Off the grid for the past few days, mainly because I've been too stunned by the incredible heat and humidity to do much more than whimper. Up early to walk the dogs, then I try to accomplish shopping and appointments and chores before my brain explodes inside my skull like an egg in the microwave. It's way too hot, too early in the Summer, which doesn't bode well for what the weather will be like in August.
Ah well. Other than move back to Alaska--or the Antarctic--it's just a matter of sweating it out. Eventually, that sharp tang of Fall will be in the air and all this nuclear torment will be over.
Yesterday, whilst grocery shopping, I had a very...odd, poignant thing happen. I'm still thinking about it today; the lump in my throat is just as hard to swallow now as it was yesterday in the checkout line...
I've unloaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt thingy and am just pushing my empty cart forward toward the clerk when this woman and her son get in line behind me. The woman is tiny, barely reaching my shoulder and looks tired, careworn. Poor. The boy is about ten or so, cute, with blond hair, blue eyes and a big smile. He's carrying a box of tennis shoes like it's the Crown Jewels and he's about to present them to the Queen.
The box is the only thing they have, so I step to the side and tell them to go ahead of me. They both stare at me like I've said something in Swahili, then the woman shakes her head and says, "Oh no, we couldn't." I laugh and say, "Oh yes, you can," and move my cart out of the way and wave my hand for them to pass me. The clerk looks at me like I might be slightly deranged.
Here comes the first throat lump. Why are these people so shocked at something so small and--let's face it--meaningless? So I have to wait two extra minutes in line. So what? It made more sense to let them go first since they had one thing and I had many.
They sidle past me, almost as if it's a trick and I'm going to rescind my offer. The boy hands his shoes to the clerk as the woman quietly thanks me--as if I've done something wonderful. I smile, then pretend to be digging in my purse for my wallet because I can't talk around the frigging lump that is, for some damn reason, also making my eyes burn.
What kind of world do we live in that letting a person go ahead of you in line it such a big deal?
The store is in the throes of a big, whopping 4th of July sale. Coupons, 50%-off Summer stuff, yada yada. So when the clerk tells the woman the shoes are $9.95, I say, "Wow! That's a really good deal!" I can see the tag on the box that says $50.
She smiles as she hands the clerk her $10 and coupons, then murmurs, almost under her breath, "He's wanted these shoes for a long time." The boy is now holding the box like it's the best Christmas present he's ever gotten in his life, a smile stretching practically from ear to ear.
I can't help smiling, too. "Really cool," I say. The mom thanks me again for letting them jump the line and as they walk away, I happened to glance down and notice the shoes the boy was wearing. Old, tattered, broken laces, a rip in the toe on the left foot. No wonder he's so happy. It is Christmas, to him.
Second throat lump. I can't respond to the clerk when he says, "That was really nice, what you did." I wobble-smile and once again resort to purse digging while I try to get a grip. And honestly, I was struggling with my feelings. Holy crap, all I did was let these folks ahead of me in the frigging checkout line and you'd think I'd given them the winning lottery ticket! I'm borderline embarrassed for getting praise and doing so little.
So, again, peeps, I have to ask: What kind of world do we live in? Is it so out of our ken that a little act of kindness is regarded like something inexplicable? I'm sure there was a time when it was common to let people go ahead in line if they only had one or two items; I remember it, surely.
Our world is so out of kilter that sometimes I just can't help it, my heart gets sore. I cried on the way home. Not sobs, or wailing...just a few tears and a good nose blowing.
The boy has a new pair of shoes, and I'll never forget his smile...