Thursday, February 16, 2012


Maybe it was the writer in me. Maybe it was boredom. Whatever the reason, when I worked in retail, running a register, to keep my mind busy, I would sometimes make up a story in my head about the people coming through my check-out line. Sometimes, I just made up a story about what they bought.

A thin, black woman came through my check-out line wearing pajama bottoms, slippers, a cute top, with a beige coat, opened and unbuttoned. She placed a bag of hard, red candy, individually wrapped on the counter. Right beside it, she placed a can of extra strength feminine deodorant spray. What a combination: candy and feminine deodorant spray. For these two items, she hopped into her car, not bothering to change out of her pajamas and slippers, and drove to the nearest discount store.

And she wasn’t just buying feminine deodorant spray, but extra strength feminine deodorant spray. I offered a greeting and scanned her items as I wondered to myself what had happened to her that caused her to need extra strength feminine deodorant spray. I knew that there must be a story here, but what it was, I did not know. I certainly was not about to ask.

Trying to look rather bored to  conceal the activity in my mind, I read the total of her groceries to her. She opened her thin hand and began to count out wadded-up dollar bills and change. She didn’t have enough money to buy both items. I didn’t think much about that because I know that happens to all of us at times. We forget our wallets, forget to get enough cash; it happens all of the time. Now it was time for a decision. Which item should she keep: the extra strength feminine deodorant spray, or the candy? She wanted to know the individual price of the spray, then of the candy. I told her the price of each. I watched her closely as she was obviously thinking hard. This was a matter of priorities. I knew which I would keep if it were me, but we are all different. I imagined a drum roll in my mind as she pondered. Which-- the candy or the deodorant?

Maybe she could buy a bar of soap and the candy. Or maybe a bar of soap and the deodorant. 

She put back the deodorant and opted for the candy. A part of me wanted to look at her with the best “middle-age old lady” look that I could, dropping my glasses down lower on my nose, raising my eyebrows, pausing and slowly saying, “Don’t you think that we should examine our priorities?” 

Instead, I took her money, gave her some change and her receipt and thanked her for her business. 

Thanksgiving Challenge and Joy Dare

Today, I am thankful for:

57. Waking up another day, for no day is promised to us.
58. Austin district Lay Speaking Board.
59. Unplanned fun with friends and family.
60. Batteries full of power.
61. Beautiful sunsets over this big Texas sky.

copyright 2012 by Kathy Robbins


  1. Interesting post. I'm a people watcher when waiting in the mall or waiting in line. I often wonder about people. As a nurse I often diagnoses ailments while watching people. I know - silly, but after all I'm a nurse and a lot of nursing is observation skills.

    My thought when I read your post was this lady has cancer or is going thro some sort of treatment that causes nausea, dry mouth, and sweating. Sometimes people use hard candy as a way to help keep their mouths moist, help with the altered taste of chemo, help with nausea, and to help with the taste if they throw up. '

    Now that's what I would have been thinking (as a nurse) if she came thro my line. We never know the stories behind people. We look at people and thing they must have it 'made'. We look at their homes and we are a little envious.

    One day I met the couple that lived in a home that I passed every day on my way to and from work. It was a beautiful house with a beautiful yard and garden. I envisioned the people there as wealthy, happy, and comfortable. I found out the wife who was fairly young had been diagnosed with Alzheimers and her husband, who happened to be a physician, had cut back on his practice so he could help take care of her.

    From then on, I never looked at a home and thought "they're lucky. they must have it made". There are broken hearts everywhere. Everybody needs someone. Everyone is fighting a battle.

    Thanks for sharing this. You really made me think.

  2. Jan, thank you for your comments and your incredible wise insight. It had never occurred to me that this could have been because of treatments of any kind, but that would make sense. You have really made me think, and gently convicted me of the fact that we don't know what others are going through. Every time I try to figure it out on my own, I am wrong. Thank you so much for your insight.