If someone were to have offered me $100 to not have a two-minute conversation with a woman I’d never met before, I would’ve turned it down in a heartbeat. A $500 offer? Getting up there, but I would’ve turned it down as well. Though chances are I’ll never see her again, you can still keep your money.
She was a stocky woman behind me in a grocery store check-out line. Next to her was a girl about 13 years old. The woman, in her mid-50s, was hunched over the handle of her grocery cart in such a manner that looked as though she might have been giving her back a break. It was 9:30PM, and she had that end-of-a-long-day look—her face drab and expressionless. Her entire body just waiting to get home, heat up a frozen pizza, then collapse on the sofa. No need to prepare for bed. Just drift off to sleep. In a moment of wrongful judgment, I actually thought: Has her life always been this way?
A couple in front of me paid for their groceries, then left. As I took the position in front of the credit card terminal, and the cashier began to scan my items, something happened that completely changed the scene.
A song began to play.
And as it played, a delay with the cashier occurred—a malfunction with his register. The delay took about a minute for him to fix. When I look back at this moment, I wonder if it’s even remotely possible that this malfunction was more than just a coincidence. That it happened for a reason. Because without that extra one minute, I’m confident the ensuing magic would not have happened…
As the cashier tinkered with his register, the song could be heard throughout the store’s sound system. I noticed the woman and the young girl began tapping their feet. Moments later they both began to quietly sing the song’s chorus:
How do I know when it’s love?
I can’t tell you, but it lasts forever.
How do you know when it’s love?
It’s just something you feel together.
When it’s love
“Good ol’ Sammy Hagar,” said the woman to the girl. “Or was this Van Halen?”
“It’s Sammy Hagar with Van Halen,” I interjected. “This is from their OU812 album.”
This woman with the presumed aching back, and long, tiresome day, and who lacked enthusiasm—she lit up a smile too big to be measured. “Of course it is!” she said, energetically. “You’re right! This is OU812, and it was recorded at Studio 5150.”
“You know about 5150?” I said, completely surprised.
The woman throws her head back, laughing with astounding joy. She is an absolute bundle of happy warmth. When was the last time I saw a smile this exuberant? When was the last time I missed the mark by so much, judging someone’s state of being?
“Who do you take me for?” she laughs. “I grew up with this music. Big Sammy Hagar fan. My daughter here—she had no choice…it’s all I listen to.”
I asked her if she was aware of the group Montrose that preceded Van Halen. I think her laugh doubled in volume.
“Montrose!? You are too much!” she said. “Of course I am! Sammy Hagar sang for them. Songs like “Space Station #5” and “Bad Motor Scooter”. She was now laughing uproariously. “This is way too much!”
We are both caught in the moment. Smiling and laughing as we stumble over a shared interest that, in itself, had miraculously and invitingly arrived with open arms.
Her daughter continues to tap her feet. Her hand slaps gently against her hip in sync with the song’s beat. Her genetic coding is imprinted with an obvious character trait passed down from her mother: a priceless smile that snatches your attention and elevates you to a higher place. Her eyes are nearly shut as she continues to sing:
You look at every face in a crowd
Some shine and some keep you guessin’
Waiting for someone to come into focus
Teach you your final love lesson
I’ll never forget that night. All two minutes of it. Meeting a woman whom I had pegged as tiresomely mundane. A woman who couldn’t possibly have anything to offer—to change me, to wow me. In truth, I wanted that cash register to be a difficult and time-consuming fix. I didn’t want to leave that moment. I wanted to bask in the surprise of what this woman had given me: a simple but remarkable conversation from out of the blue. In fact, it wasn’t so much what was being said that filled my spirit, but more so bearing witness to her energy.
The cash register repaired, I paid for my groceries, then turned to her. “You have a great, great evening.” I said.
“And you,” she said, laughing one last time. “You have an even greater one!”
* * *
At first she was a face in the crowd. Then she kept me guessin’ until I watched her shine. And that’s when everything came into focus.
Thank you, Sammy Hagar.
Copyright Ros Hill 2016