On Being A Not-Very-Patient Waiter*

Here is my process for choosing a grocery store checkout lane.

  1. Consider the length of the lines, of course.
  2. Look through the contenders to see what other complications might arise:
    1. the amount of stuff still in the cart(s)
    2. the likelihood of a dreaded price check
    3. kids, more than one
    4. a single child, but whining
    5. elderly
    6. coupons, for goodness sake

    And then this key consideration often missed by the general population:

  3. Assess the speed, aptitude and focus of the person doing the checking out AS WELL AS the person doing the bagging. (I could do a seminar on that one.)

It’s a practice I’ve honed through decades spent thinking Must Be Nice To Have All Dang Day.

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Then at the beginning of this year, a rather strange thing happened to me. After a quiet Christmas holiday, I made the decision to move through my day with intention. That is to say, every time I felt in a rush, rather than going faster, I purposefully did the opposite.

It worked for a while. And then expectation and complication intervened and my grand commitment to intention nearly evaporated—with one significant exception. Now when a true obstacle is in my path (ie I’m stuck behind a logging truck), I can hear God’s voice saying Girl, Why Don’t I Help You Just  Slow. It. Down.

~~~

Just last week I ran into the grocery store, a stop I crammed into an already over-scheduled day. Not surprisingly, I was strategic in my choice of quickest exit lane. The woman just in front of me? Checkout line perfection.** Alone. Organized. Not interested in Jennifer Aniston’s ridiculously large engagement ring or award-winning crock-pot recipes. No coupon or cell phone in sight.

My cart and I pulled right in.

Things moved along perfectly, system working well as I quietly considered this woman and her grocery selections. And then with no warning, there was a minor complication in the scan-scan-scan process. And then another.

I could feel a twitch rising.

And just like that there it was, God’s voice reminding me to breathe, to relax, to simply wait. And so I did.

Eventually, the checkout process was complete. But before moving to follow her cart to the car, this thoughtful woman—with whom I had not even exchanged a glance—turned to me and said:

Thank you for being so patient. You have been a bright spot in my day.

I gave her an understanding smile, knowing it was true, knowing her life as well as I knew mine in that moment, busy, complicated, stretched. I thought about how little had been required of me; how I simply stood there conscious of the fact that she just needed a tiny bit of time, a tiny sliver of space.

And I considered the lovely gift she had given me in taking three seconds, precious as they are, to turn back and offer her thanks. What a lovely gesture, I thought. How unexpected. How nice.

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*This is a 2-part post, as it turns out. More to come tomorrow: On Being Insanely Nice

**Checkout line perfection, actually: Male; 55 years old; slim, athletic build; shopping solo; buying imported beer, 6-pack

4 thoughts on “On Being A Not-Very-Patient Waiter*

  1. Cathy,
    I do the opposite of you. I find the longest line, pick up the Star or Enquirer and just enjoy the time “catching up on the news” as I call it! I guess I’m the one who cares about Jennifer Aniston’s engagement ring. This is a break from reality I give myself. You should try it! It’s very relaxing!

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