I did something today for the first time ever that I am not very proud of. I continued to talk on my phone while checking out at the grocery store. It’s one of those things I have always made a concerted effort NEVER to do. It looks so disrespectful. As though the cashier means nothing to you. The fact that she/he is a human being that you are currently interacting with means nothing. At the most basic level, you are purposely refusing to acknowledge this person’s existence. If nothing else, it’s just fucking mean.
I know I can’t be the only person in the world who believes there may come a time when your interaction with another person may be the one moment that keeps them from ending their own life. Or perhaps yours is the only smile she’s been given since she discovered her husband has been unfaithful. Or maybe you have shown the first genuine interest in how he feels since his mother died.
Maybe it is an elderly woman who is handling your crap, who recently decided that she must go back to work after 20 years of comfortable retirement. Or it could be a young man who is desperately trying to work his way through college and has been awake for the past 36 hours. It could be any of these people ringing up your inconsequentials.
They already feel like a robot on an assembly line after repeating the same movements over and over for the past 6 hours. His feet hurt and he is tired of having to clear paper jams in the receipt machine. She has a headache and an allergic rash creeping up on her arms from the bleach she just spent 20 minutes inhaling while cleaning the bathroom.
Or it could be none of these things. Just another human. Like you or like me. Who occupies space on this planet. Like you and me. Who does not deserve to be treated as though she does not exist. Or maybe she does? But in those precious few minutes you spend with her, who are you to judge?
Maybe it’s one of those things that will eternally mark me as a southerner. And if so, I am a proud one. I smile and say ‘hello.’ In public. To strangers. All the time.
So. To the cashier at Wal-Mart on Ramsey Street in Fayetteville, North Carolina who rang up my 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, bag of tortilla chips, and 2 packages of double A batteries, and was totally ignored by me as I continued to talk to my momma on my phone (who just had surgery, so I swear I wasn’t being intentionally rude!)….
I am sorry. And, at the very least, I wish I had told you that before I walked away.