Monday, October 30, 2006

Checkout line

I'm usually in a hurry when I go into a grocery store. Don't like it when the checker getts to chatty with the customer infront of me. I stopped at a grocery store in a small town in Montana on Saturday. What a difference. It became clear that eveyone knew eachother. As I walked in, one of the checkers who must have been in her 30s eyeballed me and said Hi, in a very friendly, almost desperate way. How are you? I responded as I went on in.

As I walked down the isles I heard people chatting as if the grocery store was a meeting place. Where I live, people are chatting, but on their cell phones and ignoring everyone around them. Thompson Falls is a logging town, and everyone knows eachother. My mom lived there before she met my father and worked at the ranger station as a secretary. I don't think it has changed much since then.

The grocery store had three regular checkout lines and one express line. 10 items or less. One line was closed so I got into one of the other regular checkout lines. The checker in this line was a middle aged lady with her hair dyed brown. It took me only a second to realize that she was a very nice lady. You don't hunt anymore do you Bob? she said to the man infront of me. (It's hunting season in Montana.) No I sold my rifle. Bob said. Bob was a man probably about 60 years old. A nice looking older man with a full head of grey hair, flannel shirt and blue jeans, and also a comfortable looking pair of work boots.

My mind wandered as they talked. Usually I'd get kind of upset if a checker strikes up a conversation with the person infront of me in the line because I know they don't know eachother. But in this situation I could tell that these people have known eachother for years. I looked up, and hanging from the ceiling on chains were these small "logs" about the diameter of a fence post. They had the number of the checkout line on a piece of plywood attached to them. Unusual, I thought, but fitting.

Well my sons smoked and I know it isn't in their genes. The checker said to Bob, as I came back down to earth. As Bob walked away I noticed that he left his wallet on the counter. Um, you left this, I said pointing to his wallet. Oh!.. Thanks. That has thousands of dollars in it. Bob said jokingly. The guy standing with his wife behind me in line said, I'll spend it for you!

Then the checker started to swipe my grocerys. After the Coke won't scan she decides to clean the glass on her reader. This needs to be cleaned. she said. Another delay I'm thinking. She bends down and gets a spray bottle and sprays the glass. Ooo! Pinesol! she said. Well there have been a lot of people with germs in this time of year.

As I walked out into the parking lot I saw Bob getting into his truck. I smiled and nodded. Then I got back into my little bubble and drove away.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post today Don. Reinforces my opinion that people forget what it means to belong. Small towns have a way of reminding us that COMMUNITY is a feeling and not just a real estate developer's dream for making millions.

I have to admit, I sometimes prefer the anonymity of the big city (and the Internet) but if I'm lonely I head straight back to the small town from which I came.

By the way, I am very wary of people who practice their most contemptuous glares at the people in their immediate physical vicinity while smiling sweetly into the mouthpiece of their Motorola. Their duplicity frightens me.

don said...

Thompson Falls is a very friendly place. Beautiful there also, with huge mountains rising up. No wonder the people are happy.

But I get the feeling that (some) of the kids don't embrace the values of their parents. Some move away for education and the call of the world. I wonder about those who stay.

don said...

I have to add that there isn't much opportunity for kids who stay. That's why small towns remain small I guess.