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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Messages of Grocery Check-out LInes

If I had the opportunity to undergo deep psychoanalysis, one of the topics I would put on the table for discussion would be the number of important, life-shaping moments I have had in grocery-store check-out lines. Perhaps the simple frequency of my shopping excursions can account for placing me at the right place at the right time. Perhaps there is some higher power pulling the strings. In any event, I have managed to be extract and decode some of the messages that were meant for me.
My home is the direct result of me being stuck in a grocery store cart-jam (similar to a log-jam, but pertaining to grocery carts). After a slow-moving cashier had completed ringing out the order two carts ahead of me, I shoved my cart forward by the length of one cart. My line of vision was altered so that it fell straight on the magazine rack. There is a reason the displays leading up to the cash register are designed for impulse buying. I reached for a Better Homes and Garden Magazine. As I flipped through it, (thoughtfully replacing the magazine order cards as they tumbled to the ground), I stumbled upon a pictorial on the 1995 Home of the Year. My jaw dropped. I was staring at my dream home. Within a week, I had shelled out the $395 to order three sets of plans. It took another eight years to find the right parcel of land. As the house was framed, I had the unique sensation of having a dream materialize right before my eyes. All this because of a magazine in the grocery check-out line.
Three years ago, I was watching the woman who bagged my food to make sure bananas stayed on top, that meats were wrapped in plastic and that fruits and vegetables were packed together. Quickly, I grasped she was experienced at her job. I turned my attention back to the list in my hand. The cashier asked me, “How’re you doing today?” I laughed “I am okay, thanks. I just wish my “TO DO” list was a lot shorter.” I extended my hand to show her a list with about twenty things scrawled on it. The bagger laughed in a good-natured sort of way and said, “If I do three things, just THREE things, and do them well, I have had a good day, Tomorrow you can start over.” The cashier and I stopped our chattering to turn at look at this woman. At first impression, she appeared to have some sort of challenge, but whatever it was, it didn’t keep her from articulating some of the best advice I ever received. Ever since, I make my To DO lists, then I let my eye scan until I have chosen three things, just THREE things that I want to get done without fail. The sense of accomplishment I garner from completing those three things often propels me to do more.
“Bride Marries Her Sister’s Husband,” Alien Invasion Explains Rosie’s Weight Loss,”
“Brad and Angelina May Adopt Quintuplets.” These magazine headlines typify what I might read while waiting my turn to empty my shopping cart. The nearly obscene and always intrusive photos on the covers scream at passersby to LOOK, LOOK AT ME. I rarely do. Rather than a single life-shaping moment, these rags remind me, every time I see them, to grateful for the quiet anonymity of my life. Navigating life’s challenges is complicated enough. No-one, but no-one, deserves to be judged, maligned and castigated by others. Apparently, the practice of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is laid to rest when making money is the incentive.
To make a long story a bit more succinct, a grocery checkout magazine rack led to the home I so love. A grocery bagger shared her secret to having a meaningful life. Do three things, do them well, and let tomorrow take care of what comes. And finally, we, as humans, need to exploit less and love more. In the appalling and invasive way we study each other we seem to have forgotten the basics. Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.
Next time you go shopping, pay close attention when you check out. You might just find a message meant expressly for you.

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