In recent months I have taken to walking during my lunch hour.
Walking is my favourite form of just plain old exercise. A holdover, I guess, from my Boy Scout days when I always enjoyed hiking in the mountains and following a long trail through the forests and the trees.
But I digress already.
My noon-hour constitutionals take me most days to a shopping plaza that is about 2 ½ kilometres away from my office.
When I get to the plaza, I often visit the bank there.
I usually have to put some money in so that they can keep operating.
When I am not paying penance to the bankers, I sometimes wander through one or more of the commercial establishments.
Now I should say that I am not much of a shopper-for-the-sake-of-shopping. But in recent years – since the marriages of my children and the arrival of an increasing gaggle of grand-kids – I have taken to just wandering through stores, casually watching for a bargain on something that one or the other of them would like or could put to good use.
So I buy it, and salt it away in my joint-occupancy-with-my-Beloved closet, which holds most everything except what a closet is normally supposed to hold.
So the other day, I had found a small item or two, which I had cradled in my arms (having being either too short-sighted or just plain stupid enough not to have picked up a shopping basket) – and I headed to the cash register.
Now you must understand that this was the first really cold day of our winter, so I had on my bulky winter jacket, accompanied by dis-en-handed gloves which I held in one hand, holding the several items I needed to pay for, and then trying to fish my wallet out of a pants pocket that just happened to be underneath all of the above, and encumbered further by a set of keys and a blackberry, all not-so-neatly crammed into the same pocket.
I don’t have a clue who the idiot was who put all that stuff in there.
Needless to say, standing at the cash register, I was delayed somewhat on my wallet-fishing expedition, which held up the line of people behind me.
One of my own pet peeves! People who wait in line for 20 minutes to pay for their purchases, then wait until the cashier says “Twenty-eight dollars and two cents, please”, before they even start looking for their wallet or opening their purse.
And then inevitably not finding it.
Especially in a purse – in my Beloved’s purse, her cheque-book usually ends up hiding right underneath the kitchen sink.
But I digress again . . . .
I am sometimes annoyed by those persons – and now I find that I are one!
A woman behind me starts talking.
I keep fishing, more hurriedly, figuring that she is like me, and I am annoying her by delaying the line. I drop my gloves.
I stoop to pick them up – and drop one of my purchases out of my arms.
The woman laughs.
And keeps talking.
I’m not hearing much of what she says, because my eyes are on the floor – not literally, but almost -- and my ears can’t seem to work at the same time that my eyes do under duress.
I toss my gloves onto the counter, stoop to pick up the dropped item – oops, make that now “items” -- which I quickly scoop up and throw onto the counter.
Whereupon one skids to the other side of the counter and falls, again, at the feet of the cashier.
“I’m sorry,” I say generally, hoping to include both the cashier and chattering Mom-like lady behind me.
And then I notice: Chattering Mom-Lady is smiling -- and still laughing!
And then, with my eyes back in their sockets, I stop to listen.
Amidst chuckles, Mom-Lady is saying to me, “Don’t you just hate it when that happens! Every time I get into a rush, that happens! Why it happened to me just the other day, and I bent over to pick up the new underwear . . . . “
My mind starts racing . . . . Is this going to be one of those way-too-much-information-from-a-total-stranger type of stories?
“. . . and when I finally bent my back upright again – that floor is a looong ways down there, these days . . . ." – she points to her rumpled grey hair doing its best to escape from underneath a too-small-for-so-much-hair, Canadian-flag touque -- “I turned to the guy behind me and tried to give him the panties that I had just picked up off the floor, and I told him, 'You dropped your boxers, Sonny!' And he just about fell over laughing!”
I smile, as a jolly guffaw that reminds me of one of Santa Claus’ rolling belly-laughs rises up through Mom-Lady and shines out through her face.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” I mutter in an attempt at an apology.
“Oh my heavens!” says Mom-Lady, to me and the world in general. “I'm not in any hurry, Son! You just take your time.”
Fifty-nine years old, and she calls me “son”.
“Thanks,” I mutter again. “You’re very patient.”
By this time I have successfully completed my fishing expedition, the cashier has completed the transaction, and I am attempting to put on my gloves and retrieve all my shopping bags. There is one left on the cashier’s counter that I don’t quite know how I'm going to retrieve.
“Can I help you there?” Mom-Lady queries.
Having only two fingers left on which a shopping bag could be hung, I turn to Mom-Lady and, pointing with my last two fingers at the last bag on the counter, say to her, “Would you mind handing me my panties there?”
Mom-Lady guffaws, long and loud. I'm afraid we might have to call 9-1-1.
The cashier is laughing. As are two or three people in the line-up behind us.
Between rumbles of laughter, Mom-Lady hooks the last bag on my last two fingers, and says: “You have a great Christmas, son.”
Son. She called me “son”, and she couldn’t have been more than 5 years older than me. My hair was just as grey as hers. And even more rumpled.
“And you too, Mom” I reply through my smile.
As I think about Mom-Lady on my walk back to my office – arms loaded with shopping bags, for 2 ½ kilometres – I think, what a genuine human being! What a wonderful person!
Where so many others might have been consumed by Queue Rage – or Road Rage – or Airplane Rage, or so many other of the non-existent syndromes that we have invented as an excuse to be rude and impolite and impatient and unkind – how very nice it is to encounter whom and what I regard as a genuine, true, Gentle-Woman.
Might Santa Claus bring us many more – this year and every year.