The Little Things

The grocery store where I usually shop has one particular checker who stands out for me. He’s polite, quick, converses with the customer just the right amount and goes out of his way to make the tedious grocery shopping experience less so.

Last time he rang up my groceries (which he did efficiently and unobtrusively) he smiled and made eye contact, asked how I was, chit-chatted about relevant things and didn’t go into any un-asked-for details about his life. To cap off the experience, when he gave me the receipt to sign he folded a corner of it up so it would be easy to pick up off the rubber counter when I was done. Usually the thin papery receipt is quite difficult to lift off the rubber to hand back, so this thoughtful action delighted me and I told him so. He said that it was just a small thing that made everybody’s life a little easier. 

This stands in stark relief to the grocery checker I had today, at the same store. I said “Hi, how are you?” as she started scanning my purchases, and her response was “Ok…but I feel like someone hit me upside the head.”

It’s hard to know how to respond to that, really, but I said “Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not good.”, to which she replied ” Yeah, can’t wait for this shift to end and then I have to go home and study for an exam tomorrow morning for which I haven’t even opened a book all term, and I’m not going to be able to get any sleep and I’m going to fail, and…” (can’t remember the rest).

I didn’t really know what to say other than to make sympathetic noises throughout this long sharing, and when she gave me the receipt for a signature at the end of the transaction she just dumped it on the rubber counter, turned around and started organising some plastic bags, while talking under her breath about her horrible day and her upcoming exam. 

I left feeling quite awkward and as though I’d just had something unpleasant dumped on me that was running down my hair and into my ears. I hope her day tomorrow goes better for her.


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