Happiness at Trader Joe’s

In one move I clicked the phone shut, stashed it in my pocket and lifted the shopping basket onto the ledge.

“You’re the best person!” my Trader Joe’s cashier exclaimed. I looked down at myself, then up at the cashier to assure myself that he was talking to me. He was. Trader Joe’s cashiers are frequently friendly, but this one was looking at me as though I caused the sun to rise. I smiled warily and moved as far from the beaming cashier as I could without moving. “Isn’t she great?” the cashier continued, glancing over at the station behind him. The man nodded; now there were two happy men in hawaain shirts grinning at me.

“What did I do?” I asked weakly.

“What did you do?” he said, as he smiled even wider. Tim, whose name tag I checked in case I needed to report him, was just thrilled to have me as a customer. But it seemed that it wasn’t the six bags of chocolate chips I was purchasing that made his day; he wasn’t looking at my purchases, he was looking at me. As I started turning pink and slowly backing away, Tim relented. He declared joyously, “You hung up your phone.”

“People just walk up here, and talk on their phones the whole time,” he explained sadly. “It just makes me feel that I’m not interesting.” I appreciated his sentiment, and agreed that it must be awful to be ignored, especially when you’re as friendly as Tim. However, I felt I couldn’t accept his compliment.

“I’m actually just not that coordinated,” I said apologetically. “I can’t really talk on the phone and do anything else at the same time.” I didn’t feel the need to tell Tim that when I last spoke on the phone while checking out at the grocery store it took me three tries to figure out my change. As anyone who has ever waited in a grocery check-out knows, such behavior is reprehensible. I could not bear the glowers of the cashier, nor the anger of my fellow shoppers, and decided to stop cold turkey.

Tim waved away my explanation, and told me that I was still the best. He chatted further about his plan to write a children’s book, encouraging kids to teach their parents manners. I smiled, murmured, and thanked him. As I picked up my bag, Tim stopped me. He pulled out a drawer, ripped off a row stickers, and handed them to me. Lesson of the day: Make someone’s day and they’ll make yours.

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