Twelve Bags Of Ice

The cashier was laughing to such a degree it seemed to magnify her state of happiness.  Seismic soundwaves of jolliness reverberated through the air, allowing me to feel the full effect of her laughter. Her cheeks jiggled with each successive giggle.  What was there not to like about this woman?

So she made a mistake.  Big deal.  It obviously didn’t bother her too much.  It had only confirmed the fact that it was sometimes better to laugh at one’s self, rather than take things too seriously.  She had charged a woman for twelve bags of ice instead of one.  In the process, she was laughing the entire time as she called for a manager to correct the mistake.

And there I stood, next in line, unloading my groceries onto the belt, and completely captivated by her infectious laughter.  I had no choice but to smile and marvel at the abundance of happiness which the cashier was displaying.  No doubt, she had been a “laugher” her entire life. Merriment was her prime mover.   We all laugh, but she had been born to laugh…often.

Not a sentence slipped by without her voice veering from the sound of its lively amusement.  “Oh, my!” she said. “I just charged you for twelve bags of ice!  Not two, not six, not eight, but twelve!  Looks like we’re gonna make a killing off you today!”

The woman wasn’t sure what to make of the situation as she played the part of concerned customer, rather than entertained audience member. Her eyes grew larger as the cashier’s laughter traveled throughout the shopping aisles with the apparent potential to rattle jars of spaghetti sauce off the shelves.

“O manager! O manager!” The cashier sang in a tune akin to O Christmas Tree.  “I need an override at cash register four!  Ma’am, I do apologize for this delay. It’s one of those days, you know.  Just a nutty day!” Her cheeks were rosy, and had become rosier with each laugh, as if the color was a barometer of her good mood.

Her customer, though, still hadn’t smiled. She was eagerly waiting for a manager to fix the mistake so that she could be on her way. “Ma’am,” she said. “Is this going to take long?”

“We won’t keep you here anymore than three hours, tops,” the cashier giggled.  “Just messin’…Oh, here he comes now.”

The manager swept in, did some rapid-fire taps on the cashier’s check-out screen, and then gave a thumbs up, “All taken care of ma’am.  One bag of ice. Sorry for the mishap.”

“You’re the best,” said the cashier. “The world needs more angels like you.”

The manager smiled, chuckling as he walked away.

As I stood there, watching the interaction between the two, I couldn’t help but notice a sort of amicable chemistry at hand.  Like the mutual understanding that life is too short, and it’s a hell of a lot better being in a harmonious state, rather than an agitated one.  So, when in doubt, laugh.

“Ma’am,” the cashier said, smiling at the woman, “Thank you for shopping with us. Do you need any assistance with the ice?”

“No, I’m fine. I can manage, but thank you.”

The cashier nodded and smiled, then looked at me, “Sir, please don’t tell me you want twelve bags of ice.  ‘Cause if you do, get ready for me to charge you for twenty-four.”

And that’s when I saw it:  the woman who had just checked out…she turned and smiled.

*                    *                    *

Nine hours later, I was sitting in an aisle seat at a college football game in my town.  As the second quarter had just ended, people were making their way up the stairs to the concessions stands and restrooms. It was a warm and muggy mid-September Texas evening.  I was cracking peanut shells and dropping them between my feet, when I noticed a woman further down the stairs, talking to some friends.  Her head was turned to the side, so I wasn’t catching her full view.  But in that moment, I found myself wondering just where had I seen her before?  Who was she?

She then turned, and began walking up the stairs. What was it about her? My surroundings became muted, including the marching band making their way onto the field.  I squinted my eyes and pressed my mind to recall just who this woman was.

And that’s when I saw it:  again…the smile…it was the woman from the grocery store. But was I sure?  Was I for certain?

Two steps from passing by me, I said, “Excuse me…ma’am.”

She stopped and gave me a blank look, as I was nothing more than a stranger. “Yes?” she said.

“This morning…you were at the grocery store, right?”

“Uh, yes. Yes I was.”

“Twelve bags of ice, right?”

It was immediate, as her face lit up with a smile almost too grand to be true.  “Oh my God!” she said. “Twelve bags of ice!  Yes, twelve bags of ice!”  And then she laughed—laughed with an abundance of happiness that sounded all too familiar.  The people on the crowded stairs had paused briefly for her, but then began inching forward, encouraging her to move along.  Like a raft caught in the brisk flow of a river, she was swept forward, then was soon out of sight.

But her laughter continued—so reminiscent of the cashier’s. Beyond the top of the stairs I could still hear her: “Yes! Not two, not six, not eight, but twelve bags of ice!”  Like a gift—like something that had been passed onto her—she had found good reason to share it with the world.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

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