I took a short trip to Target after work today to pick up a few things. After circling through the aisles with marginal success, I headed to the check out area and threw the proverbial dice on selecting a lane. Seeing one woman already in process with the cashier, I thought marvelous, and pulled in behind her.
After loading my wares onto the belt behind her items, I realized she was in the midst of what sounded like a complicated transaction. She had the Target app, and was explaining to the cashier that she’d like to break it into two orders so the first order would reward her with a $5 gift card, which she then wanted to use on the second order. There was some sort of other technological issue in this process, which required a manager being called. At this point, another woman had pulled in behind me. It was evident that I would not be checked out soon. And I had reached that awkward moment of commitment with my purchases already on the counter and the next customer waiting in the wings.
Since I had some time, I observed the customer in front of me. She clearly had done her homework on what to buy to get the best deals, and how she would most benefit. I then realized she was purchasing a few personal items like shampoo, and several large containers of protein shake powder and healthy snack bars. She was not only about 20 years younger than me, but she was maybe a size 4 on a bloated day. My purchases consisted of some home goods like a few new bath towels, a couple of greeting cards, shaving cream for my husband and, well, there just may have been a package of oreos in the pile as well. And no protein powder.
The woman behind me caught my eye and began to voice her frustration about the wait. She had missed out on her chance when the lane next to us opened up and others had rushed over to fill in. “That’s not fair” she said. I smiled in a commiserating way and tried to occupy myself with reading tabloid covers and convincing myself I did NOT need a bag of m&m’s to hold me over through the ordeal. Eventually the protein-powder-discount-earning customer completed her transaction (she saved $11, which was clearly worth the wait) and moved on. At which point the cashier announced her shift was over and a different employee transitioned in. Ok, I thought surely I’ll be making speedy progress at any moment. Except that the system was not letting the replacement cashier get logged in. Which, you guessed it, required calling the manager again. And, you guessed it again, required more comments from the woman behind me.
As I waited, I watched the various lines with dodging and weaving customers and realized it looked startlingly similar to the crazy rotary intersection in my town. And I began to realize that how we navigate through these paths, and react to complicated driving patterns, shows a lot about the type of people we are. The woman who had checked out ahead of me probably drives a Prius, and would take the time to map out the best routes to avoid the crazy rotary completely. Or, better yet, she probably leaves the car home and runs to her destination, fueled by protein and youth. The woman behind me would be in an SUV, honking her horn at slow drivers and drumming her fingers on her steering wheel. Earlier in the day I had gone through that crazy rotary and had witnessed a wide variety of drivers. There are the folks in a hurry, with no patience in dealing with any rotary rules, who just gun it and hope others get out of their way (yes, these mostly seem to be men). There are the timid and terrified folks who crawl through, or slam on the breaks in uncertainty. Then there are the self-professed traffic control officers who pause and wave others on as if they are in charge of the rules. Finally, there are the folks who navigate that route daily, who know how to work the flow and get frustrated with newbies.
I believe I saw many of the same people, mostly women, working their way through Target today. Those who stop mid-aisle and cause back ups, those who are rushing to get in and out dodging slow pokes, those who seem to be out for a casual Sunday drive, those with families and a lack of focus, and those that seem bewildered and lost. And when we all get to the end of the line at check out, we take a gamble as to which lane will have a green light, a red light, or the dreaded flashing yellow.
In order to remain patient and avoid road range, we need to remember we are all traveling these roads together. On good days, we pick the perfect lane and it is clear sailing. Other days, we get caught in a bumper to bumper situation while driving a cart that has a bad wheel. We may get delayed getting home, but we can at least avoid a collision and be kind to each other along the way.