Saturday, June 18, 2011

Service in the Check-out Line

We are moving, just half a mile away but it entails every bit as much work as if we were relocating to Alaska. Gather boxes from every place I can think of between work and home, agree to disagree with my husband about furniture placement with what stays and what goes, try to get the kids to understand this move is for real and if they don't pack it doesn't go. In the middle of it all, I'm starting a new summer school job, Bob's son Cameron graduated from high school and looking for something to do, three teenagers are either in camp or leaving for camp this week. Oh, and it's Father's Day tomorrow.

I made a quick escape this afternoon to first get some gifts at Nordstrom Rack, and then some groceries for Father's Day breakfast-in-bed, and evening barbecue. The stereo speakers were blaring at The Rack and I tried to stay focused. The check-out line was deep and to be expected for a pre-holiday when all the women seemed to be picking out even more from the ladie's department than the men's. One teenager called her mom from her cell phone, "Mom, I just don't care enough about these things to wait in this line--it's pretty frustrating." I think she decided to come back another day. Another woman kept inching into my space in the queue. I tried to give her a friendly look as a patient reminder of personal space; it worked I think but I don't know how friendly it really was.

As my turn approached at the front of the line, a delicate Asian woman dressed in a plum silk suit walked right past me and stood next to a cashier. I was sure she wanted to put something on hold, but at The Rack you have to wait in line for that, too--at least I always do. With the loud music pounding and the impending stress of this week's move on my mind, I nearly snapped something like, "Excuse me, but we all have to wait in line." But lately I've given way to pushy people, since we are all fighting a hard battle and sometimes we should let the other guy (or girl) get ahead. As the next cashier flagged me over to her booth I quietly walked past the impatient woman to see that it was my soon-to-be ex next-door neighbor! Boy, was I relieved that had kept my cool...

The next stop was Trader Joe's, and again the pre-Father's Day lines were discouraging. I often seem to choose the slowest line, but this store and Costco are really good about opening up extra check stands. When an additional checker came along and invited the next customer, it was finally my turn. But a woman in the next lane complained that it should be her turn. Ugh, I didn't really feel like being sweet about this one. The checker must have read my mood, and she changed the tone by making pleasant conversation with about my weekend, the move, the kids, and dinner tonight. A bagger about my age joined and made jokes about their "masters degrees" in bagging and checking efficiency. We all laughed and I was thankful for people who can turn my frustration with checkout lines into a light moment. Their act of service required so little effort, I'm sure they won't remember how they affected this pre-Father's Day shopping experience. As soon as I wheeled away, I heard the same friendly conversation with the next customer. Service is just part of their demeanor. This time, I picked the perfect line to brighten my day, and it was worth the wait.

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