I brought my cloth bag and stuffed it with tooth paste, razor blades, mentholated shaving cream, ibu profen, air freshener, paper plates, trash bags, aluminum foil, steel wool pads and sponges, hurrying past dawdling folks with carts and arrived at the check out counter only to find a long line snaking clear around the other check out counters and past an aisle. There were at least 12 people in line and I was last. Most of them were women, and a few stood behind carts stacked with purchases. Some of the women, well dressed and coiffed, were around my age (74) and didn't seem in the slightest upset with the line, possibly because, like me, they were long retired and had absolutely nothing to do.
But, even though I had little to do as I do every day, I was instantly aggravated and began looking around for some employee to open another check out counter. Up front, the lone checker, a harried, always pleasant woman around 50, was going as fast as humanly possible, swiping one item across the beeper after another while a middle-aged lady customer bagged toys, greeting cards, wrapping paper, candy, various junk food, various holiday decorations, wine glasses and goblets the poor checker had to stop and wrap in tissue paper, and all kinds of other items. Finally, a young guy came out of a door that read EMPLOYEES ONLY and gestured for some of us in line to come to his counter. Several ladies went there, and, since I was last in line, I had to figure out which check out line would be the speediest as two more women with carts arrived behind me.
I stayed in the line I was in and realized immediately I had made a big mistake, because two young Latino ladies were at the front with a cart out of which they extracted one item after another, as if their cart was an unlimited cornucopia of Dollar Store merchandise. The poor checker had to swipe one greeting card after another, one similar toy after another, at least fifteen shiny gift bags after another. Every time I thought the cart was empty, the two happy smiling festive ladies extracted more items while the line beside me moved quickly, though one of the older women was now having a tough time using her credit card as the patient male employee tried to help her.
My line remained unmoved. A couple directly before me were unusually jovial, the man wearing a ball cap and pony tail and a Howdy-Doody grin while his lady continually grabbed and kissed him, and he kissed her back, and they parted and grinned and giggled and hugged, oblivious to their surroundings, so enamored were they with each other, even at the estimated age of perhaps 50—like over grown flower children from the '60s.
Meanwhile, the two Latino women continued to extract toys, candy, whatever from their limitless cart, and the other line I should have taken was now long because of new cart toting customers.
“Christmas is Christmas,” a lady in front of the kissing couple told them. “There's nice stuff here for love ones of all ages,” she explained chirpily. The side of her mouth seemed seized from perhaps a stroke or birth deficiency.
“Right on,” said the pony tail.
“It's the feeling of Christmas,” added the ex flower child, a woman with glorious smile and laugh lines in her face “Not how expensive gifts are. It's about the beauty of giving, and the love.”
“Right on,” said Pony tail, and they hugged and kissed again and the lady smiled while I waited for the two Latino women to run out of items. They finally did, but the checker was still swiping away and finally announced the total--$124 and change—and one of the Latino ladies used her credit card. They pushed out a cart heaped to the top with several stuffed bags.
My smoldering hatred of Christmas increased as I realized the line I had failed to take had all new customers, which meant I would have been out of here by now. The poor checker was going faster than ever as new lines grew behind me. The couple before me had gum, crackers, cheese-filled crackers, several cup cakes, sunglasses, chips, aspirin, bottled water, batteries, a soft drink and a bottle of dish detergent. The lady before them had about $50 worth of items and was joyous at her purchases and suffused with the Christmas spirit of giving and had actually broached a sweet relationship with the kissing couple who were so oblivious in their loving bliss that they failed to notice me eye-balling them in sheer wonder.
They finally arrived with their goodies at the counter as the bedraggled checker swiped out their items and took one of pony tail's credit cards and packed their goodies. They thanked her effusively and skipped out merrily, holding hands. The checker greeted me without looking up as she swiped my items through. I paid with credit card and bagged my purchases and held the entry door to the store open for a woman leaving with a cart as a very, very elderly couple, stooped and on canes, entered, thanking me as they headed for a cart.
Outside, on a bench to my left, the amorous couple was handing out cup cakes and crackers to a couple frowsy homeless men and joining them in their holiday spirit feast.