A lesson in patience at the grocery store

Only 17 days until Christmas, and the pace is picking up. People seem to be in more of a hurry than ever, and I’m trying to maintain my own pace. It was tested today at the grocery store as I waited in the checkout line.

A woman customer, maybe thirty-ish, was in the only lane with the checkout light turned on. My usual Express Lane was closed. I saw another customer back out of the lane and head to another soon-to-be opened lane. So, I walked to the lane with my carry-basket of about eight items and proceeded to wait my turn. Another gentleman pulled in behind me with his cart. There I was, trapped in line with a woman checking out with a cart full of groceries and about 8-10 food stamp vouchers.

Of course, each one of those vouchers were good for only so much food, so each voucher had to be treated as a separate purchase. The clerk patiently and efficiently scanned each voucher and then four or five items of food as a transaction. She would hand over the receipt and then start the process again for the next voucher and the next four or five items. The two trays of baby food counted as two separate transactions.

Yes, I could see this was going to take some time. I looked around, as shoppers seemed to come out of the woodwork and fill other lanes, and of course, there was the gentleman behind me … just smiling and waiting patiently, too, and now a couple of other customers behind him.

I wondered if I could go to another lane? Should I? I glanced at the woman ahead of me, and she seemed pleasant and dignified, even though she was using food stamp vouchers. She never once glanced at me or the line she had created. Likewise, she never apologized for taking so long. Why should she?

At that moment, it dawned on me, that it was not about her. It was about me. My attitude was the only thing I could have any control over in that moment. Sure, I could have been like many others and verbalized impatience or even disgust. I chose not to. I could have bolted to another lane, speaking with non-verbal actions that I am too important and not going to wait. I chose not to. After all, this woman has all the same rights as me, and she was in line first.

I thought about all the impatience of humans with a “Me First” attitude, and I decided in that moment, I would be different. I would be patient and pleasant and wait my turn. I was somewhat surprised at the clerk who apologized for me having to wait. I was somewhat miffed at the bag boy who handed me my filled reusable grocery bag, and when I opened it to put my receipt in the bag, he said, “Don’t worry. It’s all in there.”

And to the woman customer who was in front of me, who disappeared out the door and into the parking lot, “God Bless you.” May you have a joyous holiday season, for you have given me a little gift of patience this season.