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Disgracing my Higher Self in the Checkout Line

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

It’s a sunny weekday morning, and there are four of us at the checkout counter in the otherwise empty neighborhood market. There is a young, Rubenesque register clerk with ivory skin and red hair down to her waist. There is an elderly woman (probably around my age, come to think of it) who has just paid and is taking her time stuffing her credit card back into her wallet. There is a slender, white-haired man who has placed a bag of apples and a bottle of maple kombucha on the conveyor belt. And there’s me, with a loaf of bread in my hand.

The elderly woman looks up from her wallet and announces that it’s a beautiful day outside.

“I hear it’s supposed to rain later on,” the register girl says, languidly scanning the apples and the kombucha.

“You know what they say about April showers…” the man says.

“April showers bring May flowers!” the elderly woman crows, credit card still in hand. “And speaking of flowers,” she continues, “I saw the most beautiful double daffodils over by the Episcopal church just now.”

“Daffodils are great!” the man says. “They’re the only thing that can stand this crazy weather we’re having.”

Is he actually going to stop and chat about daffodils? Sure enough, not only does he get into a conversation about daffodils, he draws the Rubenesque girl into it. Now the three of them are debating double versus single daffodils, oblivious to the clouds of smoke starting to come out of my ears.

“Calm down,” my Higher Self whispers. “There’s nothing wrong with talking about flowers.”

“But this is not a garden party!” my Shadow Self counters through clenched teeth. “It’s a checkout line. And if that woman would stop nattering on about daffodils and concentrate, she would be able to get her card into her wallet and get out of here.”

Higher Self: “Yes, but she may not have anyone to talk to at home. She’s probably lonely, and this may be the only human contact she’ll have all day.”

Shadow Self: “Right. But what about him? I bet he’s got a wife waiting at home. Why doesn’t he shut up, pay for his stuff, and leave?”

Higher Self: “Who knows what his life is really like? Maybe his wife hates flowers. Or maybe, unlike some of us, he’s trying to be nice to the credit card woman. Besides, you’re not in a hurry. It’s not like you have a job to go to….”

Shadow Self: “I know I’m not in a hurry. But this is outrageous. Doesn’t that girl know that it’s her job to keep the line moving along?”

Higher Self: “Well, this is Vermont, after all. And one of the reasons that you moved here was to escape the frantic pace of D.C.”

Shadow Self: “Sure. I’m all for slow living and pastoral peace, just NOT IN THE CHECKOUT LINE!”

And with that, my Shadow Self wins the battle: I make eye contact with the Rubenesque girl and silently mouth “I really need to go!” And she nods and scans my purchases and I’m out of there in three seconds flat.

On my way to the car, I see the credit card woman getting into hers. She gives me a big smile and says “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

My Higher Self sobs all the way home.

8 Responses

  1. My sympathies – hard choices.

    Now add to that: one of the people in line really needs to get to a bathroom/pick up their child at school/get to the doctor’s office.

    Unfortunately, you did the right thing – don’t cry. Just marvel at life and humans.

  2. I am SO enjoying your posts. You have quite a flair for making the ordinary so beautifully special and extrodinary

  3. Oh, that was just wonderful. Laughed and laughed. And then… (And read it again and laughed all over again. Roz Chast, move over.)

  4. Woops! I was the credit card lady. And you made my day. Sometimes I am just a little lonely and by the way, love your blouse.

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