Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It Wasn't about the Mushrooms

At 5:30 this afternoon I found myself fighting traffic to drive across town to a favorite grocery store. I've been putting off my shopping there because of time and travel, but today I needed coffee and so I shut down my computer at school a little earlier than otherwise and headed out.

It was a beautiful day here: unseasonably warm (1 degree from the record!) but clear and dry. The fall foliage is not quite peaking, but it is stunning even so. Many of my fellow citizens were out and about with me, and I found myself waiting. Waiting at lights, waiting for pedestrians, waiting for a parking space. I let it go but exhaled in relief when I finally cut the engine and reached around to gather my phone, my keys, and my wallet.

My wallet? Where's my wallet? Despite the fact that I am very conscientious about always carrying it with me, I knew it could be anywhere-- at home on the table or by the computer, in a jacket pocket, or even on the floor by my desk at school-- that's how scattered I am lately.

My pocket contained my list and my cash. A quick comparison was not promising, so I raided my emergency car fund and all together I ended up with 56 bucks. I grabbed my reusable bag (5 cents credit!) and headed into the store.

The automatic doors sighed behind me as I entered the produce department. It was only moments before I realized that A) I had dropped my list, but B) I had a good idea what I needed.

From there, shopping became like a little puzzle. I mentally calculated the cost of what I wanted and subtracted it from my holdings. Approaching the check out line, I knew it was going to be close, but I had no desire to play it safe.

It just so happened that the shortest wait was at the register of a cashier who has worked at the store almost as long as I have been shopping there. We always chat cordially whenever we meet, and this time was no exception, even though I was a bit distracted watching the screen carefully as she scanned each item.

With three items left to go, I could tell I was going to be over, so I grabbed a package of mushrooms and set them aside. The total was $55.60. The cashier's eyes widened a bit when I handed her a stack of ones and fives, but then she laughed. "I like this," she told me. "It's good for my drawer."

I laughed, too, and proud of my shopping chops, I told her that I had forgotten my wallet. "I think I did pretty good," I said as she deposited a quarter, a nickel, and a dime in my hand.

She smiled and handed me my bag. Spotting the mushrooms, she asked, "Is that why you put these back?"

I shrugged. "Yep."

"Here," she said, "take them. No problem. I'll take care of it."

And that act of kindness made my day.

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