A Five Dollar Smile

I stood in line last night behind four different women.  I think two of them were together, if not they either knew each other or the one just felt free to complain to the one behind her.

Facing each of the women was the cashier.   Her face was soft.  Kind.  But blank.  To me she seemed to just be trying to get through the night.  In her dark hair was a black and white bow, nothing big.  But it made me think of the effort she took to get ready for the day.  To face the different looks that would be looking back at her.

The first lady in line when I got there was all business.  Coupons.  Sales ads.  Making sure she got every penny’s worth for her very detailed shopping.   The cashier was very patient and helpful.

The next woman in line was not so patient.  She was audibly sighing.  Looking back and forth over registers to see if other lines were less busy.  Doing the shoulder shrug of an all too busy human being to wait in line for purchases.  She turned to the woman behind her and said “they need more help working”.   The cashier softly answered while she worked with her customer “we have everyone working we can”.   Both she and the lady she was helping tried to work through the pile of purchases.

The woman who spoke rolled her eyes.  The woman she spoke to busied herself looking at candy stacked by the conveyor belt, she didn’t appear to want to look like she agreed with the snarkiness of the impatient woman.

When impatient woman went through the line she spoke to the cashier but only with business needs and only with curt responses.

The next lady seemed reserved but not unkind.  The cashier was kind.  But neither of these ladies pulled each other out of their shell.   Both just wanted to get through their night.

The next lady was just quiet.  Kind of leaning on her cart.  Looking tired.

But when the cart leaning lady stepped up in line she stood up straight and said “hi!  how ya’ doing?” as she dumped her stuff on the belt and pushed her cart up to the end of the belt.

The cashier said “I’m doin'”

The lady said “well that doesn’t sound like happy doin’.  Surely you’re almost done with your shift.”  All the while the two of them processed the purchase.  The cashier said no.  Her shift still had hours to go.  And next week was going to be worse.  She anticipated some 24 hour days.   The shopper lady handed the cashier cash.  And while the cashier was counting out change the shopper kept talking.

“I would like you do to me a favor”.  The cashier stopped counting.  “No keep doing that.  I’d like for you to do something after your shift.”  Cart leaning shopper had the cashier’s attention, and mine.  The cashier was handing her her change.  I could see a five dollar bill and a one dollar bill.  The shopper pulled the one dollar bill out of her hand, leaving the five dollar bill.  “After your shift you take that and go some place and buy your self a hot chocolate or something.  From someone who understands how hard it is to work through the holidays.  And then…maybe smile a little bit because someone else understands.  And we’ll be doin’ okay together.  Just for a minute.”

That cashier held that five dollar bill out like she was showing off a prized painting.  And smiling.  Really smiling.

The cart leaning lady grabbed her bags, looked back at the cashier to tell her to have a wonderful night and hopefully saw the difference she made,  took her smile with her even though she left a few behind, and walked out happily.

The cashier looked back at us with smiles in her eyes.

It’s just wonderful when people see each other-as people.