one glance

In this story my eyes betrayed my feelings to someone before I even knew what I was thinking.  It was only after seeing what was revealed in her eyes that I realized my thoughts.   I could frame the following exchange with some context – but since this context didn’t occur to me until after the experience, I’m going to tell the story as it happened.

Thursday afternoon I was in the local grocery store of the small community I teach in. I stood at the check-out behind a man with a single item, a bottle of vodka.  The cashier rang up the sale, took his cash and asked if he wanted a bag.  He picked up his bottle and headed for the door. “I’m guessing that’s a no; you got what you came in for,” she said and looked up at me as I came up to the register.

Our eyes locked for a moment.  I’m not sure what I thought about her exchange with the man at the time she said the words but something of how I felt deep inside must have been reflected in my eyes because her look became apologetic.

As I walked out my thoughts finally caught up to what must have appeared in my face: “What right does anyone have to judge a person for what they buy or how they take it out of the store?”

Only later did other factors occur to me.  Washington State recently passed a law allowing hard liquor to be sold in grocery stores.  Many people aren’t happy with this kind of access.  Some stores in our state are also eliminating bags so most people either bring their own or are becoming accustomed to carrying things out in their arms.

It was an exchange that happened in a mere seconds – the cashier’s eyes into mine – but it was memorable, and got me thinking.  How about you?  Have you had exchanges like that?

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9 responses to “one glance

  • Lynn

    It hit me in a much different way… I feel when people are asked a question…would you like a bag? The polite thing to do is at least give a nod. It sort of drives me crazy when people show little manners to one another..now I guess each of them could have been having a bad day..but a simple response when spoken to is just simple manners. Funny this just goes to show you how different we can see the same situation. Thanks for sharing!

  • elsie

    Your expression caused her to rethink her behavior. Sometimes we need a self-check on things we say and do. Hopefully that carried through to her and she will remember that as she addresses another customer with a snippy type comment.

  • Tara

    I have mixed feelings about the sale of alchohol in grocery stores, but I am not much fond of snippy sales clerks, either. Perhaps there was some history there? But you certainly made her aware of herself – sometimes we need that jolt.

  • Jaana

    As I read your question, I was reminded of the time (or few times) when I have been in a grocery store and the person in front of me buys something small, but then proceeds to write a check for $3 dollars!!!!! I have met the eyes of the clerk who signals her apologies. If I am not in a hurry, I am usually okay, but in a hurry, even I start to think, couldn’t you just carry a $5 bill in your pocket! I am thinking what should my response be next time????

  • Maureen Ingram

    Your eyes provided a mirror for the clerk, a gift for her! We’d have a much more serene world if we consistently tried to put ourselves in another’s shoes, as you instinctively did. Who knows what preoccupied this man? Thank you for sharing this insightful post.

  • Tammy

    Oh my. My friends tell me they can read a lot from my eyes and my expressions. I’m sure my face would have given my thoughts away as well.

  • Linda Baie (@LBaie)

    I usually side with the one being snipped at. I think everyone does what they can to be kind, & when someone isn’t, I am not shy about saying something like “maybe he was preoccupied” or “everyone doesn’t always hear what is s aid” to diffuse the situation. Who knows, maybe the clerk had had one too many customers who were tough? Thanks for sharing, Amelia. Noticing things seems to be today’s slicing theme!

  • pamelahodges

    I keep coming back to your story. Thinking about eyes and eyebrows and facial expressions. We can show so much by our face, how we feel, what we think. I hope my face reveals a kind heart, and that I will show grace.

  • fireflytrails

    One of the teachers I work with has this quote in her email signature: “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” It sounds like both the clerk and the customer had underlying concerns that day. Thanks for sharing your noticings.

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