Empathy in Aisle 3

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Normally I do my grocery shopping Saturday mornings but not this past weekend. We had too many other things going on so I put it off till Sunday. Ergh. Not my favorite choice because Sunday is more of a “my” day than anything.  I dislike having any reason to leave the house on Sunday.  I was overtired and feeling a little bit put out as I scurried around tidying up, doing laundry and planning the week’s menu.  Hubbs reclining comfortably under his favorite blankie might have added to my petulance.

But .. the sun had returned after a week’s absence, I had favorite tunes playing in my SUV and the roads were clear.  So, off I went to the store, determined to get in-get all – and get out in record time.  I shop at a local chain grocery store because it’s small, I know the staff in there, and I can find pretty much everything. We pay a little more than going to the big megastore but that’s ok; I budget and make my purchases as wisely as possible and, in turn, I get to shop at this little charmer.    One of my first stops is at the Deli.  Sundays are a bad day to hit the deli because there’s only one person working and there are lots of people shopping, most getting lunch meats for school lunches or sometimes picking out deli trays for football parties.  I waited patiently as the lady in front of me deliberated on her choices.  I felt myself getting impatient when she asked the pubescent Deli clerk which ham she thought her (the lady’s) kids would like.  I know my right eyebrow cocked at this point and then the internal dialogue began: “Oh for the love of God lady; do you really think the 15-year-old gives a sh*t about which ham your kids eat? Really? She just wants to get out of here and get home like the rest of us… bloody hell….”  I think that’s when I might have tapped my toe a few times.   Next, she moved onto turkey and had to try at least 70 million samples.  (Ok, maybe a little exaggeration.)

Realizing that my get in-get all-get out plan was stalled, I resigned myself to sticking it out as the line behind me started to grow. I heard a few coughs, mumblings, shuffling of feet.  Then I started to really look at the lady and crew in front of me.  I noticed a put-out, petulant teenage girl stomping back to the grocery cart as she flung in a few items.  She and the lady didn’t speak.  Ouch.  I checked my own body language and, in horror, recoiled at my own petulance, immediately taking a deep breath and shifting my weight to the other foot.  Another child, a boy around 10 years old, approached with several desired items and the lady softly told him no. His shoulders slumped as he trudged away.  Then I started to really see what was before me:  a mom, a tired one at that, just trying to pick something that might make these two happy while still providing nourishment.  I saw a woman who rarely was appreciated, thanked, or possibly even acknowledged. I scolded myself for my impatience and, when she turned to me and said “sorry for taking so long,” I replied, “its ok. I understand.”  She gave me a shy smile, turned back to her cart, grabbed the deli meat, and headed for the wine aisle.

I picked up more than a few groceries on Sunday; I picked myself up a little empathy in Aisle #3.

How about you? Ever had a life lesson in an unexpected place?

Categories: Beauty, Food, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Life, Life Lessons, Opinion, Personal, Random observations, Relationships, Self Discovery, Thoughts, Women | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Empathy in Aisle 3

  1. ter

    Loved it MJ. It is interesting when you find yourself in a mood, or a rush or in a impatient hurry, what slowing down and really looking at the situation can do for you. Thanks for the reminder. Nicely done!!! (As always).

  2. Thank you for the reminder that we never know what the real story is for someone else. Thank you for the smile.

    • I know, it reminded me of Plato’s, “be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Thanks for stopping in Lissa. MJ

  3. cooper

    i had a grocery store life lesson yesterday. 5 pm on a weekday. ramping up to the busiest time of day during the week. out of 15 registers, one is open, four are self-checkout. the one staffed by (semi-)humans showcased a teenage goth facebook denizen behind the register whining to the teenage goth facebook denizen bagging groceries. they were too busy bitching to pay any attention to the customers…you know..the people SPENDING the money??? No wonder the line at four self-checkouts were a mile long.

    Lesson here? Shop at the more expensive posh stores (Whole Foods, etc)…at least they give a rat’s ass about their customers.

    • Cooper, I know what you mean. I have had that experience in a retail store when the checkout gal was too busy whining on the phone to her boyfriend to check out my purchase and when she finally had to do it, I was blessed with an eyeroll and a heavy sigh. I know not all are like that for we have a 17 yr old who is pretty polite however it does make me wonder about where we’re headed. yikes. Thanks for stopping in! MJ

  4. Every once in a while it occurs to me that there is something other than selfishness behind the actions of others. Not often enough. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Hey TerriTerri .. you’re welcome. And before you all think I’ve gone all soft & mushy on you, just yesterday I had an experience with a snarkasaurus cashier who really couldn’t be bothered to help me or anyone else. Sigh. All ranges of the spectrum we are. I guess this is what keeps it interesting! 🙂 Cheers, MJ

  5. Good reminder. We just never know what is going on in that other person’s life.

  6. Yes, I frequently have that sensation…I’m so busy and caught up in my world that I sometimes don’t see what is in front of me…until I do. Fortunately, the thoughts inside our heads don’t show in cartoon bubbles! Many times I’ve been able to find some graciousness to mask my internal frustration, just like you describe. I always regard those little episodes as a reminder that you never know what is going on in someone else’s life…don’t make assumptions!

    • Hi Sheila, I understand and thank GOODNESS there are no cartoon bubbles or my ship would be sank! I know there are times that my face betrays me … eyebrow raised, eyes wide open, mouth gaping … so I try to temper my own snarkiness and step back .. and even learn something. Thanks for your comment! 🙂 MJ

  7. Very nice reminder to take a deep breath and have a little empathy. I am very guilty of impatience, especially at the deli line (or in any line…don’t get me started on the post office). Good for you and thanks.

    • Thank you Caroline. I shamed myself into some empathy but I guess it’s good I found it regardless what had to transpire within first! Thanks for stopping in 🙂 MJ

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