So, it’s coming onto the noon hour when I stumble into the neighborhood Walmart grocery store. This is when workin’ (and non-workin’) folks get off for a bit. Both the check-out lines run by humans are backed up halfway to the pharmacy counter. (I know: self-service checkout…but no. Do not do that. Keep your fellow Americans employed, dammit!).
So I join the shortest human-operated checkout line. I know this clerk. Which means I know better. She’s gotta be 80 years old if she’s a day, and she’s sloooowwwww as molasses in January. She comes from an era where that old chestnut made literal sense.
We stand and we stand and we stand and we stand and we stand and we stand while she goes through one (1) lady’s only moderately large basketful of purchases. I would guess we spent at least 15 minutes waiting to get up to the cash register.
But….. Ya can’t complain.
We — that would be me and half the planet’s population in line behind me — are standing behind THE single cutest little boy that God and all His Goddesses ever put on this earth. He’s parked in the shopping cart’s baby seat and is being, sporadically, doted upon by the woman he has with him. He is a creature of great cheer.
Believe me. This is a male child who will ALWAYS have women with him.
He is not cute. He is staggeringly, movie-star handsome. Every future woman in this child’s generation is dooooomed! The same is no doubt true of a fair number of male children.
Between the woman and the boy, a family resemblance is obvious. Is she the mother? Or is she the grandmother?
“Look! Flags!” the little boy points to patriotic tinfoil decorations strung over the check-out lines.
“Those are for the Fourth of July,” the matron explains.
“When is the Fourth of July?” he asks.
We line-waiters watch. All RIGHT! Tell him: when IS the Fourth of July?
Flummoxed, she shrugs. Luckily for her (and for the rest of us), she reaches the head of the line and so is forced to abdicate this Teaching Moment by forking over a basketful of groceries.
A bum walks by behind us.
He is tired. He is hot. The ambient temperature out of doors is 105 degrees. He heads for the hallway that houses the men’s room. And the women’s room.
We in line think: and THAT is why we don’t use the toilet in the Walmart: so we don’t get nits.
But he doesn’t go into the men’s. He marches up to the water fountain and drinks. And drinks. And drinks.
The old lady behind me and I glance at each other. Without a doubt, we each have the same thought: There but for the grace of God…
The agèd cashier finally dismisses the little boy and his grandmother/mother/whatever, just about that moment.
“That was a cute one,” I say to my informal cashier friend, whom I see almost every time I go through that store.
Her tired expression brightens. “Yes,” she says. “Yes, he was!”
Thank you, God, I think. And it is not because I’ve finally reached the front of the line.