
The woman huffed out a breath, “Forget it,” she finally said, obviously annoyed with the demands of ‘new’ technology, “I have cash.”
As she paid in cash and received her change (which seemed to take in inordinate amount of time), I continued to get a sermon about how God does provide. I wish I could be provided with ear plugs!
Finally, my new best friend’s attention shifted to the cashier. At the end of her items on the conveyor belt, she had a small bag of soil. She had two more in her basket. She smiled at the cashier and told her, “I have three bags of dirt.”
The poor girl looked at her like she’d just grown a second head and started speaking in tongues. A little more drool trickled out the side of her mouth hanging open in limp confusion.
The woman just smiled at her. And didn’t say a word.
Stars were destroyed.
“Dirt?” the girl asked.
The woman’s smile grew with satisfaction that understanding had been reached! “Yes!” she exclaimed, as though somehow this was her reward. She pointed to the bag of soil on the conveyor belt.
Dawning awareness lit the girl’s face, and a smile slowly spread, “One!” she said, proud of herself for getting it.
The woman shrank an inch or so and her smile faltered. “No,” she explained patiently, “I have three of them.”
The girl looked at the bag of soil, back at the woman, confusion etched into every feature, “One,” she repeated.
Another woman got into line behind me. Although there was plenty of room for her to start loading her items on the belt, I was in the way because the woman in front hadn’t moved her cart forward. I tried not to stare at the exchange between her and the cashier, but it was a sort of terrified fascination. And I’d invested too much already to go to another line.
The woman grabbed the bag of soil off the belt and brought it to the girl. “I have this one,” she then pointed to the two in her cart, “and two more there,” she explained.
The girl looked blankly at the bag the woman was holding, then at the cart, and back again. Slowly, a smile began, “One,” she said, pointing to the one the woman was holding, “two, three!” she exclaimed, pointing to the cart.
“Good!” the woman said. I wonder if she used to be a kindergarten teacher. “Can you scan this one three times or do you need all three bags?” I had to hand it to her, not many people could be so patient.
The girl looked a little confused as she digested what was just asked, “No, I do this,” she said. She had the scanner in her hand, but it was difficult for her to find the barcode. Her eyes were seriously crossed.
The woman then started chattering away at her about life, the universe, and everything, causing the girl to occasionally pause in her work and stare at the woman. The struggle to comprehend was painful to watch. Eventually I was able to move up enough that the woman behind me could start putting her things on the belt. She put four items up, then watched the exchange between the woman and the girl, put her items back in her cart and went to find a different cashier. “Take me with you,” I thought as I watched her go.
At long last, all the items were rung up and it was time for the woman to pay. “Oh yes!” the woman said it like it forgot about this part of the ritual. NO! I screamed inside, not another one!
Thankfully not. She pulled out her card and efficiently paid for her items. As she walked away she cheerfully looked back, gave a little wave, and called, “Have a blessed day!” I’m guessing that woman has never had a bad day. I could do nothing but stare blankly after her. I slowly turned my head and saw that the cashier was mirroring my look, or I was mirroring hers.
It suddenly occurred to me that it was my turn. I had to do this now. I only had three items, this should go fairly smoothly, right?
Then I noticed something. Her eyes weren’t crossed anymore! She blinked a few times and said, in a clear voice, “Geez, I can’t do that any longer! It’s giving me a headache!”
“Wha..” now it was my turn to be a drooling mess.
She just smiled, “Well, you gotta do something to have fun at this job! I’ve been here since early and I’m tired, and, well, it’s kinda boring.”
Realization of what just happened slammed into me and I giggled. Yeah, giggled. “Oh my god!”
She just smiled and blinked her eyes a few more times to clear them. I paid for my stuff and as I left I said, “Have a great day!”
She called back, in her special voice, “You, too!” which made me giggle again.
As I walked past the express line, the old men who had been lined up there when I lined up, were still checking out.