This morning I did not feel like going to the grocery store, but I really needed to buy instant vanilla pudding in order to bake the friendship bread my sister-in-law passed on to me. (Yes, “Amish friendship bread” has its own entry at Wikipedia.) Needless to say, I am not someone who buys instant pudding–or pudding at all–nor am I someone who likes to go to the grocery store. To put it nicely, I didn’t start the morning off on the right foot, but we had a short list of other items we needed, and the friendship bread is on a tight baking schedule. I’d have to suck it up and go (annoyance 1)
I couldn’t find my cell phone before I left (annoyance 2). I started laundry, trying to be productive while I was gone, and when scurrying around hunting for the phone, I realized I had left an important pair of jeans out of my jeans load (annoyance 3). We were out of milk, and I had already poured my coffee into a travel mug (annoyance 4). Finally I manage to leave (cell phone was hidden above the sink, behind the curtain in the kitchen), though I was sweaty from running up and down the stairs a few times (annoyance 5). The trash truck was picking up garbage on our street as I left, so I had to wait (annoyance 6).
I get to the grocery store. Apparently Monday mornings at our little, already-narrow-aisled grocery store is re-stocking time. Every aisle was half-full of carts; I had to move an abandoned dolly cart out of the way in order to get to the raisins, no workers in sight (annoyance 7).
I was annoyed.
Quite frankly, I was annoyed just pulling into the parking lot, because I parked behind someone with the bumper sticker “I ride horses and I vote.” This was so frustratingly meaningless to me that it kind of got under my skin (annoyance 6b). I don’t ride horses, and I vote, so what?
That’s the kind of mood I was in heading into the grocery store.
Still, I managed to get everything I needed, even the raisins, check myself out, and remain moderately sane (amazing, I know), but I was still slightly annoyed at the whole process.
On my way out the door, I noticed that there were two or three dozen Kroger employees gathered in the parking lot, just off the sidewalk, kind of in the firelane. I looked around, trying to figure out what was going on. My first thought was, “Ooo, must be a famous person!” (Not that we get very many of those in my little town, but I had just passed by a Cincinnati Bengal in the store, since they’re in town for training camp.)
My second thought was, “oh, nevermind, must be a group picture.” Okay, I know this doesn’t make sense, but that’s really what I thought. Everyone was just sort of standing and facing one direction, but then I noticed that they were all looking rather somber.
As I walked to my car, I tried to see what they were looking at, without being too nosy (I do have a modicum of self-respect, after all), and that’s when I saw her, another grocery store employee, walking towards the rest of the group. She was walking very slowly, and she had in her hand what looked like a sports jersey of some sort, with the colors of our local high school. Maybe it was her child’s. I noticed she was crying. A lot.
She got closer to the group, and some people began to walk towards her. One gave her a big hug. Then another. And another. Everyone was crying at that point.
I kept seeing her face as I drove home, kept seeing that large group of navy-blue-polo-clad Kroger workers.
I still have no idea what was going on, what I happened to glimpse as I walked out of the grocery store. But what I know is that this woman was grieving, and she was being supported by her community.
My catalog of annoyances, carried around in my pocket all morning, was in need of some perspective.
I’d say I got a good dose.