I left the check out line I was in and got into a line that I thought was moving faster. I watched the line I was in to see if I had made a good decision. The person who was just in front of me was still waiting in the same place. I had moved up by one person. Good choice. The man at the cashier in our line had just completed his payment and now trying pay with a twenty, for a ten cent bag he forgot to ask for. The cashier was trying to find a dime in a can next to the register. This would put a bend in my choice of this line.
The parking lot at Ranch 99 was busy as usual. People were jockeying for that choice space two spaces closer than the space that was already open. One driver wanted to back out of a lane into traffic to avoid having to drive another fifty feet. I don’t know perhaps there’s some logic there that escapes me. I was there to fulfill a mission. I had a list of groceries for dinner, a request for ramen and charsiu bow.
Ranch 99 has a take out section. I think they think i’m special there. When I bring my order to the cashier they often tell me to go back and put more in the box. The box doesn’t have to be closed. Stuff can be spilling out the top and still, one order. I went to the counter and asked for eight charsiu bow. She said “Nine. One order three.” I said, “Ok, nine.” She said, “Four order get one free.” See, I must be special. I thought, four orders of three plus one order free, that’s fifteen charsiu bow(s). Even for me that’s a lot. I guess I was thinking too hard so she kindly led me to the case of other choices. Ah, I could mix the order. A man was filling a warming box with siumai. That’s what I wanted.
In the check out line I had put my basket on the conveyer and held onto the precious, still warm, buy four get one free, dim sum. I thought I’d try to help the man who needed a bag. I put the bag of dim sum into my basket and reached into my pocket for a dime. I’m not sure why I tried to put the dim sum into the basket. There was stuff in the basket and the tower of three order charsiu bow and two order siumai tilted and the box of siumai slid from its precarious perch. I reached to catch the falling box. I managed to sandwich it against the counter. One hand held the charsiu boxes in place, every bow still in its container. The world seemed to slow down as my left hand held the siumai box against the counter and one siumai popped out and tumbled to the floor below. As it landed, I remember so clearly, it bounced every so slightly, almost a jiggle of moisture and fat and succulent filling, then it came to rest in the middle of a splat as time came rushing back. There were napkins in the bag, I reached in and quickly picked up the siumai. It was hot. I wondered if the three seconds rule applied to supermarket floors. It was very tempting.
When I looked up the man was saying, “I’ll be back. Thank you. I’ll be back.” The cashier had apparently given the man a bag and the man was promising to return with the ten cents for the bag. I hoped that the man would return and honor the kindness of the cashier.
Had I not wrestled with the siumai and paid for the man’s bag the outcome would have been very different. My interference would have taken away the opportunity for the cashier to do something for someone else and the opportunity for the man repay kindness. I’m not suggesting that we not do anything anymore to help. But sometimes if we are still and observe we can see that there is kindness in the world. Kindness that might be expressed by the car in front of you allowing another to enter traffic. Or someone passing a dollar to the homeless person in front of Target. We should always practice what kindness we can but we should remember that we are not alone in the practice of kindness.