I entered the grocery store at a brisk pace, one item on my list: laundry soap, five - maybe ten - minutes to get to yoga. Frustrated at myself - I was just at the store yesterday - and in a hurry, my focus was narrow. No room for enjoying Christmas displays, the latest People headlines or my fellow shoppers.
Beeline to the cleaning aisle, choice made quickly, happy note that it's on sale. This early, only one checkout was open, and it looked like I might get right up to the checker. As I rounded the corner, still moving at my no-time-to-waste pace, I almost collided with the woman already at the checker.
I hadn't seen her because she was in a cart. She'd just gotten to the checker, because only one item from the overflowing basket in front was on the belt. My hope of getting to yoga on time came to an instant halt because speed was not a gift she currently possessed.
Just like patience is not a gift I possess in abundance.
From the back, with her beautiful silver curls and abundant red-fleece encased hips, she could have been Mrs. Claus. However, when she looked back at me, her scowl, yellow bumpy face, and dirty band-aid covered nose made her look more like the witch of a young child's nightmare. She didn't make eye contact with me, but turned back around and pulled her cart up a bit so the checker could pull items from her basket. It was clearly a concession to my presence. I could feel her annoyance at being rushed, and not being able to unload her own groceries in her own way.
For one brief moment I considered asking her if she minded letting me go first. I invite people with one or two things to go in front of me often - in part as a meditation in the patience that so often eludes me. However, her "back-off" energy and my better sense prevailed. I took a breath, and then another, and released the urgency.
Through the checker's banter it was clear Miss B., as she called her, came through this line often. (She probably chose the early hour to avoid impatient shoppers and the need to hurry.) The checker was a pretty middle-aged woman with spiked super-blonde hair, and the amazing ability to carry on a conversation, check groceries, and bag them with the speed of a super-hero and the serenity of a saint.
Miss B.: That laundry soap isn't mine. Don't you be charging me for that.
Checker: I know. I know. I wouldn't do that. Do you want paper or plastic for the stuff that won't fit in your bag.
Miss B.: I want paper. That plastic falls over and my things go everywhere. And don't charge me for this yarn here either. I already paid for that. That's why it's in this bag (which I notice is plastic).
Checker: Oh, I was going to charge you double for that. No, triple. I've got some shopping to do.
Miss B.: I'll bet you do.
Checker: Do you have your reward card? Hurry up. Get it out. There are people waiting. Come on. Come on. (Her voice holds no impatience at all. Only the same wry humor that's been present from the start of this exchange.)
Miss B.: Hold your horses honey. They don't mind waiting. I'm moving as fast as I can. I know it's here somewhere.
Checker: Are you ready? Okay. (On the intercom) I need help out for Miss B., please. (to me, grinning) I have to warn them it's her.
By this time I was laughing out loud, happy to be audience to their routine. I watched Miss B. relax under the barrage of the checker's playfulness. She never quite smiled, or made eye-contact, but what could easily have been taken as a string of insults, or at the least rudeness, was clearly comfort to her.
When I finally found myself at the front of the line the checker aimed a crooked grin at me and said, "Did you feel the love?"
By the time I laughed my, "I sure did." reply back at her, my laundry soap was scanned, bagged and paid for. A glance at my watch assured me I would arrive at yoga in plenty of time. My light heart gently offered, "See? This is what patience can bring."
photo from Flickr