Here it is, the Monday before Thanksgiving, and this is the day that I decided to go to the store.
I contend that I am a smart person. But I’ve never said, in earnest, that I’m brilliant. Days like today prove that.
In general, it wasn’t too bad. I only needed to go to two stores: the grocery store and Costco. Usually I can get in and out of the grocery store in about 30 minutes or so. I know the store and I know what I’m going to get. I also try to go at “off” hours – early in the morning or a couple of hours before the store closes. But even when I go during the heart of the day, 30 minutes is a good average for me.
Today was a different story all together. I was in the grocery store for at least twice as long as I usually am. What I said above still applied. I knew what I needed and I knew where everything was. It did take me a few extra minutes to go through the turkeys to find the one I wanted. But, overall, it was pretty simple.
Where did my time get sucked up? Standing in line at the checkout.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, the Food 4 Less in Alsip, IL had only two checkout lanes open. TWO checkout lanes. ON THE MONDAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING! Seriously? Who was the Mensa candidate of a manager who worked out that schedule? I mean, c’mon! This is not a normal grocery shopping time for people. This is MEGA shopping time. Especially when there are sales like Food 4 Less was having. (I got a 21 pound turkey for $7.77. I mean…) I will give credit where credit is due…the cashiers were working their asses off and flying through people pretty well. But they each had about 15 people with FULL carts in their lines. We were blocking traffic in the main checkout area and snaking down a couple of the food aisles, making things more difficult.
Fortunately, the people in line with me were very nice and we all just sort of looked at each other with the universal expression for “Well, it is what it is.” Everyone did their best to keep our carts out of the main flow of traffic. We all chatted a bit. Sure, there was a little griping about the fact that they weren’t opening another checkout. But, for the most part, we talked about the holiday and who was cooking what. A couple of people swapped tips and tricks for brining the turkey. It was actually pleasant. Eventually someone was pulled off the floor and another register opened. But when all was said and done, I’d spent most of my time in that store standing in line.
After that, I headed to Costco.
Now, the grocery store is about 2 miles from my house. The Costco is another 10 miles. So, I had some time between stores to chill out. I take the less traveled roads to get to Costco. Driving on LaGrange or 159th street – regardless of the time of day – is a royal pain in the ass. I avoid those main thoroughfares. So that 10 mile trip takes me about 25 minutes. I don’t mind. I get to drive through a forest preserve and the neighborhoods out that way are pretty.
My trip to Costco was actually pretty good. Yes, the parking lot was crazy as shit. I truly wonder where people learned to drive sometimes. But, I lucked out and got a decent parking space in the area I usually like to park. So that was good. I got my cart, showed my membership card, and off I went!! I knew exactly what I was getting. I do my best to be as efficient as possible. The batteries I needed were on an end cap about halfway to the food area. Check. The cheesecake and pumpkin pie were right ahead toward the back of the store. Check. While I was there, I grabbed some pretzel buns. Yum! Moving on! Down the meat aisle I checked prices. They were reasonable, but I didn’t need 10 pounds of ground beef. Halfway down the meat aisle – whole roasted chicken! Dinner for the next 3 nights at just $4.99. Check! Looked at the books – nothing I wanted. So, off to check out.
Costco had EVERY SINGLE LINE OPEN. That’s how you do it! Sure, the lines were a little long, but not that bad. There were only 2 people ahead of me. BUT, the cashiers were switching out just before it was my turn. Okay, no biggie. They’re quick. So, again, struck up a conversation with the woman behind me in line. Chatted about the holiday and preparation hassles. Compared pie choices for Thursday. It was nice. Got through the line quickly and made my way back to the car.
Done and done!
Now, friends, here is the real key to the experience: attitude.
Look, I made the choice to go shopping today. I could have gone last week, but I didn’t. I knew it would be busy. Of course I expected Food 4 Less to have more lanes open, but they didn’t. I couldn’t control that.
I could have gotten annoyed by all of the people in the store taking up space in the aisles. Instead, I just waited for them to do what they had to do. They weren’t trying to make things difficult or hold me up. They were just shopping. Like I was. Most of the time they’d turn their heads and see me, then move with a sincere “Oh, I’m sorry!” I just told them to do what they needed to do, I could wait. Or people would move a bit out of the way so I could pass. I just remembered to say “excuse me” and “thank you” and “Happy Thanksgiving” to everyone. I made eye contact. I smiled.
Grocery carts were being heavily used – at both stores – and it was a hike to get to them before entering the store. I just made a point to see who was behind me and started handing out carts to people so they wouldn’t have to trudge all the way to the end. When I got my own, I pushed about 5 or 6 to the front, nearer the door before taking one for myself. When I was leaving, I noticed who was around me, loading groceries into their car. I went to the cars of a couple of older women who were about to take their carts to the holding area. I took them from the women and said, “I’ve got that, ma’am!” The drudgery of shopping left their faces and smiles appeared. “Why, thank you, dear!” “No worries, ma’am. Have a great holiday.” At Costco, it took me all of an additional 30 seconds to grab some of the wayward carts that people had left haphazardly near the holding area. I straightened them out, hooked them together, and wheeled them over to the young woman collecting them. “Oh, wow! Thanks so much!” “Not a problem. You stay sane and have a nice shift. Happy Thanksgiving.”
Did I do anything special today? Some would say I did. But, you know what? Other than saying “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Have a great holiday,” I didn’t do anything differently than I would on any other day.
I made eye contact with people. I smiled at them. I said “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me.” I paid attention to the people around me. I took a few extra second to make that contact. To help where I could. My mother taught me to do that. She raised me right.
Here’s the really amazing thing, though. It’s not what I did. It’s how it made other people feel. There were more smiles. There were friendly conversations. Perhaps some of those folks got into their cars feeling a little better about their shopping experience. On the Monday before Thanksgiving. Maybe they’ll remember the smiles and the friendly, helpful actions rather than the long lines.
It’s not hard to do, my friends. It doesn’t cost anything. And, most of all, by making others feel better, you feel better, too.
Give it a try. I dare ya.