Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Rebuke

A few months ago, I was standing in line at the grocery store. There were two cash registers open and 11 people waiting to check out. Those of us with “eight items or less” were standing in the express lane. Two customers had their purchases already on the belt. (The second one had many more than eight items.) The third customer in line, the Lovely Octogenarian, still had her groceries in her buggy. She had silky, silvery hair and moved quite a bit slower than the other customer in front of me. The lady in front of me (and directly behind the Lovely Octogenarian, and let's call her Bunny) was watching as another cashier brought her “float” over to the registers and chatted with our cashier for a moment.

The new cashier parked her float in the till and looked up at us, the expectant customers. Bunny picked up on the signal immediately, and flew over to the new till, quick as a Bunny. The most recent addition to our line, the hunched over Grandmother behind me, made a move to go into the new line. I looked at her. She looked at me. She asked, more out of social obligation than anything else, “Are you going in this line?”

I told her that I was waiting for the lady in front of me, since I thought that was the fair thing to do. The Lovely Octogenarian moved her buggy over when she finally noticed the lane open and put her groceries on the freshly vacated belt. The impatient Grandmother zipped in and took her spot in the old line while I fell into place behind the Lovely Octogenarian.

We all proceeded with our orders. While I was waiting for my turn I marveled at how impatient people can be while waiting in line. I thought of how sad it must be for that woman to always be in such a hurry instead of enjoying the journey, even if it means standing in a line of people for a few minutes.

Just as it was my turn to pay, I felt a tap on my back. It was the Grandmother. “Thank you for your rebuke. I needed to hear that,” she said, with all sincerity.

My heart fell. She was standing beside me this whole time processing her own feelings of guilt and my rebuke to her. I was standing there, just seconds after chastising this woman twice my age, judging her.

And if I ever see her again, I will thank her for the unspoken rebuke she gave me. I needed that.

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