The Art of Seeing People

George didn’t often accompany his wife when she went grocery shopping.  Usually he was quite happy to drop Martha off at the supermarket and go on to other shopping, then come back for her and the groceries.  But she’d sprained her wrist a few days ago; now here he was, plodding along behind her, pushing the cart and loading the heavier things for her.

Finally they were done and George wheeled toward the checkouts.  He glanced along the row of cashiers and automatically aimed the cart toward the one with the shortest lineup.

Martha put her hand on his arm.  “This way, George.”  She pointed to the till with the longest queue.

He was puzzled but followed without comment.

“I’ll explain later,” she said once they were in line.  “Or maybe you’ll catch on yourself.”

Slowly their line moved toward the till; finally they were waiting behind someone loading her groceries onto the conveyer.  By now George had observed that the cashier had a pleasant smile and a few cheerful words for each customers as they paid.  Nice to see that, he thought to himself, forgetting for a moment how eager he was to be off home.

When Martha came up to the till the cashier greeted her like an old friend.  Martha mentioned her sprained wrist and the cashier offered her sympathies, then inquired how the grandchildren were coming along with their skating lessons.  George was surprised; he’d completely forgotten they were learning to skate.

When Martha introduced him as her “better half” the cashier chuckled and gave him a friendly “Nice to meet you.”  George returned her smile.

Later, as they were loading the groceries into the car Martha asked, “Could you figure out why I chose that line?”

“Well, I noticed the cashier was cheerful.”

“Yes, she brightens my day whenever I go.  So many cashiers give me the feeling I’m just one among the masses of humanity moving past their till, but this lady takes time to express interest in me as a person.  That means so much.  Sometimes an older soul ahead of me chats a bit longer as she checks out, but I try to be patient.  I’m sure she’s appreciating that human touch and I don’t want to rush her.”

“Maybe we all need to offer a little more of that human touch,” said George, remembering with a twinge of guilt some times lately when – impatient to be elsewhere – he’d barely grunted at a weary cashier.

Martha nodded.  “They say ‘You can’t see the forest for the trees.’  Perhaps we often can’t see the trees for the forest, either?  I think that lady has cultivated the art of seeing individuals and not just hordes of people.  That’s why I like to go through her checkout.”

“Well, this was a profitable day at the supermarket.  I’m glad I came along.”

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13 thoughts on “The Art of Seeing People

    • Me too. I had a friend who, when we walked down the street, was saying ‘Hi’ to someone passing — when I didn’t even realize there WAS a person passing!

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    • Thanks for visiting and commenting. I find the friendly interaction varies, depending on how their staff are scheduled. Here in Sask some Walmart stores seem to operate with a minimum of staff and they seem harried.

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      • I’m in Wisconsin and they are always very nice. The employees there ARE the reason I go to shop there rather than somewhere else.

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    • Thanks for visiting & commenting. What a shame! Clerks shouldn’t be nosy about private things, but it usually brings customers back when the clerks are friendly.

      Another angle: Our daughter worked at a nursing home for a time and visited with the folks as she worked, but the Management changed course a bit and clamped down: no visiting with residents — just do your job. What a loss to the poor old folks!

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      • I believe there was a time when “nosy” meant caring! We are now living in a time when “it’s none of our business” keeps us from even calling 911…..

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      • And then we “progress” to the point where we don’t even see people
        anymore. 😦 My dear friend (mentioned in an earlier comment) woke me up to some of my obliviousness but I still have to work at it.

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  1. Excellent Christine! I can’t say I always do it, but it’s neat to see their reaction as you go through the line and speak directly and make eye contact with the cashier. I need to remember that each time.

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