Patience, Caterpillar

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  It’s not caterpillar; it’s grasshopper.  But as I started typing, I was thinking to myself, “What’s that phrase that starts with ‘Patience’ then says the name of some kind of insect or something? Fly? No. Butterfly? No. Caterpillar. Yeah. That’s it.”  Then I began to type ‘Caterpillar’ and realized I was way off.  Then Grasshopper came to mind.  But I decided, “You know what. I thought it was ‘Caterpillar’ for a second, so let’s go with it. It’s funny when I’m wrong and embarrass myself.”  (You’re welcome.)

So now you know what this blog post is about.  Patience.

And kindness.

But mostly patience.

My husband and I took our kids to one of the nearby county fairs and had to stop at the local Chief Supermarket on the way home.  We only needed ONE thing.  ONE gallon of milk.  This should take me a minute and a half.  Our one-year old daughter was whining in the backseat because it was bedtime for her, and she gets milk before bed.  The geniuses at Chief (that is not sarcasm) have a little cooler of simply milk right at the check-out. (I LOVE that they care more about customer convenience than scheming me to get me to walk all the way to the back of the store past the chocolates and chips and Toaster Strudels- my weakness- and tons of other things I don’t need to buy.)  It was 9:30pm.  There were two lanes open.  (It’s a very small town, so two lanes at 9:30pm would typically be plenty.)  I agonize over which lane to choose, as always.  I, unknowingly, choose the slowest possible lane, as always.

There were two people in front of me:  a woman in her thirties with two items, and an elderly woman buying a good amount of produce.  The older woman stops the cashier and says, “Wait a minute. Those Bing Cherries were seven dollars and 96 cents?”  The cashier responded, not really sure why they were so much.  The cashier got some help from her coworker on the next checkout; she voided the transaction, weighed the cherries again, couldn’t find the code for cherries, had to go into some super-secret special options and manually enter the amount, etc. etc.  She moves on to scan the next item.  It takes her a minute.  “Do you remember how many ears of corn you have?”  The elderly woman takes a minute to respond.  “Six.”  She has some minor trouble ringing up her head of lettuce.  She’s almost done.  I think.  I watch the body language of those around me, while consciously keeping my own in check.  I’m very impressed by how kind and unaffected we all are.

I’m standing there thinking, “Maybe I should go to the next checkout.  I mean, I have a crying baby in the car.  No.  That would be rude and show that you are impatient.  You can wait.  It’s no big deal.  Maybe you should suggest to the lady in front of you that she can go to the next register.  No.  She’s a big girl.  She can decide for herself.  Don’t tell her what to do and draw attention to this poor old lady and poor cashier’s situation.  They’re almost done.”  In the meantime, one person had come into line behind me.  The cashier next to us gets completely done with her line, and debates stocking shelves, or ringing up someone else.  She asks if she can “Help someone over here.”  The lady BEHIND me who has been waiting the LEAST amount of time goes over to be rung up.  {That is one of my hugest pet peeves of all time, but that’s a blog post for another day.}  After that lady the second cashier must have decided that our line would be moving along soon, so she goes to work someplace else.  Some nonchalant joking begins when the older lady apologizes for questioning prices; we all (including the cashier) assure her that we understand and she absolutely should question something if it’s not right.  She says, “I love Bing Cherries, but not THAT much!”  The lady in line between us says, “That’s how I am about chocolate.”  The old lady laughs, “Oh, sweetie, chocolate is a whole different ball game.  I’ll pay almost any amount of money for good chocolate.”  They then go into a short discussion about DeBrand’s Fine Chocolate and what kind they like best, when it goes on sale, etc. etc.  I ask where DeBrand is located because I’ve never heard of it.  The old lady’s items are finally rung up and she hands the cashier a crisp one hundred-dollar bill for her $25 in groceries.  “I work too hard for my money to waste it on something unintended,” she says.  We all agree.  She slowly and diligently counts her change, carefully looks over her receipt, thanks the cashier, smiles at the rest of us in line, says goodnight and heads out the door.

I’d say we were waiting for about 8-10 minutes.  The woman in front of me rang up very quickly, as did I.  I had my exact change ready and handed it to the cashier.  I said with a big smile, “Thank you! I don’t need my receipt; I’ve had a crying baby in the car this whole time!”  I started walking out, then quickly turned around to elaborate, “I mean, she’s with her Dad!!!  She’s not alone!  Don’t worry!”  The man who was in line behind me jokes, “That’s good. Because I was just about to call the police!”

As I make my walk to the car, I see the two women who were in front of me in line standing at the trunk of one of their cars happily discussing (can you guess?) chocolate.  It warmed my heart.  Those women didn’t know each other from Adam (I don’t think).  The younger woman could have been upset with the older lady and hurried to her car and sped away, but she didn’t.  She reassured her with understanding and engaged in a meaningful conversation about something they had in common.  The cashier could have been flustered and rude, but she wasn’t.  Others in line, myself included, could have been huffing and puffing and rolling our eyes, but we didn’t.

This really made me think (especially since I am notorious for picking the slowest moving line possible in any store I go):  are we all really in that big of a hurry?  Yes, sometimes we have appointments or engagements; but if we are being honest with ourselves, most of the time this kind of setback in our schedule or our plans is really no big deal.  Instead of letting it ruin our day (or hour) and crabbing to everyone who will listen about how inconvenient and annoying it all is, why don’t we use it as an opportunity to stop and look around.  LOOK at the people around us and really SEE them for who they are.  Pay attention to their actions and interests and conversations.  Talk to them about their lives.  Show them love and understanding, just like we would want shown to us.

Patience, Caterpillar.