Grace Notes: Resolve to move a little slower
Vail, CO Colorado
It is days before Christmas, and my father and I are in Target. The lines, of course, are long, and the only way to get through is to breathe in, breathe out and willingly give some of your minutes over to waiting. Fretting does no good. Ill-will doesn’t make the line move faster or the young ones behind you less cranky or the cashier bleep and blip over the bar codes faster.
We find our things and get in line. We chat. Wait. Look around. We inch steps or two forward when a space opens up in front of us.
I pick up an orange box of Chiclets, show it to Dad. “Remember these?” I ask. He smiles. I hand him the box. About now is when I begin to feel some sort of huff behind me. I turn to look, and the young man who is waiting next slides his eyes away, chin cocked sideways: annoyance. I look forward and realize we missed a step – space has opened up and we did not immediately advance into it. “Dad,” I gesture him forward, and he, too, looks around, finds nothing amiss, takes his time to return the gum to its appropriate spot in the display and only then steps forward. The man behind us puffs air audibly. My dad doesn’t hear him. I ignore him.
Finally, it is our turn to unload our items. We have one small hand basket. My dad proceeds to take an item out of the basket, one, two, three, perhaps four items. While he is doing this the belt is moving. I sense the huff man again and turn around. He’s watching my Dad and, seriously, he’s irritated that my dad is moving, in his estimation, too slowly.
My dad is not moving too slowly. He is simply placing one item after another instead of using his considerably large hand to grab all four items at once, dump them in a tangle on the belt, slide a divider behind it all and open up a space for huffing man. All this while the customer in front of us isn’t done checking out.
I’m amused. Just how fast have we all become?
We clear the cashier as she smiles and hands my Dad the receipt. He looks at her and says, “Thank you.” Then he moves two, three steps, giving the man behind us the checkout space and pauses to place his receipt in his billfold.
People from the other checkout lines need only disturb their beeline by one or two steps to go around him or go faster than him. Still, I can see it bothers some. I think of myself leaving a line; I don’t pause anymore. I’m a blur of purse, walking, balancing, car keys. Sometimes, the receipt ends up in my bag (I’ll keep track of it later), clutched in my hand (I’ll keep track of it later), shoved into my purse (I’ll keep track of it later). I’m moving, moving, moving.
Again, just how fast have we all become? How fast do we want to be?
My father is not frail or small or weak. He strikes an obvious presence and doesn’t tend to shrink off to the side in the face of, well, anything. In this case, he was going about his daily business in the way he always has – long before he was grey-haired and in his 70s – without rushing.
He’s always been like this. Methodical, task-at-hand oriented, observant. He comes from a generation of men who turned objects over in their hands to get a feel for their heft and functionality. One line I remember well from childhood, “Well I’ll be, look at that!” And then he stopped walking and showed us something wild, something hidden or unnoticed or fantastically odd or arbitrary. And then he’d explain it to us … “Let me explain something. Now, you see there … ?” And he’d point, and yes, sometimes one of his four children would huff with impatience. Sometimes it was me.
I’m older and wiser now. Walking through stores with my dad this Christmas reminded me that willingly giving some of your minutes to slow-going is not such a bad thing. You may even discover something; it may even be wild or odd or wonderful. It may even be something you wouldn’t have wanted to miss.
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