Monday, July 5, 2010

Ain't This Country Grand?

I had the most wonderful experience the other day at Costco.

I know, I know. How wonderful could it be? It was Costco, on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend.

But seriously, I was alone. I was meandering the aisles, sampling and snacking my way through the store and dodging carts and shoppers as I walked among the traffic.

And that wasn't even the wonderful part.

As I stood in the mile-long check-out line, I tuned in to the conversations and people swirling around me. Normally, with a list in my hand and a cart overflowing with bulk-sized bounty, observing the shoppers near me is the LAST thing on my mind. But this day, I was particularly attentive.

There was a young Korean family, corraling their kids with frazzled gestures and whispered admonitions to behave. They spoke quietly to each other and the kids in Korean, but the kids were sassing back in English. It wasn't very funny, having been there myself too many times, but it brought a smile to my face anyway.

On one side of me was a "Jimmy Buffet-esque" old guy chatting on his Bluetooth with a friend about the big clambake coming up with their friends. He was bemoaning the long list his wife had written out, frustrated that the store was mostly sold out of the majority of the list.

In front of me was an elderly couple, jockeying for a spot in the shorter line, communicating without words. They carried themselves with a great sense of "old money" grace and style. It was obvious that they were happy about their weekend plans, as they talked quietly about the kids coming in and the grandchildren's sleeping arrangements.

On my other side, was a young business man, looking to be of  Middle Eastern descent with his lovely dark skin and coal-black hair.  When he spoke kindly to me as he tried to settle into one of the lines, his accent confirmed my observations. He had his hands full of ice cream for a family cook-out for the holiday, so I let him go ahead of my over-stuffed cart. His effusive thanks and polite inquiries about my weekend plans (based upon my full cart) were thanks enough for me.

Across from the line where I was waiting, a young African-American mom was chattering to her chubby baby in an effort to pacify her during the long wait. Elderly folks around them smiled and nudged each other as the baby's giggles rang out.

Several carts ahead of me, a grumpy old man was greeted cheerfully by my favorite clerk. She graced him with her regular smile beaming from her ebony eyes, chatted pleasantly in her deep-South accent and rang him up with the not just a little flair and flashing sparkly nails clacking away on the keypads. Her slow drawl eventually won a smile even from his deeply grooved frown. This is why she's my favorite.

All over the store, folks from all walks of life were stocking up on snacks, party supplies, and grilling meats. Planning their Independence Day festivities. Exchanging smiles and empathic grimaces at the hustle and bustle. Giving "Happy Fourth" greetings. Making plans for trips "down the shore" and out to fireworks shows. Chatting with friends and strangers. The atmosphere was festive and largely jovial, with only a few exceptions.

Different languages. Different foods in the carts. Different customs and cultures. But one purpose and intent. One goal. One common plan. One celebration connecting us all.

Happy Birthday America!  I love all your colors. All your sounds and all your sights.

Ain't this country grand?


Classic MaMa said...

I agree! Thanks for the verbal Norman Rockwell. ;)

Joan said...

I went to Costco on Saturday and had a similar experience.

There was a ~15month old girl with her parents, South Asian, and she was just toddling along and she stopped in the middle of the busy aisle and smiled and stared at me :) Everyone paused and took a look before moving on..

Staci said...

It's always amazing what you see when you take notice to all the little things. Hope you had a great 4th!

Aus said...

Morning GM - yeah - what you said! It is the best place on earth (with China a close second? ;) )Glad you guys had a good weekend - we did too - and even managed a little fun for Marie's 50th yesterday!

hugs - aus and co.

Chris said...

What a great post!!!

Thanks for sharing...I kinda felt like I was in line waiting with you!


Christie said...

It is SO grand!

For the record - the only thing I can think when I'm shopping without kids is "I can't believe I'm alone...I can't believe I'm alone..."

and the celebration continues until I pull into my driveway.

Yes. I need to get out more.