This past Saturday, my daughter and I were checking out at Kowalski’s in Uptown. Per usual, the contents of our basket were anything but consistent. Sushi, milk, a cupcake, deli mac and cheese, jalapeños… the basics. As I placed our basket onto the line, the cashier, in my imagination, was already annoyed. Maybe it was the fact that V wouldn’t stop fidgeting and grabbing everything in sight. Maybe it was because I wasn’t doing much to stop her (in my unwarranted defense, there’s not much I can do to stop her). Or maybe it was the fact that he was working at 7pm on a Saturday night, and we all know what that’s like: unfun. As he finished ringing up the last, useless food item, he robotically announced,
I started digging into my bottomless purse for a solid 30 seconds and finally resurrected my wallet, albeit with much less fanfare than deserved after a trip into bizarro-Poppins’ bag. But when I opened it up, I was greeted by a lonely, vacant card slot staring back at me where my debit card should have been. A calm wave of panic washed over me as I racked my brain for the whereabouts of the elusive visa, and for ultimately a plan b. It was the kind of panic that makes your stomach hurt, but not your head. The panic that is more closely associated with embarrassment rather than devastation. On the Richter scale of consequence, we’re talking a 3. An embarrassing 3, but still, just a 3. I had no credit card with me, $21 in cash, and a questionable debit card from a barren linked account. I handed him the cash as my face tried to stabilize it’s varying shades of red.
“I’ll put the rest on this card,” I said, my words reeking of doubt as i swiped the machine.
At this point, V was real sick and tired of this episode of “Does My Mom Have Money For Groceries?” and she was letting her impatience be known. To be perfectly honest, i think between the three of us, it was a shared sentiment.
“Ma’am, that didn’t go through.”
As it shouldn’t. Had it gone through, it may have warranted a call to the fraud department at my bank, because somebody wasn’t doing their job. I couldn’t have guessed the pin number if my credit score depended on it, and I was almost positive the card had expired well before 2014 reared it’s ugly head.
“You can take out the jalapeños. And the Izze, i guess,” my begrudging disappointment clear as crystal. I really wanted that Izze.
Just as the embarrassment kicked into high gear, that full bodied embarrassment where every single person in the room is watching you, but really they aren’t because... really? I noticed the cashier grabbing something. I looked and saw his wallet, and from it he took 3 dollars.
“Oh my gosh, you really don’t have to do that. You can take out my Izze!” I pleaded.
The fact is, I really wanted that Izze, but it’s just an Izze, you know? I’ve got a damn cupcake in my bag and this man is going to cover my bill? By then, my embarrassment had married my shame and the two of them had made this trip to Kowalski’s regrettable at best.
“Don’t even worry about it.”
And amidst my embarra-shame, I pause. There I was, baby in arms, flustered as fuck, trying to buy $24 dollars of groceries and whatever the circumstance was, I couldn’t. But this man, who I preemptively wrote off from the get-go, did something so kind and thoughtful, it left me in tears in the car ride home. Sometimes people are just so, so good. It’s easy to forget that when i’m too busy complaining about their driving, or their parking, or their general being, that I just can’t with today. But maybe, just maybe, if I tried to savor and appreciate these moments more often, I'd see less of the bullshit and more of the beauty. I am a firm believer in karma, but too often i forget to give and expect to get. Being kind doesn’t take that much effort. A smile to a frowning face, a push to a sedan out of the snow, a thoughtful note just because. The little things that kindness brings.
So to the man at Kowalski’s, thank you for the reminder to be good. Thank you for reminding me that 3 dollars isn’t all that much, but that kindness is priceless. I want to remember to be more like you, even when a jag weed parks like he owns the place, or when a woman with a distracting toddler takes forever at the checkout. I want to be kind to people who might not deserve it. Your act of kindness was the perfect reminder, and for that, I am grateful.