My Hero Is a Cashier, My Hero is Covered in Ketchup
The woman in front of me easily had thirty years on me, she had pushed her cart in front of mine in a flurry of curses and jolted motions. She threw her items onto the belt dramatically, roughly, one at a time. A pink toddler sized hat, an aerosol can of something, batteries, a couple of greeting cards, ribbon, and a measuring cup. As soon as her fit had the full attention of the clerk, who I had at least five years on, she started yelling. “You people are awful! Every time I come here you mess me up with these stupid horrible awful lines. Why can’t you just have one line and then call each person in order like at the fabric store! It’s a mess! I hate it! Never again! I always say it and then I come back and then you mess me up and I hate you!”
I got angry inside, the kind of angry I get when someone in a service industry is being shat on. The kind of angry I get when people feel like their opinions are important enough to share with innocent people. The kind of angry I get when jerks think that something like the line at a department store is a real fucking problem. I barely held onto my tongue. I wanted to defend this young cashier from the wrath of someone who in a different world would be in a position to teach me how to act right.
But the cashier listened thoughtfully with an occasional, “I am sorry you’re having a hard night.” She wrung up the lady, bagged up her goods and said genuinely, “I really hope your night gets better.” It was 8 pm on a Sunday , this person had been behind a register seeing people like this all day.
When she smiled at me I saw that not one bit of that customers rage had stuck to her. She was herself, unshaken. I said, “You handled that so much better than I would have.”
She said, “Sometimes people just need to be listened to.” I left with my scarf and a dream of who I might become.
I was leaning on a brick wall smoking a cigarette. My friends were getting a jump outside of the burger stand. I felt something at my left shoulder and when I turned a man with very big eyes and a stocking cap was walking toward me. Something was off, I couldn’t peg it but I put up a great old That-Is-Close-Enough field. He stopped and sat on a ledge some ten feet from me.
I did not want to deal with him, or speak to him or acknowledge he existed. I had just waitressed 8 hours, I was sad in love, I was about to squeeze into a car with two little kids who really like my attention, I was in no mood to find out what he was so hungry for. I had real problems.
A very old woman shuffled out of the burger place. She had condiments all down her front and a smile on her face. Her eyes met mine and she said, “Oh hallo! I always make such a mess don’t I.” She looked down and made a futile attempt to brush herself off, she looked back into my eyes, “but I guess it is worth it isn’t it?” Smile.
She walked by me and when she was about to pass the man on the ledge she paused and put her face close to his, “Are you okay?” He seemed shocked that anyone could see him. “Yeah I am fine,” he said. “Well okay then,” she didn’t move on right away. When she did he got up and followed behind her chatting.
She was not worried but I was. I watched them. He shut the door for her. She drove away slower than she walked and he left a little taller, like he was not invisible.
I was surprised to find a smile on my face and a vision again of whom I could be if I could just get out of my way.