Or a customer using the self-help line. I have never liked the do it yourself version of anything. The minute those new fangled checkouts came along, I sensed an immediate panic in the job security of the hard-working employees. Checking out with less than fifteen items has never been a goal of mine because I try to get everything I need in the near future, and anything that strikes my fancy for meal preparation three months from tomorrow. I may not be organized but I am prepared.
Two yogurts. A quart of milk. Eggs. Vitamins. Dog food. A trip to the pharmacy finishing with groceries. I never remembered the bread. The entire quickie checkout section was open except for one person already checking out. I had to go around him.
(I forgot to mention I had just returned from a quick trip to my mother's. After thirty years, she had gotten a pet, Sally. I had gone to meet the new kitten and take pictures. My camera case was in the passenger seat but I thought to put it behind on the floor, under the umbrella. In the past few weeks, a band of thieves has been breaking into cars in busy parking lots in broad daylight. Summer seems to bring out the best in purse snatchers.)
Not being an expert in the serve yourself grocery genre, I was careful and deliberate. There was only the one person behind me on another machine. My cash back, eight five dollar bills, was so fresh the drying ink had caused the bills to stick together horribly. I counted the money and put it in my designer handbag. Two twenties would have been an easier transaction. As I was finishing up the transaction, a different color had come up on the screen and a recorded voice was saying something I wasn't paying any mind.
I really didn't want to be bothered for a 25 cent off coupon or take the time to figure out what was most likely some sort of pitch from the store. My purchase was paid, bagged and in my cart. An ever ready employee, with expertise in the quickie lanes, pulled off my receipt and was folding it up and down to find the proper information. She crisply folded the paper IMPORTANT RECALL NOTICE.
In my mind, I was beginning to have a not very polite conversation with this helpful person, wondering if I should just snatch the receipt from her hand. She took her ink pen and circled the lines without leaving any ink. I was trying to appreciate her sincere effort at educating me and her obvious need to do her job well. She still had the receipt, creased at the "Important Recall Notice" but gathered up gently in her hands. One last time, she suggested I might want to highlight this section. I thought she would never stop. This was a comedy skit in the making. And she was standing in my personal space. She asked me if I still had the original receipt. (Okay? How do I know? This was a wild purchase to try something different, something Thai.)She finally gave me the receipt and I thanked her but I was thinking unkind things about her education level.
After a couple of minutes being held hostage over a recall notice (who notices those anyway?) I zoomed my buggy out of the store. Freedom. On this hot Sunday afternoon I was glad to have gotten such a good spot, one closest to the store which was not designated handicapped. In my family, we call it a "must be living right" spot, a silly sign that we must be doing something right.
Walking out of the store, I felt a sense of hovering, someone else in my larger personal space. I realized the only person who had been checking out next to me in the self serve section was still behind me, even after all of my Important Recall Notice- Notices. My purse was securely tucked up on my arm but I turned around enough to see he was hanging back, with just a small paper sack wrapped around what appeared to be a soft drink. The lot was full but there was a lull in customers coming and going. I turned around again, hoping he would realize I knew he was still there. The rear gate of my car lifted as I put myself between the car and the length of the buggy.
Nothing eventful happened but I couldn't shake the feeling he had been following me. It was all very odd. He never got into a car but walked down the lot to the street, looking side to side, walking past a soft drink kiosk at the edge of the parking lot. If he had walked out with a real bag of groceries, I probably wouldn't have thought anything strange.
Next time, I won't flash my five dollar bills but I will still be wary of something out of place, trying to hone my sense of something not right. Standing up straight, looking back twice. Whatever it takes.
However, isn't it always after the fact we realize an angel was entertaining (helping, tolerating, guiding) us and we were terribly unaware, standing in the quickie check out lane, irritated with someone suggesting we highlight these lines as she carefully folds the receipt in just the right spot. In exasperation, making us pause for a minute, looking around at the people in our surroundings.
"Angels of the Lord camping in my yard,
burning midnight fires to keep away the bears."
My own translation of Psalm 37:4