I live a block from Carrefour but if I go there, even for just a few items, I bargain for 45 minutes at least. The reason why is that it’s a is a place where you get lost. By USA standards it’s just a normal store but for Argentina it’s huge. Today Carrefour was crowded. Very crowded. Everyone got paid for the month and it was a Saturday evening of insanity in the aisles. And the checkout lines were even worse. I had 15 items and could have gone for the 15 items line but it was so long that I just couldn’t bear it. So i went to the line where the pregnant women get priority.
There’s something about supermarket lines in Buenos Aires that’s completely infuriating. It’s actually not so bad but for someone pampered on the USA “check yourself out” system, waiting for the bus seems like a short exercise. I was pessimistic and wanted to get home to make my butternut squash soup (without the butternut).
That’s when I saw the checkout lady. Girl. Checkout girl. She was a girl. And she was worth checking out if just because she was the only smiling person in the store. I don’t know why she was smiling but she was and it was infectious. I got a strange sensation that she didn’t actually work there, that somehow she didn’t fit in. It was as if she were only doing this checkout gig as a favor to and that she was happy cause it was fun compared to what she normally did and she was helping someone out.
She looked over me and I looked away. I always look away. Everyone checks each other out here, are you supposed to look away? I look away for sure. Whatever. I had a strange idea that she would ask me why I was in the pregnant woman line and not in the 15 items line and I could say “oh you were smiling and I just wanted to be in your line” as a compliment. But then i remembered that “line” (cola) also translates to “butt” and I didn’t want to say that. I gazed at the Gillette Mach 3 razorblades. I felt like I was in an episode of Peepshow.
It was my turn and she was friendly. She wasn’t like anyone I’d ever seen at that supermarket before. She looked happy. She looked me in the eye and she made smalltalk. We talked about how the store was busy, how she was hurrying. But she didn’t hurry with me. She asked me who knitted my scarf and I told her I knitted it. She said she could see because of the errors in it.
We came to the last item. I asked her her name. She told me it was Janeen. Or Jaleen. I didn’t understand but it didn’t really matter. I walked out on air.
The point of this story is this: As you walk about in the world, you reshape your universe. Not just in the passive way that you view the world through filters. Your very filters interact with the world. Her smile made her day. And then mine as well.