During a recent food shopping expedition, after I had cleared the self-checkout and was loading up the car, a man who had just parked his old, battered jeep walked past and remarked, “That has to feel rewarding.”
It was a rather odd comment when I looked back it.
I had never seen the man before. He was thin, about my age roughly, of average build with glasses and a Phillies cap. He was obviously working on a noticeable wad of chew, which is not all that common in my area of the Philly suburbs.
Being in my own little world of everyday minutia, I responded, “That’s a bunch of crap. This is a pain in the (nether regions).”
“No”, he came back as he stopped behind me, “It has to feel good to do things for other people.”
Another odd remark … Why would shopping for my own family make me feel good about doing things for “other people”. I do THAT all the time. But of course, he wouldn’t know for whom I was buying groceries. Just didn’t make sense to me in the split second it took for me to come back with, “You mean like extra credit?”
Another odd remark in a strange conversation, this time from my end. What had made me think of THAT rejoinder?
He laughed and moved on into the store.
For several days now I have been thinking about how I could turn such a strange interaction into a funny blog post. Even today as I tried to write a witty list of everyday stuff one does to which one would wish “extra credit” applied. But the conversation continued to concern me. Where was that guy coming from? What were his set of assumptions? Or maybe I was making a bit too much about a brief, weird give-and-take between two strangers in a cold, dark parking lot.
Then I remembered what had happened at the self-checkout. Standing there with half a cart of nothing important. It was the pre-dinner supermarket rush hour. People scurrying in and out to collect a few things on the way home. I was in no hurry though, because I knew dinner was awaiting my return with one crucial ingredient … taco seasoning.
Arriving at the checkout ahead of several other shoppers, I told one guy to go ahead of me as he had only a thing or two. Turned to my left and pointed an older woman, juggling a few things around a half-gallon of milk, to another self-checkout as I waited. And as I stood there and waved one more urgent shopper ahead of me, I thought about whether any of these everyday – admittedly tiny – random acts of courtesy meant anything.
Now that short, weird conversation out of nowhere sends a shiver up my spine.