15 Items Or Less

Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and let things go.

We all face times in our lives when the easiest thing to do would be to lose your temper and take it out on someone else. It’s natural. But a little patience and a bit of human kindness are so much more respectable. The other day, on my way home from work, I stopped off at the supermarket to pick up a few things. As I was waiting in the ‘15 Items Or Less’ line the woman in front of me immediately became a problem.

She was waiting for the elderly gentleman in front of her to finish with his purchases. I had my nose buried in one of those gossip magazines when I noticed that she was counting the items the old man had put onto the conveyor belt with her index finger. After a heavy sigh she exclaimed, for everyone to hear, “Twenty! This is fifteen items or less!”

The Story Unfolds

The old man looked at her, rather sheepishly, and apologized under his breath. “That’s why this is the express line,” she said, looking around for support.

After the man’s extra five items were rung up, which took all of ten seconds, the woman, rolling her eyes, said, “Finally.” The old man slowly walked away and now it was the woman’s turn to check out. She dumped her purse onto the counter and it landed with a thud. This thing looked more like a feedbag than a purse and I leaned forward to see if I could catch a glance as to what was in this monstrosity.

As she fumbled through this overflowing bag of junk looking for her wallet I couldn’t help but wonder if she even remembered yelling at the old man for slowing down the line.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Finally she found her wallet and then whipped out her checkbook. A checkbook in the express line? That’s worse than extra items! I bit my lip, more out of the irony of this woman’s behavior than actual annoyance.

The people behind me in line began to get restless as the woman searched through that black hole of a pocket book for a pen. The clerk handed her one but she was determined to use her own. When she finally found it the clerk asked to see her license. She looked up at the ceiling and then went on yet another excavation through her purse. Finally the woman finished, looking around in frustration at everyone as she trudged off.

I paid for my items and was quickly on my way. What I had just witnessed was now receding into my memory while I thought about getting home. As I made my way out of the supermarket I saw the old man standing by the exit.

We both looked at each other as I drew closer to him and he smiled. “What was that all about?” I asked, with a laugh. The old man shook his head and replied, “What are you going to do? Maybe something happened to her today.” “Or maybe she’s just a jerk,” I said. The old man laughed and said, “I’m sure she’s a nice person. It doesn’t bother me.”

He then leaned forward and quietly added, “She’s the one who looked foolish.” I smiled and patted the man on the shoulder. “I like the way you handle yourself.” “I’ve had plenty of years of practice,” he said smiling.

As I drove home and thought about this little adventure it reminded me that I have no control over how other people act or what they do. In situations like this I’m reminded of a barking dog – they just don’t know any better. It’s the only explanation I can come up with, and having a bad day certainly does not justify yelling at someone in the checkout line at the supermarket.

It’s better, and healthier, to just wave off the petty annoyances we all encounter everyday and just smile and let it go. A positive attitude and some patience can go a long way. Perhaps that’s why I was so struck by the quiet dignity of the old man.

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