I made a return at Michael’s Craft Store yesterday. In this busy retail season, it was not a task I was looking forward to, but I had come to the realization that I was not going to get to the holiday craft experience I had planned, so I had better cut my losses and return the supplies.
As expected, all the check-out lines were long and people were shifting from leg to leg as their patience ran short. I took my place at the end of one of the lines, willing to wait knowing my trip would shorten my “to do” list not lengthen it. Surprisingly, my line got periodically shorter even though the same person held the front spot. Soon I realized that one by one people were leaving the line, each with their own rendition of a groan, a cluck, or an exaggerated exhale. I was soon in the 'on deck circle'.
The clerk turned and smiled at me. The woman checking out was a white-haired large woman with a flamboyant cape, a walker and several bags – one of which she was diligently digging through. She would stop every few seconds and converse with the clerk and then, go back to her digging. Each time the woman looked back into her bags, the clerk would slowly look my way, smile and covertly wink at me.
The credit card was finally located, and the transaction appeared complete, until the lady suddenly realized she had a small item in her hand that she had not paid for. This started a long and involved story about where she found the item, what she would use it for and that it had to be paid for in cash, not the recently located charge card. The digging resumed. Slowly bills were unfolded and handed to the clerk – again with a pause between each one for a bit of chit chat. The fact that there were only four bills in that particular location lead to a new search for a fifth bill, and then the dig to the bottom of the purse for four pennies.
All the while the clerk remained genial and calm, chuckling and conversing appropriately and sending winks my way, until again the transaction was complete; But not the conversation. The woman was assuring the clerk she would be back next week, but was unsure of the time or date, but hoped the same clerk would be there when she returned. Finally packages and bags placed on the top of her walker, she started her long journey out the door, but not before turning to me with a smile and a “thank you”.
The clerk then turned to me and with a big grin and a small shake of the head said, “She is so lonely”. The clerk thanked me for my patience, and said the woman comes in each week sometimes to buy, sometimes to return what she purchased the previous week, and always for a chat. “I have been a clerk for 14 years, and have learned that for some people this isn’t about shopping”.
It was then that I realized the all the glitter, the boughs, the Mannheim Steamroller on the intercom, was not about Christmas; this clerk was the Christmas spirit incarnate. Who knew that I would encounter the true Christmas spirit of compassion in the middle of Michael’s holiday rush.
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