Yesterday I was in the checkout line at Publix behind an elderly lady in a scooter. An employee was helping her out by placing her groceries on the counter, but the process was very slow, and made even slower by the chatty exchanges between the lady and the checker or the helping employee. She looked behind her where I stood patiently, hoping she could see me smiling behind my mask so that she wouldn’t be embarrassed by the time it was taking to check her out. I looked behind me as well, and the line was growing. When she took out a checkbook to pay for her groceries instead of a card, I thought, Oh no, and indeed it took forever to write the check and make several laughing, friendly exchanges with the checker, while the helping employee stood by waiting to help her take the groceries out and put them in her car. I continued to smile as the woman behind me said, “They should open another register.” I whispered, “it took her 20 minutes to write that check.” The line was quite deep, but no one was complaining. The lady turned and smiled at me again before she pressed the forward button on her scooter and followed the employee to the door.
The checker quickly scanned my ten or fifteen items and handed me a receipt just as I was about to put my debit card in the machine. “She paid for your groceries,” the checker said. I love where I live. I was so glad no one behind me was one of the emigrants from those states where people are fleeing the consequences of their own misjudgment. There would have been anger instead of kindness and good manners. There might have been a demand that the store recognize their “right” to a speedy checkout. And the lady might have been mugged or even killed in the parking lot on the way to her car. The villain might have been scolded and released rather than sent to prison because people who believe that charity is the business of government instead of the heart do things that way. And where I live would become just like where they left.