I waited. Going to the Bulk Barn on Wednesday, senior citizen discount day, means that you aren’t getting out of there any time soon. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining—their aisles are wide and most everyone is in a good mood there. But there are a lot of people who want what you want, guaranteed.
He smiled at me while I waited, and then kept loading up the bag. As he neared the top of it—so close to the top that I had no idea how he was going to tie it up—he said he was sorry to keep me waiting. I told him that I was sure there’d be enough left after he was done. I watched his hands. They had a little tremor, so he went slowly, making sure he didn’t drop a flake.
“I live a ways away from this store, so when I get here I load up,” he said. And I said that was the way to do it. I pictured him measuring out cupfuls of dry oats into a pot in the morning while his coffee was brewing.
When he finished, he stretched and pulled at the thin plastic bag, and I was so afraid he’d tear it. But he was methodical and patient, and he scooted down a few bins to the five-grain rice blend so that I could pack up a bag of oats of my own. When he was done, he hoisted his bag at me in a farewell and toddled off.
Into the spice aisle. That one is a frenzy of women, all fighting for access to the little spice cubbies. I put some salt into a little plastic bag and tried to avoid knocking into anyone, but that’s a pointless effort. The best you can do is try not to injure the other shoppers. And there he was, shorter than just about everyone else there, reaching up for the cinnamon powder. I grinned at him and he grinned right back.
I was on my way out when I remembered that I wanted popcorn. I went back into the thick of the crowd and fought my way through the popular snack aisle, where the dozen varieties of pretzels and huge drums of Clodhoppers attract plenty of attention. And the little old man was there again, right in front of the white popcorn.
“You’re going to think I’m following you,” I said.
“Well, I’ve got a magnetic personality,” he said. And he winked. And he loaded up his popcorn bag just as slowly and completely as he did his oats.
Some days it feels like a huge effort to be civil to my fellow man. Those are the days I stay home, if I’m lucky enough to have the mood hit me before I leave the house. Today could have gone so much worse, but that little old man and his twinkly little smile kept me from getting irritated by people slamming carts into my ankles, children shrieking for gummi bears in the candy aisle, a bridezilla and her mother arguing over plastic columns in the cake decor section, and the beastly woman who wound up behind me in line to check out, who shoved my bags onto the scale because she was in such a hurry to leave. Instead, I had a little glow around me all day.
And it’s still here.