Miracle at Checkout 9

Being the 4th in a miscellany of short posts to mark the 12 days of Christmas.

My line, which had looked so promising — only one person ahead of me, with a light load of groceries — has come to a standstill. Cat crunchies of some sort — likely a Christmas treat for someone named Fifi — seem to be the problem. The scanner doesn’t bring up a price; the shelf-check shows no posted price; and Grocery Department staff are not calling in, despite two loud loudspeaker requests to do exactly that. And so we stand there, waiting for exactly what, we’re not sure. A miracle, I guess.

Had my cart not been entirely unloaded by the time Fifi’s problematic treats surfaced, I would have cut my losses and moved on down the checkout-stand line. The guy behind me has already given up. As Ross Perot says, Who’s smart? Who’s dumb? Now, out of common decency, I’m trying to save the woman who has just arrived. As this member of my cohort stands there with her armful of items, I say mildly, We’re waiting for a price check. But in context, the communication is clear: It’s too late for me, but you can still save yourself! Run away!

Against all expectation, though, she doesn’t bolt. A quick, appraising glance at the situation and she puts her items down on the smidgen of space left behind my stuck-in-traffic collection and says, I’m feeling good about this. I’ll stay.

As the kids would tweet, OMG. Is she, like, crazy? Or is she temporarily overcome by tryptophan wafting from the stacks of boxed chocolates, or from the turkey roasting in the deli? Yet as we chit chat about this and that, waiting for that miracle, she seems as normal as I like to think I do: friendly but not creepily so; conversational but not non-stop talkative; witty but with no ‘edge’.

Grocery store staff having no solutions to offer and the heavens having failed to open, Fifi’s owner/assistant finally capitulates, exchanging her original selection for something with a price. And just like that, we’re moving again.

In a few minutes I’m gathering up my bags and purse and gloves and saying goodbye to my new, albeit short-duration, friend. Thanks for being my Line Buddy, she says. I like it: it’s a new phrase for me, but apt enough that there’s no need for a double-take. She goes on: This time of year you have to wait everywhere — having a Line Buddy brings my blood pressure down. I even talk to young people: it’s fun.

I walk out of the store, smiling. Talk about your miracle.

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8 Responses to Miracle at Checkout 9

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Oh, my, amen!

    I learned from one of my many mentors, years and years ago, that it’s all right to chat with someone in a line. Or with someone on a walk-a-thon. Even, on a cruise, with permission, to sit down at a table that’s already occupied, and get into conversation. So they don’t turn into lifelong friends, so what? Better a few moments of commonality than isolation.

    I’ll remember that term “Line Buddy…”


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Yes, I’m better in lines than I am at joining small groups, but maybe God (or the cosmos) isn’t finished with me yet… Connection, however brief, is a wonder, that’s for sure.

  2. Carla says:

    Cute! I like it. Line buddies often make my day…

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Carla – Yes, rather like those unexpected/unplanned vacation delights can be the highlight of the whole trip!

  3. Susan Wright says:

    Just to take this one step further, I have a “theatre buddy”. A lovely co-worker who asked me if I’d like to go to the theatre with her because she, like me, didn’t have someone to go with. Much to our surprise we’ve since become good friends.

    We’ve talked about where she got the courage to suggest we become “theatre buddies”. She said it was like being a child on the playground and asking another child…will you be my friend? Sometimes the nicest relationships, be they fleeting or long term, start from trusting that it will turn out all right in the end.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Susan – A friend’s mother, now sadly departed, used to say it was important to keep on making friends as one aged. She also believed in ‘special purpose’ friends – there was one woman with whom she did crossword puzzles over the phone. Otherwise, if we live long enough, we end up alone. And if Barbara is right that playing with folks is the ultimate flattery – because it is trusting them to recognize and appreciate the ‘joke’ – then reaching out to new friends is a close second, in terms of flattery. I guess if we can see it like that, it might help overcome any resistance we might otherwise feel.

  4. Alison Uhrbach says:

    Have to tell you… that’s one of the joys of small town living… even if you don’t KNOW your “line buddy” .. you’ve probably seen them around town.. and invariably .. you end up with a new recipe.. or a household tip.. or at very least a pleasant conversation as you wait.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – Yes, I can see that. The upside of community living – which has its downsides, too, of course. I saw some of that even in Saskatoon, although not so much as you would have seen in St. Brieux or Lacombe, that’s for sure.

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