Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Sad Cashier

“Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I really need it.” ~ Swedish proverb.

Just a few days ago, I went to a store and waited in line while the cashier took care of the long line of people in front of me. Even as I leafed through a magazine to pass time, I couldn’t help noticing with the corner of my eye that the cashier was edgy and seemed to be absent-minded.

I heard a couple of snappy comments directed at her, so I put down the magazine and just watched. Oblivious to the negative vibe she was quite clearly fostering around her, the cashier continued to scan items, any trace of a smile as absent from her face as sunlight on Pluto.

When my turn finally came, I put my items on the counter and watched the cashier more closely. She scanned a couple of things and looked at her wrist watch before grabbing a few more items; the pattern repeated a few times, and the anxiety on her face seemed to grow by the minute.

My first assumption was that she was eager to finish her shift, but on second thought she seemed too edgy for that to be the only reason for her scattered behavior, so I simply smiled at her and asked her if she was okay. She looked up, smiled sadly and said that she was fine but was worried about a close member of her family who was undergoing surgery at that moment. I told her I was sorry to hear and she replied that she was waiting for a phone call to confirm that the surgery had gone well.

I tried to fit her shoes for a moment, and wondered how I would feel in her position – certainly just as edgy. I thought back about the people who had shown obvious reproach at her behavior and realized then how often most of us jump to conclusions without knowing the facts. I asked the girl if she wanted to go ahead and call her family while I was there, using the excuse of a price check. She declined my offer, but the smile on her face was one of relief – although she was still worried, the fact alone of being able to voice out her worries with someone immediately lifted her spirits. I wished her loved one a speedy recovery on my way out and left the store.

We rarely know what’s going on in the lives of those we cross paths with every day. We set certain standards in our minds, and frown if the person we meet falls short of our expectations; this individual could have a thousand and one reasons to act a certain way, but, unwilling as we are to give anyone the benefit of the doubt, we judge their situations and make unfounded assumptions.

Reaching out to others is certainly more productive than lashing out at them. The reward we receive is undoubtedly greater, and it is worth the few extra seconds we have chosen to invest.

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