Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Tequila, Tech and Talk

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I stopped in a liquor store the other day to pick up a bottle of red wine. It was the last item on my grocery list and I was looking forward to quickly getting home. As I walked in, a staff member informed me that their scanning system was down. She asked me to choose my item and bring the paper price-tag from the shelf to the cashier. I looked over and saw a line up of at least 20 people, ten on each side. So, I found the wine, detached the paper tag from the shelf and proceeded to the line up holding my paper tag.

For the next 20 minutes, a staff member greeted people at the door, walked to each of us asking us if we had our tag and running back to shelves to get tags if people forgot. (She handled the situation really well!) Aside from the one angry man who spoke loudly on his phone to the manager demanding a refund for the time he spent waiting . . . the rest of us had a great time! It was the most chatty bunch of shoppers that I’ve been with for a long time.

The guy in front of me smelled so thickly of alcohol, I was surprised that he needed more, but he clung onto his tequila bottle and said he wasn’t leaving the store without it. He reminisced about the good old days when scanners hadn’t been invented, when price tags were stickers and how you could switch the stickers around if you were quick enough. His eyes twinkled and he seemed to come alive with this 20 minute wait as we all closely stood together. The people behind me decided to share the same tag because they were buying the same brand of beer. They became buddies. The 10 people on the other side of the cashier started chatting, sharing tags, encouraging the young cashiers that they were doing a good job as they hand wrote each purchase and calculated price, gst, and deposit amounts on paper, old-school style.

For a moment, as I stood and watched and listened, I felt like I was in the foyer of my church.

We long to be known. And when we’re forced to look each other in the eyes and interact, something amazing happens. I’m not against technology. It makes transactions efficient, simplifies life and allows me to do my banking from my living room couch. But, it also permits us to live in a hurry–conveniently avoiding contact with others.

As I drove away, I was intrigued. I liked what happened in there. I liked being so close to so many random people and being “forced” to interact. It made me wonder about elevators, buses, doctor waiting rooms . . . and it made me want to remember how good it felt to be humans together - even in the liquor store. I wondered if this experience was rare for many of those people.

Sometimes I think that elderly people know this secret already. They seem more free in their spirits to casually chat in the grocery store or laugh about something in the parking lot or take time to tell a story. They seem gracious when things take more time than usual and often wave me ahead of them, assuming I’m in a rush.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stand in line behind my tequila friend again, but if I do, I’m gonna bring up that day and see if he remembers. Those little moments can mean something, perhaps more than we realize.