Nobody likes to work register 5. It’s right directly in the traffic flow and is by far the busiest cash register. You never get a break – it’s crazy-making. But this morning #’s 4 and 2 are taken – and even my regular #3. #1 is way out by itself and I can get lonely out there – but this morning I decided to take it, rather than face the fearsome five. But when I got there, one of the managers’ cash drawers was already in there. It wouldn’t have been that hard to get it removed, but I took this as a sign that I really should go to 5.
As I settled my drawer into the #5 cash register, Sherri Lynn teased me. “Oh, so you’re going to be my neighbor this morning, eh?” Sherri Lynn is awesome: beautiful, talented (very accomplished country singer), funny and – at somewhere in her 50’s – way closer to my age than most of my co-workers. We have tremendous fun together – she comes down to my register when things get slow. But it seems that whenever I take #5 to be next to her, it gets so busy that you totally lose track of who’s at your back.
When I’m depressed, as I am today, everything seems wrong. Did I make a mistake by not taking #1? But then there’s Sherri Lynn. What if I’m in the right place at the right time – and am the right person to be here? I decided to make this my study for the day – let’s see what the events in my checkout line have to teach me about this.
My first customers are a senior couple who have exact change for their two gallon refills of water. The math was not hard on this and it seemed they had probably made this purchase before. Why were they so tickled at my relatively foolish banter? (“Oh, you were all ready for me” – nothing very clever there.) On their way out, they greeted Shirley – who has been here a long time and knows most of our longstanding customers. Why were they in my line? Was it where they were meant to be? Puzzling this out was going to be more complicated than I might have thought.
This attractive 40ish woman started waiting in my line, then moved when Sherri Lynn returned from her break and opened her line. Was that little abortive interaction just right?
I gave this older guy his senior discount, which he hadn’t even known about and which made him happy. Then I asked the next woman, “Do you know about our discounts?” “Yes, but I don’t qualify.” (“He thinks I look 60 – bastard.”) Did I do right in the first case and wrong in the second one?
Then I forgot to offer the discounts to a guy who might have been 60 or might have a military background. Did this mean I was in the wrong place? All the variations of imperfection.
#5 has just become better real estate because a lovely young coworker who is a buddy of mine has set up shop across at #6. I’m just appreciating how much fun she has with her customers when my customer – who has identified himself as a World War 2 veteran – says, “Now every day is fun.” A pretty awesome thing to say – and I’m kind of stunned by they connection of young and old both focused on fun. None of this would have happened for me if I was at another register.
I take my 10 minute break and catch up on my notes. Depression continues to drag at my heels. Whenever I start to think that maybe I’m at the right place at the right time and am the right person a hostile inner voice says no.
Young Regina, just coming on duty, asks me if I want to shift over to #1. “This register is awfully busy.” Oh, she prefers this register. She is a speedy, high-energy person – I guess it makes sense. I momentarily buckle. “Sure.” Why not? It will be easier. She’s better suited for this register – it will be better all around.
Then something asserted itself inside me. “No, this is where you are meant to be today. After your lunch break they will shift you anyway. You’re in the right place at the right time – and are the right person to be here.” “Regina – thanks, I think I’ll just stay here.” Earlier I had taken this register by default – now I was fully choosing it.
I had gone from taking #5 by default to claiming it – taking a position that I’m where I’m meant to be. How did this affect what happened next?
My next customer – a short 50ish woman – has already told me that she had a hard night and is not quite with it. She has a hard time entering her frequent shopper number and becomes apologetic. I say “You’re perfect – don’t worry about it.” Would my co-workers have given her this message of empathy? Was I the right person for her? I think, reviewing my notes later, that most of them would have done pretty much what I did. This was for me as much as for her. She was the right person for me – I needed to hear the message of forgiveness.
A customer comes up wearing a prosthetic neck brace. I feel instant compassion for him. “Wow, you’ve got an owie.” “Oh, it’s a recurring problem. This thing actually feels really good – very comforting. The first couple of them didn’t feel so good, but this one is great.” I am knocked out that he has taken something that most of us would regard at best as a big annoyance and turned it into a positive – and tell him so.
He says, “I was talking to a guy the other day whose house had recently burned down. He lost everything. he said that parts of it were really hard, but that it was also kind of liberating to let go of everything and start over.”
“Wow, he inspired you and now you’re inspiring me. I’m going to put this in my blog and maybe that will inspire someone else. Look at his chain of positive messages.” I was able to affirm this guy. His message encouraged me – I’m glad I was there to receive it. People do tell me that this blog inspires them. If this post manages to inspire someone else, then I have definitely been in the right place at the right time.