Tonight was “shop for Thanksgiving” night. Sunday nights are usually pretty good at my favorite grocery store for getting in and out. People are either at home watching Football or they are getting ready for work on Monday. The same held true on this Sunday before Thanksgiving, though the store was hopping a tad more than usual.
As I strolled through the store with my handy-dandy shopping list, I tried to pay more attention to what was happening around me. I also tried to pay more attention to how I behaved and interacted while shopping. I was pleased to note that I say “excuse me,” “thank you,” and “please” without conscious thought. They come naturally. This is good. My mommy taught me well – and her lessons stuck.
More than this, though, I really tried to focus on, not only my behaviors, but the responses that others had to my interactions with them. In doing so, I ended up making eye contact with a lot more people. I liked it!
While in the baking aisle, I made eye contact with and smiled at a Black woman who was looking around. When I did, she asked me if I knew where the vanilla flavoring was. I did. I pointed her in the right direction and she smiled and thanked me. A few minutes later, I caught up with her and asked if she found it. She had. We started up a short conversation about what she was using it for (sweet potato casserole) and ways she could sweeten it without using sugar. I gave her some of my grandmother’s tricks. She smiled again and thanked me.
Later when I was going for my turkey, there was a young Hispanic couple looking in the bins ahead of me. I just pulled my cart to the side and waited for them to finish. The woman looked at me and I smiled at her. HER: “I’m sorry. We’re not used to there being so many good turkeys to choose from – they’re usually picked over by now.” ME: “No worries. Take your time. The turkey is important – you shouldn’t rush it.” HER: “Thank you! We’ve never tried this brand before, but they look nice and, with the coupon, it’s a great price.” ME: “Oh! Well, if it helps, we’ve bought this brand for years. My grandmother and my mother swore by it. We’ve always skipped right past the Butterballs. You’ll end up with a very tasty turkey.” HER: “Really? Wow! Well, that makes me feel much more confident. Thank you so much!” Throughout the exchange, her husband and son were hanging round, poking at turkeys. I stepped in and chose my 21-pound turkey (though I wanted a bigger one). After a few more minutes of looking around in that area, I moved on to the next item on my list. I wished the family a Happy Thanksgiving. The woman wished me the same. Her husband smiled this massive smile at me and said, “Hey! Thanks! You too!”
In the refrigerated section, there were some folks looking for a particular type of eggs. They kept saying to each other, “Keep looking!” So, I asked, “Do you need another pair of eyes? I’m happy to help.” They told me what they were looking for – this was the first time shopping in this particular store. I let them know that, unfortunately, the eggs they were looking for weren’t stocked at this store. But I helped them find an alternative. As I was picking out mine, I overheard one of the women asking about the restroom. “Did y’all see it? Is it here in the back of the store or the front?” They waffled a bit. So, I grabbed my eggs, and poked in: “Sorry to interrupt. Couldn’t help overhearing. The restrooms are in the front of the store to the right of the Customer Service counter.” To me: “Oh, Thank you!” To one of the people in her group: “Hold my purse!” And then she was gone.
While in the check-out line, I found myself behind a woman of Middle-Eastern descent. She and her companion (either a daughter or younger sister – hard to tell) were chatting and unloading their cart. I noticed that the woman had a safety pin on her coat. I waited until she had a break in her unloading and chatting and got her attention: “Excuse me, ma’am?” She looks at me and I point to my safety pin. ME: “Keep fighting the good fight.” HER: (smiles) “You know it!” While waiting for the people in front of her – a young black couple – she started smiling and waving at their adorable baby. (Seriously, this kid was precious – knit cap with a ball on the top; pinchable cheeks; big, shiny eyes.)
Meanwhile, I’m finishing up piling my groceries onto the belt. I’m doing my best to use the space wisely so that there is room for the people behind me to start unloading. As I’m arranging and rearranging – and getting the divider bar to put behind my items – I guess I got the attention of the older black couple behind me. WOMAN: “Oh, sweetie! You’re fine. Don’t you fuss. It will move here shortly and our things will go right on up there.” ME: “You’re kind. I just want to make sure that we all have a chance to be efficient and move along.” MAN: “That’s not an easy thing to do with holiday grocery shopping, but it’s nice of you to think that way.” While the woman in front of me was checking out, I struck up a conversation with the couple about holiday cooking and being with family. It was pleasant.
I finally got checked out. My order came to $90, but the cashier hadn’t rung up the turkey yet. You see, I had a coupon for the turkey – spend $100, and the turkey is free. I didn’t need anything else, and it didn’t make sense to make everyone in line behind me wait while I went to find something. Plus, as I mentioned to the cashier, the coupon states that if I spend between $25 and $99.99, I get the turkey for 48 cents a pound. So, I could pay around $10 for the turkey, or I could get $10 worth of groceries and get the turkey free – 6 of one, half-dozen of the other. Either way, I’m paying around $10. The AWESOME thing is that I could hear the couple behind me taking amongst themselves: “Why don’t we have her buy some of this soda, we’ll give her the cash, and then she can get the free turkey?” It made my heart flutter. The cashier rang me up and I paid for my purchases. As I was packing up my groceries, the couple behind me finished up and said, “Well, young lady, you have a wonderful holiday!”
THIS is my America!