I was only there to buy some coffee cup coasters.
That was all. For my office. And the checkout lady glanced up at the woman in front of me who had a whole cart full of towels, dresses, and children’s puzzles, and she mumbled, “So, how are you.”
And it wasn’t really a question.
And the woman said, “Fine.”
And it wasn’t really an answer.
Then she wordlessly unloaded her items one by one, and the checkout lady dutifully scanned them. At last, without a word, the customer walked away and it was my turn.
“So, how are you,” said the checkout lady.
“Actually, I’m tired.”
It just came out. I wasn’t trying to be clever or provocative; it was just one of those things that you say and then wonder if you should’ve maybe just kept your mouth shut.
She looked at me then, for the first time.
“I’m tired, too,” she said. “I’ve been working here since 7:00.”
It was 5:30 p.m.
I nodded. “It’s been a long day for me, too. I just want to get home and spend some time with my kids. Do you have kids?”
“No, just a couple of cats—but I hope to some day.” Then she added, “Most people just say, ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m good.’ ” She still hadn’t scanned any of my coasters. We were looking right at each other. It was one of those moments.
She asked me about my kids and I asked her about her cats and we talked for a minute while she scanned my coasters. I told her about my three daughters and how she ought to have kids sometime, and then she was done taking care of me and it was the next person’s turn, so I grabbed my coasters and headed for the door.
I hadn’t made it ten feet before I heard her say to the next person, “So, how are you.”
And from behind me I heard someone say, “Fine.”
I couldn’t help but smile. I turned and glanced at the checkout lady. And she had turned too, and was looking at me.
It was one of those moments.