On a recent shopping trip to Walmart, I was checking out in a staffed lane, too many items for self-serve. I don’t love shopping at the giant box store, but when time doesn’t permit a stock-up trip to Indianapolis or even nearby Lebanon, Walmart is the best option our small town has to offer.

Turning into the empty lane, I couldn’t believe my luck. No wait.

The cashier began ringing up my items as soon as I started unloading them; I hardly looked at the woman wearing the Walmart name tag beyond a friendly “hello” and just long enough to mention the water softener salt in the bottom of the cart that was too heavy to add to the conveyor belt.

“Green bag?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied, hurriedly stacking my items for her to scan. As best I could, I grouped like items together: cheeses and meats in one section, chips and snacks in another, produce all together. On another shopping trip, that cashier said that makes it much easier for bagging, especially now that the cashiers must also do the bagging.

As I finished unloading the cart, another cashier approached our aisle, and the two woman had a brief interaction. I wasn’t paying attention to what they were doing or saying. My cashier apparently thought I was.

“I always make them go around because I have space issues,” she said, holding her hands out in front of her.

“Oh, good idea,” I said, not knowing how else to reply.

“I don’t like people getting into my personal space,” the cashier told me, her eyes shifting from the scanner to me to the bagging area and back. Mostly, her eyes stayed on me. “It’s because when I was little, I was invaded too much.”

Finally, I saw her, hair pulled back tight away from her face, the fat of her arms spilling out from below her knit shirt sleeves. “I’m sorry,” I told her, meaning it. “It’s wise of you to know your limits now.”

“When I was little, I couldn’t keep them from doing it. Now, if he gets too close, I punch him,” she said. Without realizing, I glanced at her hand. No wedding ring.

“Even my daughter, I tell her to ask,” she said. “I mean I let her hug me. She’s my child. But I tell her not to run up and hug me. To ask first.”

I didn’t know what to say. The cashier paused a minute, her eyes small but strong staring straight into mine.

“I’m sorry you were treated so badly,” I said. “It takes a lot of courage to get past something like that.”

“Well, the one thing I had my whole life is that I was saved,” she told me. “I’m a Christian.”

“I am too,” I said. “Knowing Jesus offers us a lot of hope, doesn’t it. For the next world if not in this one.”

“Yeah, but I see things,” she told me, lowering her voice. “I haven’t seen Jesus or anything, but during one of my lowest points, I saw my guardian angels. I have four.”

“Wow,” I said, trying to suspend judgment.

“And last Saturday, I visited with my grandmother who passed away. She has an apartment. It’s real nice,” she added. I smiled.

Not knowing what else to do, I swiped my debit card, grabbed the last two bags, thanking her as I started pushing the cart away.

“Don’t forget your salt when you get to the car,” she said, though I didn’t quite catch it all the first time.

I turned back to face her: “I’m sorry?”

“Don’t forget your salt when you get to the car,” she said, repeating herself. “I’m always afraid people are going to forget what’s in the bottom of the cart.”

“Oh yeah, good point. Thanks again,” I said.

As I walked out of the store, I knew I would definitely not forget the salt in the bottom of the cart.


Other posts in the One Woman series:

Photo by Walmart Corporate, via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.