So I got off work early today. Not much to do and just two of us at the office, so no big deal to leave and get a head start on the week-end. I drove home, stopping on the way to get some groceries. I got my few items and went up to the register, an old man with a cane before me. Now, he stopped a few steps after the person who was unloading her cart before him. I dutifully waited behind him. A lady with a shopping cart appeared on our right flank. She seemed uncertain, as was I, about the old man’s imminent course of action. She asked, before I could, “Are you in line?” and he replied “I thought the other register was about to be opened – but you go right ahead”
She said thanks, but “there’s a guy behind you too” and he turned around, looking almost startled. I smiled and said “Well, I’ll just slip by, then” and walked around him. The old lady unloading her cart at the register looked at me murderously and said very loudly, very demonstrably “Well, you just go before me. I’m not in any hurry.” I said “Oh, that’s alright, he was waiting for the other reg…” and she cut me off: “No, I insist you go before me” and held her groceries back on the conveyer belt. “No, really…” I tried, but it was no use. “Go!” she said, as very apparent thoughts of my murder, or at least good mauling, swirled behind her grey, steely gaze.
I knew I was undone, outed as the ruthless, ill-mannered young cur she obviously thought I was, and said “Oh, all right.” I only had three items anyway. Fuck it. Behind me, the old man tottered over to the other register which just opened, the lady with the cart getting behind him. I paid the girl at the register, who by now had shed her usual cheery demeanor in favor of an ulwelcoming look as she gave me my change. What the hell, I thought: I didn’t actually do anything wrong, so why am getting shit for this? As I left the store, I saw the old lady shake her head at the teller with world-weary perfection; a subtle bob of the head that expressed all the weight of her years, hell, of the disappointing, uncaring world itself. And all this because I was polite enough to wait in line. I hope winter will be long and hard.