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Groceries and Gratitude?

Carts full of food and shoppers full of tension.

There’s an air of irony when you hit the grocery store just days before Thanksgiving. Each aisle is packed with throngs of busy men and women milling about with jam-packed carts full of Thanksgiving fixings. There is little gratitude and a whole lot of pressure.

As these focused shoppers roam the aisles with determination, they hang onto dilapidated shopping lists – each with their own uniqueness – those lists hand-printed on a piece of pink paper torn from a magnetic refrigerator notebook, others created by the organized shopper in a perfectly bulleted Word document and many who opted to rip a page from the November edition of Family Circle or Cooking Light, following this year’s best turkey methods and dinner sides.

Yesterday, the mood at a bustling local grocery store just days before our country’s largest annual feast, was that of tension -- each person so focused on the contents of their cart that they couldn’t slow down to be polite -- they simply had no extra time to spare to let another turn first down the aisle. There were few smiles exchanged, but many grunts and sighs if someone left a cart near the middle of the aisle as they went back for an additional sweet potato. And there was no patience for the checker whose brittle fingers had handled quadruple the amount of groceries on his shift this day than on the 10 previous Mondays.

After finishing my shop for a side dish and a couple of homemade desserts, I neared checkout. I stood there patiently, feeling the need to change the somber mood that every frenetic zombie shopper seemed to exhibit. I was situated behind four women with packed carts. They seemed to simultaneously sigh, shifting from one foot to another irritatingly darting their eyes from the hard-working checker quickly back to their shopping lists whenever the checker would look up. I chose to smile, exert extreme patience and lighten the mood by waiting in line as though I thought I’d be there for hours. (I had no children with me, so my patience was overflowing.)

Not a minute went by before a woman behind me, whose job I believe it was to supply the bar at her family’s Thanksgiving, yelled to the checker – “You need to open up another check stand.” No please, no “could ya…” It was simply a demand with an aggravated tone and a curled lip.

Another lady chimed in and one more; all of them bonding over annoyance, sharing eye rolls and choice words for how maddened they were to be waiting in line, never once looking up to see that all checkout lines were just as congested. Their collective impatience and downright rudeness stung my soul. I contemplated saying something but thought I would start a riot that would send French’s fried onions, cans of cranberry and Stove Top boxes flying.

But I thought to myself, isn’t this the time of year where we give thanks? Isn’t this the time of year where we show appreciation for all that we have – even if it’s the time, money and freedom to be shopping in this store on this day, in this crowded checkout stand?

I decided to preview my list, which I kept in my iPhone Notes section, but instead stumbled on a note I had written 98 days ago on Aug. 13. I immediately recalled that we were driving home from a family vacation around that time.

The note was simple, holding three quotes, I had written with the dates on them: It read:

  • “Mommy, if I were a Popsicle stick joke creator, how would I be able to come up with jokes that nobody knows?” Ashley, Aug. 2, 2012
  • “Hey Mom, are umbrella hats real?” Connor, Aug. 5, 2012
  • “Momma, I don’t wanna go horseback riding, I want to go cow-back riding.” Carson Aug. 11, 2012

I hadn’t remembered actually taking the time to create a quote page for the funny things my kids had said during our vacation at our summer hideout in Oregon. But I was so glad I had stumbled upon it at that exact instant.

As the shoppers were rudely voicing their frustrations, I began to laugh out loud. Loudly, and for anyone who knows me – with crocodile tears in my eyes. I wasn’t laughing at them, but they didn’t know it. My laugh grew from the giggles exerted by the funny phrases my kids voiced in the dog days of summer and then flowed into the irony of gratitude I had witnessed during my 40-minute trip to the grocery store.

This is the time to be truly thankful for the things we have. For the quotes our kids mention to us when we are too busy to appreciate how funny they are. This time of year should stand for recognizing our blessings and that they aren’t always here forever. It’s a time for us all to take a step back and show some appreciation for all that we have worked for, earned and been given. Take a minute to breathe and feel fortunate for standing in a busy checkout line with an overflowing cart of food.

The laughter served as just the medicine needed to cure those rude women of their misbehavior. They were silent thereafter. Perhaps the crazy woman laughing with only her iPhone made them think they were the sane ones.

But when the aforementioned checker greeted me with a smile and a sincere “Happy Thanksgiving” I knew that at that moment he was thankful for something and so was I.

A November 21, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Why yes, they should be able to open up another checkstand just as soon as they can find more people willing to work weekends and holidays standing all day and dealing with rude people like this for hours on end while getting paid a wage so low that it's not even enough to be a "living wage" in Marin County.
linda v. November 21, 2012 at 11:45 PM
I have been noticing that people are reluctant to wish others a "Happy Thanksgiving" and instead say "Happy Holiday". Isn't giving thanks something we can all partake in? At least they don't say the dreaded "Happy Turkey-day"....

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