I actually loved my job. My manager, who I still see at the new Bi-Lo over on Morrison Springs Road, was a very nice guy. He had extreme patience with some of the other cashiers who were always finding reasons to bail out early or show up late. The dress code was similar to the Friday attire we wore to school, consisting of khaki pants or shorts with a collared shirt. My Bi-Lo work shirt and my Friday casual Baylor “B shirt” were just a different shade of red.
One day as I was ringing up groceries I had a lady come through my check-out lane. She had napkins wrapped along the entire handle bar of the shopping cart (trolly or buggy) to create a paper barrier between her hands and the cart.
“How come you don’t want to touch the cart?” I asked her straight up as I began to lift groceries out of her shopping cart towards the scanner in front of me.
“Because I don’t want to touch places where other people’s hands have been. Most people will not wash their hands before they get a shopping cart, and I have a problem with germs,” she said. I figured she was correct. There is no way to wash your hands outside before grabbing a cart. This was a time before Germ X existed, or if it did exist it was not very popular from what I recall. So I agreed with her. “As a matter of fact,” she said, “the amount of germs that have been detected on these conveyor belts here at your register is unbelievable. It is a pool of germs from all the different items of food people buy.” She told me something about fecal matter even being found in these areas. “You should really wear gloves while you are working with food and the cash from the register.”
“Really?” I replied. “So if I did this,” I laid the palm of my hand flat onto the conveyor belt as it was running items down to the bagging area, ”I would be getting lots of germs?” She looked away in disgust and laughed.
“YES. Lots of germs,” she barely could look at my actions, but she was laughing at my blatant disregard for germs.
“What if I did this?” I asked as I put my cheek down to the conveyor belt letting it run past my smooshed face.
“Oh my goodness!” she laughed and could barely stand across from me as I went back to scanning her groceries. “You are crazy!” she says. I laugh. She believes there is no germ in the world I am afraid of. I tell her I am sorry if I or the conveyor belt got her groceries any filthier than they already were. She admits there is nothing she can do about the level of germs on her items until she gets home, where she then will sterilize all of her purchases.
She pays her total and thanks me for the entertainment. Sometime in the next 2-5 minutes she returns. Her eyes are swollen with tears. “Michael, I just wanted to thank you again for making me laugh. This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. I just found out my husband is leaving me after many years for another woman, but somehow you made me laugh. Thank you so much.”
I am speechless. I hug her, and she leaves.
I am upset. The manager heads my way. A shopper is approaching, ready for check-out and I am torn up. “Go take a break, buddy,” my manager says. She must have already gone and talked with him too. I can tell he knows the situation.
I felt so embarrassed at the time for crying in public while on the job. I can’t recall what took place once I got myself back together. My boss didn’t really know what to say either. Maybe he wanted to say something like, “You acting like a total goofball just made that lady’s day. Job well done.”
So just remember, one seldom knows fellow a person’s entire situation. The smallest acts can make a difference. Do your best to make them smile.