I saw a woman the other day that I don’t like.
It’s been many years since I’ve seen her, but I recognized her. I was in my car, she was walking along the sidewalk.
No, I did not try to hit her, that would have been uncalled for. Plus, I would have gone to jail and my coloring clashes mightily with orange. I also don’t like jumpsuits, communal showers, or anyone telling me what to do.
Knowing all this, I drove on by. She didn’t see me, and she wouldn’t have recognized me anyhow. I am quite sure that when we met nineteen years ago I didn’t make the slightest imprint on her little brain.
So who was this woman? She was a checker at our local grocery store.
I was a young mother then, three kids under the age of three, and had quit my job as a teacher to stay home. I was delighted to be at home with the kids but financially it was like a cyclone hit.
We had a 1450 square foot home, a car payment, and my husband’s student loan.
We were check to check, each month, and the slightest surprise – car repairs, dish washer breaking, etc. threw us off a mini financial cliff.
I cut coupons religiously, planned all meals around the coupons, then headed up to the grocery store.
One rainy Oregon day, after carefully buying all my groceries, the kids in the cart, coupons ready to go, I headed to the checkout lanes.
I handed this woman my coupons and she all but rolled her eyes straight back into her head. It was as if I’d handed her a dead possum and asked her to stuff it and get it ready for a funeral.
She put all my coupons, one by one, in a pile, then crossed her fingers, as if she was praying, and said in a condescending voice, “Well, let’s begin.”
The line was long, it got longer, as she methodically, and with arrogant glee, rejected one coupon after another, about half of them. The cereal I bought was four ounces too small. This coupon didn’t apply because I didn’t buy something else.
Now, clearly, I made a mistake with the products and the coupons. Tired mother, hardly thinking/sleeping with twin babies and a three year old. My fault.
I should have noticed the cereal coupon was for the twenty ounce box only and that one coupon had expired yesterday.
But it was her patronizing voice and how slowly she processed the coupons, as if to deliberately embarrass me in front of everyone in that line. It was her simmering anger that I had brought coupons in, as if I was trying to rip off the store, as if I was nothing.
I was so humiliated I could hardly speak. We finally left, the kids fussing, the line longer still, our groceries in the bags, my checkbook crushed, as usual.
I was exhausted from taking care of three kids under three, I was tired of having to hunt for spare change under the car seats, so I was extra sensitive then, and I realized this, but I cried in the car that day.
I really didn’t need anyone making me feel poorer and more desperate than I already felt.
Innocent Husband and I are in a different place now. We moved to a new house, the student loan and car payment are long gone.
But when I saw that woman walking along it all came back – how she treated me with such disdain, a mother juggling young children, using coupons because that was the way she was going to make the food budget work that week.
You remember how people treat you especially when you’re in a tough place in life, don’t you?
I didn’t run her over when I saw her. I didn’t stop to say anything. I don’t wish her ill at all. But I have learned two things from her. One, an act of meanness can last a long time in someone else’s life.
And two – I’ll share this wisdom with you, friends – when you see someone you don’t like refrain from hitting them with your car.
You’re not gonna look good in an orange jumpsuit, either, and you so know it, you do.
Wishing you a happy day, as always.