I just cried leaving the grocery store. And not because of high prices on imported food, or because I’m having a bad week & they didn’t have my favourite chocolate bar... But this instance was for something unrelated to time or place.
I listened to the cashier happily conversing with a customer ahead of me. I caught only the tail end of it and smiled to her as I placed my things on the belt. She returned the gesture but looked past me at someone approaching her till. A man spoke to another person in a different line behind me, but I felt it rude to look over my shoulder.
I joked to my cashier that I didn’t need a bag for my arm-full of goods because I left mine in the car, and was trying to teach myself a lesson... she laughed, but kept her gaze down.
And I know customer service is a trying position to be in. I know that there are days where you simply don’t want to engage. So I try to keep conversation light, and to make jokes at my own expense to bring a smile to their face.
The man who spoke earlier had made his way to our line as her and I chatted. I went to place the plastic separator between our things, but glancing over towards him I noticed he only had a single item: A loosely tied bag of bulk jube jubes.
I smiled to myself. Anyone who likes candy is a friend of mine.
I make effort to follow his weathered hands up to his face, noticing his slender size. As my items are scanned I can’t help but look back to him again. He engages with no one as he struggles in his pocket to count out loose change. He wears small leather boots and black denim pants, a tired black coat covered in dirt to match the rest of his appearance.
The cashier pulls his jube jubes through under my order and he calls to her that they are his. He makes a comment and jokes that he has no teeth but still loves candy. She says nothing. No smile to reflect his. He quickly looks away embarrassed... I barge in to comment that I won’t steal his candies.
He looks up at me with a smile, and reveals the most amazing blue eyes I’ve ever seen. His tired and grey face creates a sharp contrast to the crystals behind his eyelashes.
I pay with my debit card as he fumbled with his change again. As I stack my things in my arms, the cashier tries to ring the candies through on a different customers tab behind him... Like he wasn’t even there.
He calls out again and I look to him to say “oh she’s just joking with you now!” Though I know she wasn’t. I catch a glimpse of his grateful eyes once more as I prepare to leave.
“$1.90” she says.
I got in my car and teared up at how disconnected and careless we can be. Ashamed at how a 2 minute exchange with another human being could be treated as anything less than worthwhile... There is no stranger in this life that deserves to be disregarded or undervalued.
So, to the man in the store today: You matter.