After boot camp this morning, I went to Gelson’s to grab a coffee, all whirling energy and far-flung focus on everything I have to get done. Ethan is on the east coast, which means taking the trash out, making lunches, and soccer practice shuttle doesn’t get done automatically (single mothers, I salute you) and time feels extra-precious.
Anyway, Gelson’s was calm, two registers open. I got in line behind a woman with a handful of things in the process of checking out. She was white haired…head bent over the high counter…intent. OMG, she is writing a check! I realized this too late. I was now blocked in by two other shoppers who looked as impatient as I felt. Get with the program, lady! I wanted to say, as I watched her slowly (remember the sloth scene is Zootopia?) fill out the amount. Time dripped. I squirmed. But then–I don’t know why–a thought: Back the hell off. I took a physical step away from her so that I was no longer breathing down her neck and picked up Soap Opera Digest to check out what General Hospital has been doing in the thirty years since I last saw it. The woman finished writing the check–but wait!–she then took time to fill out her bank book. I studied the headline “Can Anna set a sexy trap?”
The woman finally finished and turned to stash her checkbook in a pink purse. And that’s when I saw that she has only one arm. Amputated below the elbow. She smiled at me–beautiful teeth.
“Thank you, honey,” she says, “for being so patient.” Was I? Patient? I hope maybe.
“No worries!” I responded. “I love that you wrote a check. You don’t see that too much anymore.”
She stepped closer and put a soft, blue-veined hand on my arm, the connection of one human being to another that doesn’t happen all that often. “I’m eighty-two years old. I live alone. And frankly, technology scares the shit out of me!” Her life flashed into my imagination: a small apartment, hopefully full of sunlight and not too much pain, a cat curled on her bed.
“Well, don’t you let anyone hurry you!” I said, knowing that with my initial irritation at a three-minute wait, I had almost hurried her.
Who, I wondered, takes time to really see this woman as she goes slowly about her day? To appreciate the gems of wisdom picked up along eighty-two years and her fabulous smile. I knew I’d remember this three-minute lesson on kindness for a long time. “You have a wonderful day now, dear,” she said as she picked up her small bag and headed for the exit.
I was out of the store and driving away in my car while she was still walking across the parking lot. Slowly. At her own pace. Which the world we live in has little patience for.