I have a smile pasted on my face, but I wonder if she can hear me gritting my teeth. I have a rant about efficient use of time brewing and bubbling around in my head. We’ve been inching along in this line for eight minutes, and you haven’t thought to get your wallet out of your cavernous purse until the cashier gives you the total? Do you normally shop at retail establishments that don’t require some form of payment after the items have been scanned and bagged? Is it a complete surprise that you’ll need to get your wallet out and hand over some form of payment? Oh my gosh! Who even writes checks anymore? GAH! Seriously, woman! What? Of course, you need to borrow a pen. OF COURSE! I’m making an effort not to roll my eyes. Ugh, I think I just did.
I have exactly 20 minutes allotted to shop for salt for the water softening system, dog food, light bulbs, silly putty, toilet bowl cleaner, bananas, butter, canned whole tomatoes, and bagels. I stand there smiling, though I’m gritting my teeth so hard that my neck muscles are probably bulging. I’m sure I look like a zombie. It’s getting dark outside, and I need to pick my kid up. Please, lady, stop making small talk.
I hurry to my car, check the time, and start the engine.
It occurs to me then that I’m a better parent than person.
A few weeks ago, Madeline and I were in a hurry in this same store. She was getting visibly frustrated with an older woman ahead of us in the line. She’d shift her weight and sigh, then roll her eyes in exasperation. From what I could tell, this woman had just received her debit card and was using it in the chip machine for the first time. It took her SEVERAL tries, and the cashier was doing the smile but grit her teeth at the same time thing. Yes, the clock was ticking, and at the rate we were going, Madeline would be late for practice. I understood the tension—hurry, hurry, hurry—but I also felt calm. As the mom, I have to set the tone. I put my arm on Madeline’s and with a genuine smile mouthed, it’s going to be okay. She opened her eyes really wide, allowing her eyeballs to roll back into place, then smiled a sweet smile back at me.
On our way to the car, I told Madeline that, one day, that could be me: alone in a store with a newfangled card and no idea how to use it. I might not move (physically or mentally) as fast as I do today, and the pressure of impatient people staring holes through me won’t make me somehow more efficient, so we should be patient and show grace. She made some joke about my age and how I don’t move very fast right now, and how “someday” wasn’t too far off. We laughed and made it to practice with a few minutes to spare.
It’s so easy to see the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye roll, isn’t it?